I read Far From the Madding Crowd on vacation, away from my computer and, crucially, internet access. At one point, Bathsheba was described as “tergiversating” [or some other form of the word] – and it was the first time I’d ever run across that word, in speech or in print. This kind of thing is exactly why I have a subscription to the OED Online (www.oed.com) (thanks, Mom!). (Well, rare words in books and late-night discussions about etymology are why I have a subscription…you might be surprised at how often the latter happens. Although, if you know me and/or my boyfriend, you might not be surprised….)
Anyway. With no internet access, we had to look up tergiversate a few days later, after we’d returned from our trip. (If you want to get technical, first we had to look it up in the book, to remember what exactly the word was and how it was spelled, and then we looked it up in the OED, and then we had a discussion about its appropriateness in the context.) We were fascinated by the word, and had vague notions of bringing it into our everyday conversation – something, sadly, that I have been unable to do, since most of the people I interact with on a daily basis don’t have the vocabulary basis to get it. Also, tergiversate doesn’t really turn up on a daily basis.
But we remembered the word, probably more than we would have if we’d looked it up while I was actively reading the book. So to see it listed as a word of the year amused and delighted me. Well done, Macmillan.