Tergiverser

englishman

Senior Member
English England
This is a whinge. According to my big, thick French dictionary, "tergiverser" means "to prevaricate".

This drives me crazy, as the compilers have committed one of the most common errors in English: they've confused "prevaricate" with "procrastinate", and the two words are quite distinct.

Am I ludicrously old-fashioned in expecting a dictionary compiler to bother to check the words it translates ? I'm now left wondering how many other egregrious errors I'm *not* aware of.
 
  • Lezert

    Senior Member
    french, France
    dans ces cas là, on ne tergiverse pas, on jette le dictionnaire par la fenêtre.

    je ne suis pas compétent pour l'anglais, mais voici la définition ATILF de tergiverser
    Retarder le moment, éluder la difficulté d'aboutir à une décision, à une réponse, à un engagement précis
     

    englishman

    Senior Member
    English England
    Lezert said:
    dans ces cas là, on ne tergiverse pas, on jette le dictionnaire par la fenêtre.

    je ne suis pas compétent pour l'anglais, mais voici la définition ATILF de tergiverser
    Retarder le moment, éluder la difficulté d'aboutir à une décision, à une réponse, à un engagement précis
    Oui, c'est exact. "prevaricate" a le sens de "mentir"
     

    edwingill

    Senior Member
    England English
    I think that tergiverser has many meanings,it can mean user de faux-fuyants. I think this would be equivalent to equivocate . We also have a word tergiversate, which OED defines as equivocate
     

    zam

    Senior Member
    England -french (mother tongue) & english
    Benjy, 'tergiverser' peut se traduire de 3 ou 4 façons.

    a) 'To dither', bien sûr. Bien que le dictionnaire parle souvent de 'act nervously', ce terme est cependant utiliser en anglais de tous les jours comme 'hésiter sans cesse', sans forcèment afficher une grande nervosité. Mes enfants me disent souvent que 'I dither all the time' quand je n'arrive pas à me décider sur quelque chose (achat par exemple) d'important.

    e.g
    What were you looking for during that time? Hero worship. Speedy solutions. I didn't see why we shouldn't get things going instead of dithering all the time ...
    www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/joh0int-1 - 57k
    b) 'to hum and haw', aussi très utilisé

    He hummed and hawed and eventually said no. 2004/09/the_middle_ages.html - 12k


    c) to dither and dally

    Appropriately, it was Coe who chided Tony Blair when he dithered and dallied before half-heartedly backing the bid in 2002. And it was Coe who harrangued ...
    sport.guardian.co.uk/london2012/ story/0,,1522565,00.html - 39k -
    J'ajoute que 'to prevaricate' peut avoir le sens de 'tergiverser' (gagner du temps) dans certains contextes.

    Penguin -usage note: Prevaricate or procrastinate? These words are close in meaning and therefore likely to be confused. However, there is a difference: to prevaricate is to dither or to be evasive whereas to procrastinate is to put something off until tomorrow (literally or metaphorically). You will not get a decision from a person who prevaricates, but with a little patience you will get one from a person who procrastinates. Of course, some people find ways of doing both.
     

    englishman

    Senior Member
    English England
    Penguin -usage note: Prevaricate or procrastinate? These words are close in meaning and therefore likely to be confused. However, there is a difference: to prevaricate is to dither or to be evasive whereas to procrastinate is to put something off until tomorrow (literally or metaphorically). You will not get a decision from a person who prevaricates, but with a little patience you will get one from a person who procrastinates. Of course, some people find ways of doing both.
    Oh no, please, not again. This is simply *plain wrong* - prevaricate *never* means anything like what is written above. It is really very simple:

    prevaricate="to lie, to attempt to mislead"
    procrastinate="to dither, to delay, to fail to come to a decision"

    Google, or a good English dictionary, is your friend.
     

    tamanoir

    Senior Member
    French France
    englishman said:
    Oh no, please, not again. This is simply *plain wrong* - prevaricate *never* means anything like what is written above. It is really very simple:

    prevaricate="to lie, to attempt to mislead"
    procrastinate="to dither, to delay, to fail to come to a decision"
    So strange to read English speaking folks differing so widely from what is reported in most english dictionaries :

    Exemple from Chambers 21st Century Dictionary :

    prevaricate verb (prevaricated, prevaricating) intrans to avoid stating the truth or coming directly to the point; to behave or speak evasively. prevarication noun. prevaricator noun.
    ETYMOLOGY: 17c: from Latin
    praevaricari, praevaricatus to walk with splayed legs, from varus bent.
    prevaricate, procrastinate
    Both words are to do with failure to deal with a matter or to answer a question immediately or promptly, and they are sometimes confused.
    If you prevaricate, you respond to a question but avoid a direct or truthful answer, and you are therefore not being totally honest.
    If you procrastinate, you don't deal with the matter at all but put it off to some later time.


    Another exemple from Collins Cobuild Engllish Dictionary for Advanced Learners
    prevaricate : if you prevaricate, you avoid giving a direct answer or making a firm decision. British ministers continue to prevaricate.


    My guess is that this last sentence may explain the confusion between the official meaning and what it really means in the UK...
     

    zam

    Senior Member
    England -french (mother tongue) & english
    englishman said:
    Oh no, please, not again.
    1) This is simply *plain wrong* - prevaricate *never* means anything like what is written above. It is really very simple:

    2) Google, or a good English dictionary, is your friend.
    1) Never ? I wouldn't be so categorical englishman. It is true that in the vast majority of cases, it clearly means, in effect, 'to lie' or 'to speak or act evasively so as to hide the truth', I am not disputing that.
    What I am saying is simply that, in some contexts -as I wrote in my post#5, 'prevaricate' can mean what is explained in the Penguin's usage notes (dither or to be evasive/also: equivocate/beat about the bush/etc.) and thus could be translated as 'tergiverser', particularly when used in relation to politicians !
    This is confirmed by the dictionaries below.

    2) There is no need to be sarcastic.

    To prevaricate:

    From dictionary.com
    v : be deliberately ambiguous or unclear in order to mislead or withhold information [syn: beat around the bush, equivocate, tergiversate, palter]

    From: Concise OED
    verb avoid giving a direct answer when asked a question.

    From Heineman Engl. Dict. To speak or act evasively.

    From Wiktionary
    1. To shift or turn from one side to the other, from the direct course, or from truth; to waffle or be uncertain.
    2. To speak with equivocation; to shuffle; to quibble.
    3. To collude, as where an informer colludes with the defendant, and makes a sham prosecution.

    From The Online Plain Text English Dictionary:
    · (v. i.) To collude, as where an informer colludes with the defendant, and makes a sham prosecution.
    · (v. i.) To shift or turn from one side to the other, from the direct course, or from truth; to speak with equivocation; to shuffle; to quibble; as, he prevaricates in his statement.
    · (v. i.) To undertake a thing falsely and deceitfully, with the purpose of defeating or destroying it.
    · (v. t.) To evade by a quibble; to transgress; to pervert.
     

    englishman

    Senior Member
    English England
    zam said:
    1) Never ? I wouldn't be so categorical englishman. It is true that in the vast majority of cases, it clearly means, in effect, 'to lie' or 'to speak or act evasively so as to hide the truth', I am not disputing that.
    What I am saying is simply that, in some contexts -as I wrote in my post#11, 'prevaricate' can mean what is explained in the Penguin's usage notes (dither or to be evasive/also: equivocate/beat about the bush/etc.) and thus could be translated as 'tergiverser', particularly when used in relation to politicians !
    This is confirmed by the dictionaries below.

    2) There is no need to be sarcastic.
    1. Yes, never. And I think I would be so categorical. However, I will concede *very* slightly on this point: the meaning of "prevaricate" is now sufficiently misunderstood that we are witnessing a shift in its meaning, from what it was, say, 40 years ago. This new, incorrect meaning is beginning to become common currency, and repeated in online dictionaries, and so on, and may in time become accepted.

    2. I guess you're referring to my comment about Google "being your friend" - I wasn't being sarcastic here. That is a fairly modern idiom that means, roughly "if you want all the details, use Google". I don't think it's ever really used in a sarcastic sense. In fact, it's slightly self-deprecating, the implication being that the writer is too lazy to find the details himself.
     

    zam

    Senior Member
    England -french (mother tongue) & english
    englishman said:
    1. Yes, never. And I think I would be so categorical. However, I will concede *very* slightly on this point: the meaning of "prevaricate" is now sufficiently misunderstood that we are witnessing a shift in its meaning, from what it was, say, 40 years ago. This new, incorrect meaning is beginning to become common currency, and repeated in online dictionaries, and so on, and may in time become accepted.

    2. I guess you're referring to my comment about Google "being your friend" - I wasn't being sarcastic here. That is a fairly modern idiom that means, roughly "if you want all the details, use Google". I don't think it's ever really used in a sarcastic sense. In fact, it's slightly self-deprecating, the implication being that the writer is too lazy to find the details himself.
    1) Well, that was my point precisely (please re-read my posts 5 and 9). It has more than one meaning, the net is full of examples that back up what I'm saying. It does not ALWAYS mean plainly 'to lie'. It can mean 'to beat about the bush'/'to equivocate'.
    It might be 'incorrect' usage as you say, but the reality is that, in common parlance, this meaning exists and must not be overlooked.

    From google:

    He prevaricated for some time until his questioner lost patience and said, “Don’t you have an opinion about this matter?” The commissar smiled and replied, ...
    www.abdn.ac.uk/universitymusic/ review-details.php?id=6&season=all - 11k -



    She prevaricated as much as possible. She allowed English ships under Drake and Hawkins to harass and seize Spanish ships returning from the New World; ...
    englishhistory.net/tudor/monarchs/eliz3.html - 28k -

    She prevaricated. She has no plans. The contrast in the appearances of the two women was very clear. One appealed to reason. The other to the emotion. ...
    www.news.ops.gov.ph/column063005.htm - 5k -

    He says that doesn’t mean we’ll spend time on old media in the new medium. But the man loves content. And then he prevaricates and doesn’t answer the question.
    www.buzzmachine.com/index.php/2005/10/06/web-20-yahoo/ - 22k -

    The prevailing attitude amongst the participants seemed to be that, if they prevaricated long enough, the problem would go away (or they would run out of ...
    www.pprune.org/.../showthread.php?threadid=117682&goto=nextoldest - 57k
    He literally held us up for ten minutes as he prevaricated which part of the river he wanted to slide into while his family chewed grass near the water’s ...
    www.igougo.com/planning/journalEntryFreeForm. asp?JournalID=37939&EntryID=18274&n=Nocturnal+safari... - 81k -
    2. Please, use an emoticon next time, so I don't misunderstand your comment or intentions :)
     
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