I don’t know about you, but I have no problem with dictionary.com. I would say eight times out of ten it returns a definition for the word I type in. And that’s not bad for a free service.
But the site’s choice of word of the year – tergiversate – whilst arguably apt (I shan’t pretend I knew it, the given definition is ‘to change repeatedly one’s attitude or opinions with respect to a cause, subject, etc.’) strikes me as rather elitist, in a kind of ‘you will be educated’ way. Deliberately, wilfully obscure, and a mouthful to pronounce, meaning likely to be forgotten on the day of hearing.
In fairness to the undoubtedly good people at dictionary.com, the selection process is completely transparent, and you can decide for yourself by reading about it on their blog. However to my mind the runner-up is many orders of magnitude better, combining as it does relevance, surprising etymology and roll-off-the-tongue appeal:
To be candid, there was a very close runner-up for the Word of the Year. When we learned that the word “insidious” originally came from the Latin word “insidere” which meant “to sit on, occupy,” we nearly chose this dark term. The word insidious attracted attention when the horror film Insidious came out in April of this year, and the term is constantly in the news: insidious diseases, the insidious super-committee, an insidious assault. The word encapsulates a feeling that seems to pervade 2011: “proceeding in a seemingly harmless way but actually with grave effect.” Ultimately, though, insidious is too negative to represent the mood of change and transformation that has marked this year as well.