“Refudiate this, word snobs!”
By Lauren Appelwick, Blog Editor
Here at Oxford, we love words. We love when they have ancient histories, we love when they have double-meanings, we love when they appear in alphabet soup, and we love when they are made up.
Last week on The Sean Hannity Show, Sarah Palin pushed for Barack and Michelle Obama to refudiate the NAACP‘s claim that the Tea Party movement harbors “racist elements.” (You can still watch the clip on Mediaite and further commentary at CNN.) Refudiate is not a recognized word in the English language, but a curious mix of repudiate and refute. But rather than shrug off the verbal faux pas and take more care in the future, Palin used it again in a tweet this past Sunday.
Note: This tweet has been since deleted and replaced by this one.
Whether Palin’s word blend was a subconscious stroke of genius, or just a slip of the tongue, it seems to have made a critic out of everyone. (See: #ShakesPalin) Lexicographers sure aren’t staying silent. Peter Sokolowksi of Merriam-Webster wonders, “What shall we call this? The Palin-drome?” And OUP lexicographer Christine Lindberg comments thus:
The err-sat political illuminary Sarah Palin is a notional treasure. And so adornable, too. I wish you liberals would wake up and smell the mooseburgers. Refudiate this, word snobs! Not only do I understand Ms. Palin’s message to our great land, I overstand it. Let us not be countermindful of the paths of freedom stricken by our Founding Fathers, lest we forget the midnight ride of Sam Revere through the streets of Philadelphia, shouting “The British our coming!” Thank the God above that a true patriot voice lives on today in Sarah Palin, who endares to live by the immorternal words of Nathan Henry, “I regret that I have but one language to mangle for my country.”
Mark Liberman over at Language Log asks, “If she really thought that refudiate was Shakespearean, wouldn’t she have left the original tweet proudly in place?”
He also points out that Palin did not coin the refudiate word blend. In fact, he says, “A Google Books search turns up four instances,” which count even though they “might well be writers’ or transcribers’ slips of the finger.”
Curious if refudiate had legs beyond Urban Dictionary, I asked Jesse Sheidlower, Editor at Large (North America) of the Oxford English Dictionary, if there were any plans to include the word blend in the OED. “As with any word,” Sheidlower said, “we always pay attention to what’s out there, and when something becomes common enough, we will consider adding it to the dictionary. However, it would take more than a few uses, even high-profile ones, in order to get such a word into the OED.”