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“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.

Later in the day, Palin responded to the backlash from bloggers and fellow Twitter users with this:

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.”

So maybe we won’t see it listed along with truthiness and bootylicious anytime soon, but could refudiate join the ranks of unfriend, hypermiling, and locavore as the 2010 Oxford Word of the Year?

Recent Comments

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Brendan W. McAdams, Alyssa Smith, Lauren, Matthew Reznicek, Lauren and others. Lauren said: Oxford finally weighs in on the "refudiate" debate http://ow.ly/2e9lQ #shakespalin [...]

  2. Refudiation

    [...] aides noticed that she used the “word” “refudiate” in a highly public way again, the Tweet was removed and replaced with a new Tweet, of nearly equal [...]

  3. libhomo

    I would refudiate any dictionary that included that word.

    ($arah Palin always is good for a laugh or two.)

  4. Edmund Singleton

    I just love colorful words and bad English wherever and whenever one may find it…

  5. Wally

    One might point ou to Ms Lindberg, it was neither Paul nor Sam Revere that made the midnight ride.

  6. lizzy

    Anyone remember “sniglets”? Those are defined as words that “aren’t in the dictionary, but should be.” Bad English? Not so sure. Sniglets are delightful, and the authors of such contributions should be appreciated for their intuition and creativity, whether intentional or not. Here are a few examples:

    AQUALIBRIUM The point where the stream of drinking fountain water is at its perfect height, thus relieving the drinker from having to either suck the nozzle or squirt himself in the eye.
    BACKSPACKLE Markings on the back of one’s shirt from riding a fenderless bicycle.
    BACKSPUBBLE Dishwater that disappears down one drain of a double sink and comes up the other.

    The word “snark” may be a sniglet, and I am hoping that “word websites” such as this will remain places of good will, free of political snarkiness.

  7. Rebecca

    Refudiate is the same type of word as ginormous, or humongous. Just noticed that Word did not underline in red “humongous.” I guess if Sarah Palin had used it and/or typed it—it would have.

  8. harold

    Sir Winston Churchill would have instantly replied, refugnant.

  9. Shelley

    But you don’t love language that celebrates ignorance, right?

  10. Debra Argosy

    You never know what could happen…look at the cringeworthy corruption of nuclear. It even has the alternate pronunciation in NOAD, and though it mentions it’s unacceptable, I hear it all the time coming from people who should know better.

  11. lizzy

    “Celebrates ignorance”? Oh, come on! But since the topic is on the table, do you mean like pronouncing a common military term, “corpseman,” twice? Everyone makes slips of the tongue when one is constantly in the public eye (ear?), and everyone KNOWS that. Some of these verbal mistakes just get more pub that do others. Good grief! Lighten up…

  12. [...] note: I love being right. I really, really love it. In July, I guessed that “refudiate” would be named Word of the Year, and TA-DAH! I was right. What Paul the Octopus was to the FIFA World Cup, I am to WOTY (may he [...]

  13. [...] refudiate verb used loosely to mean “reject”: she called on them to refudiate the proposal to build a mosque. [origin — blend of refute and repudiate] [...]

  14. Jeff Ewell

    The press and liberals hate her, but America loves her!

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