Embracing "refudiate"

Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Good news! Thanks to the New Oxford American Dictionary, wordsmiths everywhere no longer have to add an accusatory [sic] when writing about Sarah Palin's most infamous (thus far) mangling of the English language: "Refudiate." The neologism -- a needless mashing together of "refute" and "repudiate" -- has been crowned that publication's "Word of the Year," even though 2010 is still about 12 percent unaccounted for.

As you'll recall, "refudiate" came about when Palin took to Twitter -- her preferred mode of communication -- to demand that "peaceful Muslims" oppose the misnamed Ground Zero Mosque because that building "stab[s] you in the heart" by being too Muslim too close to Ground Zero. That the planners of the "Ground Zero Mosque" -- properly known as the Park 51 Islamic center, which is neither on Ground Zero nor a mosque -- are themselves moderate and peaceful Muslims seemed to have been lost in the tweeting. After a couple of attempts to correct her grammatical crime, Palin decided that she was actually more like Shakespeare, who "liked to coin new words too," and that everyone else should get with the program.

So, just to review, "refudiate" was born in a medium that encourages misspellings and improper grammar; was employed to help conflate "Muslim" with "terrorist;" and was initially disavowed by its creator, who reversed course to compare herself to one of the greatest literary minds the English-speaking world has produced to try and hide the fact that she either can't spell or has but a passing familiarity with her mother tongue.

And now it's the "Word of the Year."

This just reeks of a publicity ploy. When Politifact named Palin's "death panel" claim their "Lie of the Year," that actually served a purpose, as Palin's false and hyperbolic rhetoric helped to poison the health care debate. But enshrining one of her many linguistic stumbles as the "Word of the Year" is just unnecessary, particularly when you consider that "refudiate" is a word that quite literally has no function.

They may as well have given the honor to "irregardless."

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Sarah Palin
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