It’s official, and you may have already heard the news: the New Oxford American Dictionary has named ‘refudiate’ its 2010 Word of the Year. That sound you hear is coming from linguists who’ve lain peacefully at rest for millennia, but are now spinning in their graves.
The new word originated last summer when Sarah Palin used it on Twitter. She bollixed up ‘refute’ and ‘repudiate’ and out came ‘refudiate’.
Much as I hate to say it, I kind of like the word. I can’t disagree with the practicality of it—it serves a useful purpose, and while my gut reaction is to revolt because of my political reaction to Sarah, I’m going out on a limb to defend the creation of something that actually makes sense to me.
The Oxford people point out that it suggests a general ‘rejection’, where neither ‘refute’ nor ‘repudiate’ were suitable. Of course, they don’t mention the fact that she could have just said ‘reject’.
Sarah’s original tweet was a message urging Muslims to ______ the planned building of a mosque on a site in New York near Ground Zero. ‘Reject’ would have worked just fine, but ‘refudiate’ just seemed to fall onto the page.
I’m not inclined to liken Ms. Palin to Shakespeare, as she herself did, pointing out that Shakespeare coined new words all the time. But, as Seth Meyers pointed out on SNL’s Weekend Update the other night, Shakespeare came up with new words deliberately, and Palin’s new creation was what he called a word ‘fender-bender’.