Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Ever heard of Warren Harding? He was president of the US between the two world wars. He also invented a word, and was lampooned for doing so. That's the way it is with languages: they keep on adding words, changing meanings of existing ones (firewall, anyone?) and generally being stronger than the purists who'd keep them under control.
From a strictly lexical interpretation of the different contexts in which Palin has used “refudiate,” we have concluded that neither “refute” nor “repudiate” seems consistently precise, and that “refudiate” more or less stands on its own, suggesting a general sense of “reject.”
Although Palin is likely to be forever branded with the coinage of “refudiate,” she is by no means the first person to speak or write it—just as Warren G. Harding was not the first to use the word normalcy when he ran his 1920 presidential campaign under the slogan “A return to normalcy.” But Harding was a political celebrity, as Palin is now, and his critics spared no ridicule for his supposedly ignorant mangling of the correct word “normality.”
No, I'm not endorsing Sarah Palin, and not not endorsing her, though I admit I like her deep-seated support for Israel.


Anonymous said...

my favourite among changed meanings words is


still in Somerset Maugham it meant merry


Yitzchak Goodman said...

"Refudiate" seems to be what Lewis Carroll calls a "Portmanteau word." So she's operating in a witty and literate tradition

Paul M said...

On the other hand...

"Those who care have a duty to resist. Changes that occur against such resistance are tested changes. The language is the better for them—and for the resistance." — Jon Ciardi, poet and translator