Refudiate?

« previous post | next post »

[Note: Thanks to a link from Andrew Sullivan, our server is maxed out at around 2,000 visitors/hour, and things are a little slow. If you come back in a few hours, response times for browsing or commenting should be better.]

Back on July 14, when Sarah Palin used the blend refudiate in her role as Fox News contributor, I considered posting about it, but decided not to, since I'm not a fan of pouncing on political slips of the tongue.

But today, a week later, she used the same blend in a message on Twitter:

The repetition means two things, one not very important, the other one more consequential.

The unimportant one is that the original example wasn't a slip of the tongue, but a symptom of the fact that Ms. Palin had a blend of repudiate and refute as a well-established entry in her mental lexicon.  This is unimportant because politics is not a vocabulary contest. What's more serious, in my opinion, is that she didn't get set straight about the words in question by any of her advisors and friends, or for that matter by anyone at Fox. She was widely ridiculed for the error, at least in the blogosphere, and so you'd think that a functional staff would intervene to prevent future embarrassment.

The use of refudiate in today's tweet was also noted by bloggers, and was then removed within half an hour or so, showing that someone in her entourage is on the ball. But why didn't the first mistake get brought to her attention? This suggests that either her staff is not very efficient, or they're afraid to bring certain kinds of problems to her attention, or both.

I found the screenshot of the deleted tweet on Charles Johnson's blog, Little Green Footballs, which has a useful review of the political controversy that prompted the second slip.

And here's the audio and transcript, in context, of last week's comment:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Well it's- it's very unfortunate that they're- they're taking this tactic
because it's a false accusation that tea-party Americans are racist.
Any good American
hates racism.
We don't stand for it. It is unacceptable.
So to be called a racist –
yeah, those over there on the left who are opposing that good message of tea-party Americans
are using this racism accusation
in order to keep people away from not only the movement
but keeping them- keeping a wall built between what the message actually is
and the American public that is
today receiving that message very well.
It- it- False accusation, very unfortunate, and again very very unnecessary.
And the president
and his wife, you know the first lady spoke at NAACP so recently,
they have power in their words
they could refudiate what it is that this group is saying, and they could set the record straight
And they could-
they could correct what this false accusation is
that the tea party American, that movement, is racist.

[For those of you who may be having trouble following the action without a program, CNN reported today that the National Tea Party Federation has expelled Mark Williams and his Tea Party Express organization because of the controversy over his "Letter to Lincoln". Since Ms. Palin has been a featured speaker at at least one Tea Party Express rally, it's not clear which "tea party Americans" she's now aligned with. ]

[Update -- I note that refudiate has been invented before. A Google Books search turns up four instances. The most notable one is probably this passage in John Sladek's 1984 story "Answers", published in The Lunatics of Terra:

The other three seem to be isolated cases that might well be writers' or transcribers' slips of the finger. But I expect that a search of student essays would turn up quite a few more. And David Segal, "When capitalism meets cannabis", NYT 6/25/2010, offers another perspective:

...interviewing pot sellers is unlike interviewing anyone else in business. Simple yes-or-no questions yield 10-minute soliloquies. Words are coined on the spot, like “refudiate,” and regular words are used in ways that make sense only in context. One guy kept saying “rue” as though it meant “reluctant,” as in “I think the state was rue to act.”

Many have a long history with marijuana, and they remain — let’s just run with it — rue to share their names. One dispensary employee swears that his hippie parents christened him Onefree, but he prefers to be called Dave and everyone calls him Van.

Here's evidence from Twitter that the Palin refudiate story has some legs. And some more.]

Share:



68 Comments »

  1. Nancy Friedman said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 5:36 pm

    True, the second tweet was edited, but three hours later Ms. Palin defended it by comparing "refudiate" to Shakespeare's coinages: http://twitter.com/SarahPalinUSA/statuses/18863040998

    Which, naturally, sparked a new round of ripostes on Twitter, e.g., http://twitter.com/Pinkomomma/statuses/18864866829

    [(myl) If she really thought that refudiate was Shakespearean, wouldn't she have left the original tweet proudly in place?]

  2. Chris said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 5:38 pm

    It gets dumber.

    http://twitter.com/SarahPalinUSA/status/18863040998

    Screengrab, in case the tweet disappears:
    http://javajunkee.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/refudiate.png

  3. Kimberli Baker said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 5:40 pm

    Isn't it also an option that someone on her staff did set her straight, but either she failed to retain that, or simply (as seems her style) disregarded the information as unimportant? Possible she sees the proper use of her native language as Washington elitist?

  4. Stan said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 5:54 pm

    Her follow-up tweet:

    '"Refudiate," "misunderestimate," "wee-wee'd up." English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!'

    [screengrab]

  5. Shipsa01 said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 5:55 pm

    There's also the possibility that after the first time she used the word her staff did bring it to her attention, but she either didn't 'get it,' or completely ignored them.

  6. sarang said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 5:59 pm

    Strikes me as a very Dodgsonian portmanteau of "refute" and "repudiate" — analogous to "frumious."

    [(myl) Yes, exactly.]

  7. a said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 6:19 pm

    What does that tweet even mean? 'Doesn't it stab you in the heart as it does ours throughout the heartland.' I can forgive her staff for not correcting her usage of 'refudiate'– they've obviously got their hands full.

  8. James said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 6:26 pm

    I'm with Kimberli (and also with Shipsa01). Furthermore, I agree with myl and, necessarily, sarang.

  9. Andrew Garrett said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 6:31 pm

    I think refudiate means what repudiate means (roughly, "disavow"), with no clear trace of refute ("show s.t. to be false"). Since repudiate has a somewhat learned aura, I would take refudiate not as blending, which yields new items with new "brunch"-style meanings, but as an example of contamination of repudiate by (a more common word?) refute, analogous to folk etymology.

  10. Chris said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 6:50 pm

    By the way, what the hell is "wee-wee'd up" supposed to mean?

    [(myl) Barack Obama used it last summer, apparently to mean something having to do with bed-wetting:

    (The phrase occurs at about 0:45.)]

  11. Daniel said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 7:03 pm

    @ Chris

    I was unfamiliar too.

    It's about 50 seconds into this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTVjab2cHgk

  12. Kylopod said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 7:21 pm

    My guess is that the first time was a simple error, but after she began to be ridiculed for it, she decided to use it defiantly, against the "elitists" who would mock her for it.

    It's similar to the way Bush embraced his own malapropisms such as "misunderestimate" (which was used for the title of an admiring book about him). Bush's approach, though, involved more of an element of self-deprecating humor than Palin's.

    [(myl) In that case, again, I'd expect the first tweet to stay proudly up, rather than being deleted. You're clearly right about the way it she's playing it now -- and more power to her.

    But to give credit where it's due, misunderestimate is a useful blend, while (as Andrew Garrett observes above) refudiate doesn't seem to have much value added over repudiate.]

  13. Lance said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 7:32 pm

    From above:

    I think refudiate means what repudiate means (roughly, "disavow"), with no clear trace of refute ("show s.t. to be false").

    I was inclined to believe this, but I'd like to offer a variant on the hypothesis based on a tweet from Palin (possibly replacing the one cited in the main post?):

    Peaceful New Yorkers, pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real
    http://twitter.com/SarahPalinUSA/status/18855185436

    I believe in fact Palin's "refudiate" is a blend of her "repudiate" (roughly, "disavow") with her "refute" (roughly, "disavow"). I can't make any sense of this tweet unless Palin actually thinks "refute" means "disavow". (Maybe, at best, "argue against"–you can certainly refute by arguing against, but they're hardly synonymous. If I'm not mistaken, you can't "refute" a plan.)

    [(myl) This use of refute seems to be replacing a blend with a classical malapropism. There's a widespread tendency to use refute to mean "deny", but that doesn't really fit here either.]

  14. Ben Zimmer said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 7:43 pm

    Jonathan Lighter noted a similar GOP use of refudiate back in Nov. '06:

    Sen. Mike DeWine (R.-Ohio) has urged Democrats to "refudiate the statement" made by John Kerry about Iraq.
    DeWine used the phrase "refudiate the statement" at least twice on this a.m.'s _Fox & Friends_.

  15. libhomo said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 8:32 pm

    You can always tell when $arah does her own twits instead of letting the ghostwriters handle it.

  16. Tim Martin said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 8:48 pm

    @Chris:

    Wow, I was just about to say that I'm sure Palin will come up with a glib way of "making it all okay" like she did with the writing-on-her-hand incident (see: http://videos.mediaite.com/embed/player/?content=6FR3GH0Y7MRG8KVM&widget_type_cid=svp), and that's exactly what she did!

    When you make a mistake, denying that it is a mistake and comparing yourself to someone who had infinitely more talent is not the right response.

  17. J.W. Brewer said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 9:12 pm

    Lance: you might try googling the string "refute the plan" and see what you make of the results. Some of the hits seem to be in reasonably formal/edited contexts, although that doesn't mean they're not jargony. "Refute the proposal" is slightly more idiomatic-sounding to my ear, for whatever that's worth.

    I have found (perhaps not a large enough sample size to be reliable, nor to know if it tracks any tendency toward a UK/US distinction outside the legal profession) that some London solicitors use "refute" (when, e.g., describing the substance of a particular witness' sworn statement) where a New York lawyer would be more likely to use "deny" or "dispute."

  18. James said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 9:29 pm

    'Refute' in a non-success sense seems to me to be fairly common (and fairly recently common — though that could easily be the recency illusion, I understand that). It sounds to me like a mistake, but I do think it's probably common enough to be just a separate sense.

    Hm, in case that's not clear: I use 'refute' to mean 'disprove', and successfully, whereas I think some people use it to mean attempt to disprove.

    [(myl) Indeed. See here for some discussion.]

    I'm American. And I'm not the James of the 6:26 comment above, by the way.

    And the WordPress spellchecker does not like 'recency'.

  19. JFM said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 9:35 pm

    Sarah Palin has (perhaps unwittingly) re-coined a word; one that her political opponents are quick to ridicule her for. I would have thought there was enough in her political statements for that. Why pick on her use of a "new" word?

    Her public use of this unconventional word is like a slap in the face on language snobs, true, but surely it's just business as usual as far as natural language goes. Her's is perhaps a bit more public, that's all.

    Personally, I like it when people formulate new ways to say old things, be they intentional or not. It feels refreshing and enriching (in contrast to her political thinking).

    [(myl) This is a good point. In fact, the primary embarrassment should be her call (a week ago) for Barack and Michelle Obama to "refudiate" the NAACP's call for the various tea-party organizations to repudiate the racists among their members, given today's news that the umbrella National Tea Party Federation has expelled (for racist weblog posts) Mark Williams and the Tea Party Express organization -- the tea-party splinter that Palin has been most closely associated with.

    My reason for bringing up the whole "refudiate" thing was mainly surprise that Palin's staff hadn't stopped her from using a coinage that was sure to bring down ridicule, fairly or not.]

  20. John Cowan said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 10:13 pm

    And as for John Sladek, this is the man who called one of his books (an excellent one) Mechasm. (To be fair, I don't know which of its alternative titles, Mechasm and The Reproductive System, is actually his, or neither, or both.)

  21. Russell Cross said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 10:14 pm

    It's not the occasional slip of the tongue by politicians that irritates me because, after all, we all make them – it's just we are not subject to the 24-hour media scrutiny that celebs and politicians have to put up with. What does irritate is the scrappy attempts to make it sound like it was somehow planned and rather than a mistake it is evidence of wit, skill, intelligence, or whatever. Tweeting "English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it" rather than "Oops, I made a mistake" is sounds like an attempt by Sarah to put herself on a par with the Bard himself! It's not a coinage; it's a mistake. Live with it.

  22. Eric said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 10:15 pm

    Palin doesn't use it this way, but 'refudiate' could actually be a useful coinage, by combining the meanings of its parent words into a single expression for 'disavows due to falsifying.'

    Thus we could say things like "Despite his earlier acceptance of the first Critique*, Riemann refudiated Kant by discovering a consistent non-Euclidean geometry."

    *Note: I don't know if Riemann was actually ever a Kantian. It's just an example sentence.

  23. Adrian Bailey said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 10:36 pm

    I know it's a stretch, but could there be some subconscious bowdlerising going on here? Think about where the word "repudiate" comes from…

  24. Xmun said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 10:51 pm

    "Bush's approach, though, involved more of an element of self-deprecating humor than Palin's."

    Am I the only one to remember that "deprecate" used to mean "express disapproval", and that "self-deprecating humor" used to be called "self-depreciating humor"?

    I deprecate the use of "deprecate" to mean "depreciate", but I know it's a lost cause.

  25. Xmun said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 10:56 pm

    OK, Adrian Bailey, where did the word "repudiate" come from? Please explain.

  26. James Kabala said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 11:02 pm

    Xmun: I actually thought it was the other way around (i.e., that self-deprecate was the original and self-depreciate was the mistake). Which of us is correct?

  27. ShadowFox said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 1:04 am

    Why is everyone so convinced that Palin "re-coined" this blend? Has anyone ever heard her use "repudiate"? If yes, then it stands to reason that this was an intentional blend. But if she has not been recorded saying "repudiate", then it would be a straight eggcorn. And, yes, her own tweets do appear to be distinguishable from those of her ghostwriters. Hence the delay in the defense of the earlier tweet after taking it down. The handlers got confronted with an error and took it down, then realized that they could spin it as a "coinage" and ran with it. First post by Palin, subsequent ones (and the take-down)–by someone else. Plausible?

  28. Xmun said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 1:15 am

    No, both "deprecate" and "depreciate" are perfectly good words, but they mean quite different things. The trouble is, people sometimes say or write one (usually "deprecate") when they mean the other. And they've been doing it so long that dictionaries now record "depreciate" as one of the senses of "deprecate".

    The usual construction, by the way, is "to depreciate yourself" (and corresponding forms like "himself"). I don't think there's a full verb "to self-depreciate", though the adjectival form "self-depreciating" certainly is quite common.

  29. octopod said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 3:01 am

    Xmun and James Kabala: Self-deprecating is a far more common sort of humour than self-depreciating, I'd say, given that to "deprecate" something is to speak poorly of it (or, in technical usage, to leave it out of the next version of the software), but to "depreciate" is to lose value over time. The former makes a good deal more sense. Sorry to disagree with anyone whose name is as nifty as "Xmun" (is that K'iche or Maltese?), but I think "self-depreciating" is the error. Similar enough that the confusion is quite reasonable though.

    On topic: Personally I suspect "refudiate" is just an eggcorn, but I rather like it for its portmanteau qualities and might find myself using it. Too bad about the Palin associations, really.

  30. Stan said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 3:42 am

    A few years ago, in a Literal-Minded post about misunderestimate, Neal Whitman found examples of underguesstimate and misunderguesstimate.

  31. James said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 7:29 am

    New Oxford American Dictionary (pre-installed on my Mac):

    USAGE Of the two combinations self-depreciating (which dates from the mid 19th century) and self-deprecating (which dates from the mid 20th century), self-depreciating better reflects the long-established usage of depreciate in the sense of ‘disparage, belittle.’ Self-deprecating, however, reflects the relatively recent use of deprecate for depreciate, and self-deprecating, meaning ‘belittling or disparaging oneself,’ is now somewhat more common than self-depreciating.

  32. Kylopod said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 7:39 am

    I must admit that I've never heard of the term "self-depreciating" before (it sounds like economic jargon to me), and I'm amused that my offhand remark spurred this completely unrelated discussion.

  33. Mar Rojo said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 7:58 am

    Over to Ms McKean?

    http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2008/08/03/chillax/

    And our very own Mr Zwicky:

    The thin line between error and mere variation (part 1 of 2)

    http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/001133.html

  34. Adrian Bailey said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 8:29 am

    Xmun: from the same root as pudenda

  35. James Kabala said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 9:02 am

    I stand corrected. Thanks to everyone who replied.

    Adrian Bailey: The chances that Palin knows that strike me as very slim. (That is not meant as an insult toward her; I doubt if Obama or any other politician does either.)

  36. Ralph Hickok said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 9:24 am

    The use of "refute" to mean "rebut" is common enough that every newspaper stylebook I ever worked with specifically warned against it.

  37. Stephen Jones said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 9:43 am

    What on earth does her tweet mean?

    Are they going to build a mosque on Ground Zero and she wants peaceful Muslims to oppose it?

    [(myl) See "Planned Sign of Tolerance Bringing Division Instead", NYT 7/13/2010: "Islamic Center Near Ground Zero Sparks Anger", NPR 7/15/2010; "Wish you weren't here", Jon Stewart 7/7/2010; "The 'Mega-Mosque' Hate Video Rejected by NBC and CBS", LGF 7/15/2010.]

  38. James Kabala said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 10:25 am

    Ralph Hickox: On the subject of mistakes on words beginning with r, it seems quite common for people to say "reactionary" when they mean "in reaction to." I once saw a TV program where Chris Matthews took questions from a college audience, and one of the students used "reactionary" in this way. Matthews was confused at first and eventually said to the kid, "I think you mean 'reactive.'" The student replied, "Yeah, you're right," then repeated the question the same way he had said it the first time!

  39. Xmun said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 12:05 pm

    Adrian Bailey: There isn't any close connection between "repudiate" and "pudenda". "Repudiate" comes from Latin repudio, repudiare (note the i), meaning to put away. "Pudenda" comes from Latin pudeo, pudere (note the e, which by the way is short), meaning to be ashamed. I'm not saying there's no connection — I don't know about the IE roots — but there's certainly no close connection in the Latin.

  40. Fifth Dentist said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 1:19 pm

    I'd give anything to be allowed, in a public, recorded forum, to ask Palin which of Shakespeare's works is her favorite, with an explanation of why.
    Oh, I forgot, merely asking her what she reads is a "gochya" question. Yew bechya!

  41. Stephen Jones said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 1:40 pm

    Thanks for the links Mark. There's one in the Guardian as well.

    The story hasn't really made it across the pond.

  42. Xmun said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 3:10 pm

    @octopod: "Xmun" (is that K'iche or Maltese?)

    I'll leave you to make your own determination on the balance of probabilities. (My brother's name is Roger. His son's name is Paul.)

  43. ambrosen said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 4:12 pm

    It's not related to the subject of the post, I'm afraid, but I'm a little intrigued by the use of the phrase "tea-party American". To me, a Brit, any pre-modifier on the word 'American' suggests an ethnic grouping, and I suspect that this is the effect that Sarah Palin's trying to get at: just as it's acceptable (nay, wrong not to) to call someone out for dismissing your opinions because of your ethnicity, there may also be a hint of making people feel a connection between dismissing the tea partiers' ideas and those of an ethnic group, despite the fact that discrimination on the basis of political ideas is the foundation stone of sound political debate.

    Either way, I'd be intrigued to hear of any similar pre-modifiers to the word 'American' on the basis of political ideology.

  44. lukas said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 4:26 pm

    Couldn't it be a blend of "repudiate" and "refuse" rather than "refute"? These two verbs are closer semantically and "refuse" is more appropriate to the context.

  45. Steve said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 1:19 am

    The word 'refudiate' also crops up in Alan Moore's Watchmen comic – the written autobiography of a 50s costumed hero, if I recall correctly.

  46. Mr Fnortner said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 8:27 am

    Sarah Palin uses language like a child playing dress-up. Sometimes she's cute, often she's absurd, yet she'll never be mistaken for an adult.

  47. Ben Hemmens said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 8:41 am

    a) refudiate is surely a premium-quality eggcorn.

    b) is she from the refudlican party? "spreading FUD" sure sums up the total of their current activities.

  48. Jared said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 1:24 pm

    Might not staffers' assumptions be that she merely misspoke the first time? I work for an elected official (though at the state level), and if in the course of an interview he uttered a malapropism of that variety, and I hadn't heard him say it before, I doubt that I'd say anything about it. I would assume it was just a slip of the tongue. In this case, I might think that Palin had first intended to ask for refutation, reflected that this was inapt, and elected to instead mention repudiation — but mangled it. In other words, I wouldn't necessarily take the first error as evidence that she actually thought "refudiate" to be a word.

    Maybe a better staffer, or a staffer for a national figure, wouldn't make that assumption. More to the point, maybe that's an assumption you simply don't make with Sarah Palin. But I still don't know that I consider this a staffing failure.

  49. David said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 1:31 pm

    I took 'refudiate' to be a useful portmanteau word, meaning repudiate the mosque plan and thereby refute the impression that you do not feel as we do (stabbed in the heart).

  50. BobN said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 1:31 pm

    I think everyone has this all wrong. Refudiate doesn't mean what you think it does. I propose an alternative etymology that makes more sense in the situation and, in fact, embodies the mood of the GOP/TPers these days. It isn't a combination of refute and repudiate. It's a mash up of "radiate refusal".

  51. Jhartod said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

    Another possibility: she does this on purpose so she can point to another instance of the "media elites" picking on her. She' a real person from the "real America" is what she will try to use this to say. Even if an honest mistake she is taking advantage of it beautifully. You assume her supporters should be disheartened that she sounds uneducated but this misses the point of Palin's popularity. Not to mention the blogsphere is talking about "refudiate" instead of the fact that she just implied that "non-violent" Muslims are some sort of minority group to be appealed to and she was also stirring up the racial fearmongering among her followers over this Fox News-created controversy that doesn't really exist (the Mosque is only part of a big community center and it is not located at ground zero as they claim–several buildings away.) She just played y'all like a fiddle!

  52. demo.nyc said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 2:24 pm

    my fave childhood michigan malapropism was "rubbage" (garbage + rubbish). a cute literacy mistake fine for a blue collar high school dropout but not for a palin.

  53. demo.nyc said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 2:28 pm

    in addition, she has no business inserting herself into our nyc business. her "pls" and "heart" is obviously unfelt.

  54. Malachi said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 2:31 pm

    Her second use of "refudiate" in her tweet is an indirect way to suggest that her use of such a word on Fox was not unintentional. It's the same strategy as writing on her hand and showing it off to everyone after she was caught doing it the first time. It serves two purposes: 1) to suggest she's not a poor speaker and thinker and 2) it serves as an "in your face" to her opponents in the eyes of her supporters. I'll admit, she has a way of using her fumblings to rile up the base.

  55. Eats Wombats said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 2:31 pm

    With no disrespect to Filipinos, it's known that they often have difficulty with Fs and Ps and sometimes interchange them.

    Someone very focused on not giving her name as Sarah Falin could easily make a slip with repudiate (something Tina Pey could make hay with!).

    Sarah has an Imelda complex. Both were beauty queens with an adoring fan base among people who didn't know any better.

    Who could be surprised she gets Fs and Ps mixed up?

    Vladimir Futin, where does he go?

  56. George said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 2:40 pm

    Don't new blends fill a gap in the lexicon? If she was in fact walking in the footsteps of the Bard and coining a new word, what does 'refutiate' express that 'refute,' 'repudiate,' 'reject,' etc. do not?

  57. Kris said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 4:25 pm

    From what I see, repudiate and pudenda both have the latin pudet as a root…. pudet meaning "it shames". I didn't know of this common root until this page prompted me to search.

    [(myl) I don't think that this is true. Or rather, the connection is at best rather indirect. The OED says that repudiate is from the "past participial stem (see -ATE suffix3) of repudiāre to divorce, reject, to refuse to accept, to decline"; whereas pudenda is the plural of the "neutral gerundive of pudēre to cause shame, ashame".

    Lewis & Short's entries for pudeo and repudio give no indication of a connection between the latter and the former.

    However, the Oxford Latin Dictionary (not available on line) says that repudio was derived from the noun repudium, which in turn originally comes (they say) from re+pudet+ium.

    None of this matters to the current discussion, and I forget how it even came up, but as long as it's on the table, we might as well give it the best approximation to classical scholarship that we can manage.]

    And as to the OP: It is amazing how many people are willing to write this off as a typographical error that is now being pilloried by political opponents. I don't view Sarah as a political opponent. Sarah's use of a nonsense word like 'repudiate' is still not a typo. I also caught the Fox audio of her using the wrong word first and also decided to not pounce on what at the time seemed a silly malapropism… I also gave up the 'not pouncing' once she determined to not only repeat her error, but try to justify it.

    [(myl) It's pretty clearly neither a typo nor a phonological substitution error, but rather a blend of two words that are semantically and phonologically similar. I'm not so clear that this makes it pounce-worthy, but it was predictable that people would pounce regardless.]

  58. jakc said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 5:58 pm

    Wouldn't Sarah have to have read Sladek in order to get the word from him? (Or is she brushing up on Iowa authors – Sladek was born in Waverly, Iowa, currently represented by Pat Grassley, the grandson of Chuck, in the Iowa Legislature) Or, isn't it quite possible that Sarah wasn't coining a new word but just didn't know the correct word was "repudiate" and not "refudiate"?

    [(myl) The most probable hypothesis is that all of these uses of refudiate are independent inventions. The point of citing the earlier ones is not to suggest the word's causal history, but to indicate that it's a plausible coinage.]

  59. Kylopod said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 7:51 pm

    @Eats Wombats

    With no disrespect to Filipinos, it's known that they often have difficulty with Fs and Ps and sometimes interchange them.

    That would make discussing hockey a little awkward.

  60. Kevin said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 12:48 am

    I wonder how many corpse men are stationed in the 57 states.

    [(myl) For those who don't understand what Kevin is gettng at, he's citing two of examples of verbal mistakes made at one time or another in public statements by Barack Obama. There are dozens of sites now collecting or discussing these "Obamaisms", a pathetic "so's your mother" exercise which is even lamer than the "Bushisms" business that it tries to imitate. See my post "Political X-isms" for some discussion.]

  61. Adrian Bailey said,

    July 22, 2010 @ 6:30 am

    Thanks, xmun and myl. It appears that the connection sometimes mentioned (and which I had heard) between repudiate and pudere is an etymological error. (Douglas Harper calls it an example of "folk etymology" but if so, them's hifalutin folk.)

    The fact that I and other people know about this connection, even if it is "folk-etymological", can explain a possible aversion to "repudiate" which would then blow over onto people who don't know the connection.

  62. Mr Fnortner said,

    July 22, 2010 @ 10:29 am

    From the land of motel, brunch, chortle, and smog, (not an accounting firm, BTW), it is not unreasonable that refudiate would spontaneously emerge. While I imagine that most portmanteaux are (self)consciously formed, accidents will occur. Palin's may be the happy accident that places refudiate firmly in the lexicon. A relevant saying in my part of the States is that even a blind hog finds an acorn now and then.

  63. Ben Zimmer said,

    July 27, 2010 @ 10:36 am

    Further thoughts on refudiate, including an example from a 1925 headline, in my Word Routes column here.

  64. My Sequel said,

    July 30, 2010 @ 2:26 pm

    The most plausible notion might be that she ignored advise from staff who might have advised her to repudiate her use of the term "refudiate." Ignoring unwanted information is standard operating procedure for politicians guarding their public profile. The practice is not a matter of left or right, elitist vs populist. It's the way people play politics in a media context where facts take a back seat to impressions.

    A tea-party Republican and a Hollywood-money-machine Democrat gubernatorial candidate each flat-out ignored a reporter's facebook question when asked about their reaction to information that their state has more restrictive public records laws other states.

    http://www.facebook.com/dianedenish?v=wall&story_fbid=1236424689197

  65. Steve said,

    August 2, 2010 @ 12:05 pm

    69 comments and no one has mentioned "malamanteau?"

    http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2314

  66. Rohit said,

    August 18, 2010 @ 1:45 pm

    As stated by Steve above, the word "refudiate" does crop up in Alan Moore's graphic novel "Watchmen." I read it a couple of days back and came across it. But am unable to find which page. Just remember that it was in one of the fillers which come between chapters.

  67. Kylopod said,

    August 22, 2010 @ 7:57 am

    Is anyone still reading this thread? Well look what I found:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=M_cbDmpdB-UC&pg=PA77&dq=%22refudiate%22&hl=en&ei=4Q5xTOqgHoOglAeYzsjNDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCcQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22refudiate%22&f=false

    From some novel called The Lunatics of Terra by John Sladek.

    [(myl) Dunno if anyone is still reading, but those who read it originally saw the same reference in the body of the post.]

  68. Sarah Palin, "refudiate" and new words « Grammar Guide « copydesk.org said,

    December 11, 2011 @ 7:10 pm

    [...] Language Log points out, Palin should have been set straight by her friends or staff before she was ridiculed by blogs [...]

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Comment