2010 “Word of the Year” highlights American stupidity

Sarah Palin has invented a new word. The only problem is that no one can quite divine its meaning.

The word in question is refudiate, which appears to be a mash-up of the words repudiate (to refuse to accept or be associated with) and refute (to disprove a statement or theory). In truth, she meant neither of these things when using the word in the tweet that started it all:

Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn’t it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate. (@SaraPalinUSA; emphasis added)

So what did Palin think she was saying? In subsequent tweets, she attempted to renegotiate the rocky verbal terrain she found herself climbing, revising her statement to:

Peaceful New Yorkers, pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers is too raw, too real.

and then:

Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in interest of healing.

It seems Palin ultimately meant to use the word reject, as shown her final take on the matter, but wait! She’s not quite through casting aspersions upon the English language, and fights back by comparing herself to William Shakespeare. Palin asserted:

Palin is actually correct about Shakespeare’s penchant for neologisms, and yet it seems funny that she believes the comparison is warranted, given that all of The Bard’s linguistic inventions have clear definitions, unlike Palin’s singular contribution to the English language. Furthermore, none of the specific words she mentions in her tweet can actually be attributed to Shakespeare. “Misunderestimate” is actually a George Bushism, while “wee-wee’d up” is one of Obama’s fudges for dropping the F-bomb.

Wondering what old Billy’s list looks like? With reportedly over 1,700 original terms first found in his various works, author and historian Dr. Alec Gill offers just a few of Shakespeare’s greatest hits:

SINGLE WORDS:

  • aerial
  • aggravate
  • brittle
  • bump
  • castigate
  • countless
  • cranny
  • critical
  • dwindle
  • eventful
  • excellent
  • fitful
  • fragrant
  • frugal
  • gnarled
  • gust
  • hint
  • homicide
  • hurry
  • lonely
  • majestic
  • monumental
  • obscene
  • pedant
  • radiance
  • submerge
  • summit

COMPOUND WORDS:

  • bare-faced
  • blood-stained
  • cloud-capped (towers)
  • fancy-free
  • fore-father
  • ill-starred
  • heaven-kissing (hill)
  • lacklustre (eye)
  • leap-frog
  • snow-white

In the end, I suppose history will validate Palin’s claim to fame and, well, refudiate her detractors: the word has recently been chosen as the New Oxford American Dictionary’s 2010 Word of the Year, flummoxing those who seek to further refine the English language.

Cold comfort: the word “refudiate” may not actually make it into next year’s version of the dictionary, despite its special status, and indeed, sources at the Oxford University Press say Sarah Palin is not the original inventor of the word—merely its most enthusiastic supporter.

For more opinions on the Palin flub heard ’round the world, see both Jezebel and Gawker.