Last week, Sarah Palin coined a word. Refudiate. Uses: [The Obamas] could refudiate what it is that this group is saying. They could set the record straight (to Sean Hannity on Fox News regarding the NAACP’s call for Tea Party leadership to end racism within the group) and Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn’t it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate (via Twitter regarding the proposed construction of a mosque, gym and community centre a few blocks from Ground Zero.)
As best I can tell, what Palin meant was something along the lines of refute or reject. In fact, the tweet quoted above was only up a short time before she deleted it and replaced it with one using refute in lieu of refudiate. After she began receiving criticism for using a non-word, particularly in what many saw as a discriminatory context, Palin tweeted the following: ‘Refudiate,’ ‘misunderestimate,’ ‘wee-wee’d up.’ English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!
Ah, yes. Misunderestimate. One of George W. Bush’s finest moments. But which is it, Sarah Palin? Who are you: George W. Bush or William Shakespeare? One poetically crafted words to express ideas, emotions, and human intricacies in the context of some of the most important literary works ever written. One misused a common English word by accident.
Yes, the etymology of the English language is fascinating, and of course languages evolve with new generations and changes in human life. I myself have been a big fan of abbreves (abbreviations) such as ridic (ridiculous), the ushe (the usual), and natch (naturally.) These words won’t likely be a lasting part of the English language, but they’re fun slang. I also like to make up evolutionary nicknames, such as the following series of developments over the past several months: boo, b, rabbit, rabbit bunny, brab, rabert; peanut, peanra, pean; squooger, squoo, squoogerson; honey, hun, hunington.
But where do we draw the line? There is a definite difference between creatively coming up with a new word and flubbing a word that already exists. The difference is intention, and I would bet that Sarah Palin’s intention was not to create a new word with a distinct meaning, but to try to sound smart while saying horribly divisive and ill-informed things.