Refudiate is not a word — at least, not one that appears in the dictionary. But don’t try telling former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. She’s been dropping refudiate bombs all over the place lately, and she’s not about to give up.
Last week, Palin went on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show to claim that it’s “divisive” for the NAACP to call out racist elements in the Tea Party movement. (See the clip below.) Her I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I argument built to this stirring conclusion: “[The Obamas] could refudiate what it is that this group is saying. They could set the record straight.” Liberal bloggers LOL’d at her word choice, but then she did it again yesterday. In a since-deleted tweet, Palin wrote, “Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn’t it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate.” After much Twitter mockery, she erased the tweet, re-posting new versions that used actual words like reject and refute instead of the one she made up. Yet she followed this with another tweet defending her imaginary word: “‘Refudiate,’ ‘misunderestimate,’ ‘wee-wee’d up.’ English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!”
After I finished cracking up at the idea of Sarah Palin comparing herself to Shakespeare, I had to admit: She’s kinda right. Languages evolve organically. The only reason you understood the noun tweet in the last paragraph is because somebody made up that sense of the word a couple of years ago. And at least in this writer’s opinion, refudiate isn’t even the worst part of Palin’s original tweet, a cynical effort to stoke ugly anti-Muslim sentiment. Blogger Jay Smooth posted a similar take on Twitter: “If Sarah Palin used all the right words, the idea expressed would still be just as wrong. So I refudiate this judgmentation of her wordery.”
So the question really is: As far as made-up words go, where does Sarah Palin’s refudiate stand? It’s not quite as versatile as George W. Bush’s classic misunderestimate or Will-Ferrell-as-Bush’s even more classic strategery, but I think this verb has potential. Let us know what you think of refudiate, and while we’re at it, tell us your favorite fake words of all time.