Being an internet writer, I watch internet search trends. When I spotted an article titled’ Most Frequently Searched Word for Summer 2010′, I clicked. I was surprised, but shouldn’t have been, to find that Sarah Palin’s ubiquitous misnomer ‘refudiate’ was #1 most oft searched word. Mrs. P. is many things. A linguist is not one of them. The woman tweaks the English language more often then Congress reconfigures Social Security funds.
‘Refudiate’. Interesting word that. Some sort of hybrid between ‘repudiate’ (to divorce or separate formally from) and ‘refuse’ (v. deny, n. garbage). Webster adds an interesting addendum to ‘repudiate’; originally it was used in reference to a man officially disclaiming all connection with a woman. So Sarah Palin juggles the words and the ensuing result is ‘refudiate’.
I proved to myself the internet popularity of ‘refudiate’ when I searched ‘repudiate’. The internet search term ‘repudiate’ brings up ‘refudiate’ just as often (although my spell check urban dictionary doesn’t recognize Sarah Palin’s bastard word child). I suspect that ‘refudiate’ has received so many hits because others, like me, were bemused by Sarah Palin’s non-word ‘refudiate’. Like Palin herself, ‘refudiate’ gives the impression of intelligence. ‘Refudiate’ makes an intelligent person stop and wonder for just that moment’s purchase, ‘is refudiate a word?’ Then of course we shake our heads; ‘refudiate’, like Sarah Palin sounds good and genuine. But it’s not real. Refudiate is a fake word, a faux pas.
I hear in Palin’s ‘refudiate’ overtones of a favorite real word of mine: ‘befuddle’. Befuddle means to confuse. I also pick up vibes of ‘fudge’ in ‘refudiate’. ‘Fudge’ means to ‘cover up, funk or contort’ ( in the vernacular), and is especially used in reference to book-keeping and accounting practices. Beyond that, I can only think that we have Sarah Palin’s vivid imagination and lack of facility in lauguage to thank for this summer’s hottie ‘refudiate’. It wouldn’t surprise me if Sarah excused her ‘refudiate’ blunder by calling herself ‘politically incorrect’. PC is the catch-all buzz phrase. Tromped on someone’s ideals? Made a fool of yourself? Just call yourself ‘politically incorrect’ and it’s all good. And really, Sarah Palin’s just such a goldarn firebrand that our English language isn’t big enough to accommodate her scintillating conversation.