Merriam-Webster’s “Word of the Summer” is not even a word – thanks, Sarah Palin!


A few months back I wrote a short post – like almost every other blogger on the internet interested in the English language in any way – about everyone’s favorite Alaskan ex-governor’s vocabulary faux-pas. Later she claimed she was coining new words, in the same vein as the great bard, Shakespeare.

Well, it seems that Palin’s gambit of messily mashing up “refute” and “repudiate” has paid off in some way or another – Merriam-Webster have recently revealed that the non-word “refudiate” as uttered by Palin has been their #1 search term this summer.

John Morse, the president and publisher of Merriam-Webster, has this to say:

“I think people immediately knew what she was trying to say because the words ‘refute’ and ‘repudiate’ were also being looked up very, very frequently. It’s an interesting blend, but no, ‘refudiate’ is not a real word.”

However, unlike words such as “bodacious” and “guesstimate” (portmanteaus of “bold/audacious” and “guess/estimate”, respectively), it seems that “refudiate” is not due to appear in any dictionary any time soon – straw-clutching allusions to Shakespeare or no.

But given the nature of English and the lack of any governing body meaning the transition from a fake or slang word to a real, bona fide dictionary entry depends primarily on popular usage, this could be yet another cause for Palin supporters to get behind. If enough people start using the word, dictionaries may be forced to add it.

Given the fact that “refute” and “repudiate” are virtually synonyms already (meaning ‘to reject something as untrue’), this would seem a pretty pointless exercise!