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Will Palin's "Refudiate" Last as Long As Shakespeare's "Champion?"

July 19, 2010, 10:04 PM
Palin_shakespeare
In a series of tweets Sunday, Sarah Palin first "invented" the word "refudiate" (while, perhaps, trying to come up with "repudiate"), and then defended her word choice in another tweet suggesting a certain similarity between herself and a certain Bard of Avon: "'Refudiate,' 'misunderestimate,' 'wee-wee'd up.' English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!"

"Misunderestimate," of course, was an invention of President George W. Bush, while "wee-wee'd up" belongs to President Obama. But Palin's suggestion that English is a living, evolving language is pretty salient. Words get created all the time, and once such a word is created, it sometimes enters common usage—and the AP stylebook—forever. After all, a good many of the more than 3000 words that Shakespeare invented are now used frequently by all of us.  Some of the more common ones include: "addiction," "advertising," "blanket," "champion," "elbow," "excitement," "fashionable," "gossip," "impede," "lackluster," "outbreak," "submerge," "summit," "torture" and "worthless."

So will "refudiate" hold up over the next, say, 400 years? Big Think asked Dr. Allan Metcalf, a professor at MacMurray College and executive secretary of the American Dialect Society, what causes a word to be adopted into the lexicon.

"What makes a word stick is its naturalness, its unobtrusiveness," said Metcalf. "Consciously invented words, especially clever ones, are treated as jokes, and perhaps appreciated as such but not used by others." Metcalf said that if a word is "a deliberate conspicuous coinage," it will likely sink out of sight. But, on the other hand, "if it was a slip of the tongue, it's a natural blend of two established words and might just stick. I bet she's not the first to use it."
 

Will Palin's "Refudiate" La...

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