The word “refute” was one of the most misused in the English language even before Sarah Palin came along.
Now the possible next president of the U.S. has taken incorrect use of the verb to a new level by mangling it into a whole new word — “refudiate.”
At first she appeared embarrassed by the linguistic slip, but later chose to celebrate her inventiveness by comparing herself to literary giants William Shakespeare and, er, George Bush.
Palin used the word in an interview with Fox News last week when she urged U.S. President Barack Obama and the first lady, Michelle Obama, to “refudiate” suggestions that the rightwing Tea Party movement was racist.
Over the weekend, she used it again on her Twitter page.
Wading into a debate about a proposal to build an Islamic centre near the World Trade Center site in New York, she urged “peaceful Muslims” to “pls refudiate” the plans.
That tweet got deleted, but not before it had been noticed by various U.S. bloggers.
Palin then had another go, this time incorrectly - but more conventionally - misusing the word refute. “Peaceful New Yorkers, pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real,” she wrote.
That, too, got deleted and replaced by one urging “peace-seeking Muslims” to “reject” the plans.
If only she had consulted the Guardian's style guide first.
Its entry on refute says: “Use this much abused word only when an argument is disproved; otherwise contest, deny, rebut.” Later, Palin decided to own up to the mistake by comparing her word to an infamous Bushism.
“‘Refudiate,' ‘misunderestimate,' ‘wee-wee'd up.' English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!” she tweeted.
In that spirit, please send us your own examples of made-up words and their definitions. You could start with Paliniate. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010