SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Merriam-Webster’s “Word of the Summer” is not even a word. That’s something no one can “refudiate.”
Sarah Palin’s attempt to splice “refute” and “repudiate” on a news show and in a Twitter message in July sparked more searches on the publisher’s online dictionary during the summer than most real words did. But don’t expect all the interest in “refudiate” to lead to an actual dictionary entry.
The former Alaska governor has laughed off criticisms about her pseudo-word, noting that Shakespeare also coined new words.
‘Refute’ and ‘repudiate’ do have similar meanings. Refute means to prove something wrong or deny its truth or accuracy. Repudiate means to refuse any connection with something or reject it as untrue or unjust.
“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,” said John Morse, Merriam-Webster’s president and publisher.
“It’s an interesting blend, but no, ‘refudiate’ is not a real word,” he said.
But that could someday change. Many of today’s accepted words once were considered strange hybrids, too, including contraption (contrivance plus trap and invention) and splatter (splash and spatter).
Massachusetts-based Merriam-Webster started tracking trends on what news-driven words were looked up most frequently after Princess Diana’s death. That’s when its editors noticed a spike in online searches for certain words associated with that event, such as paparazzi (an aggressive photographer focusing on celebrities) and cortege (a funeral procession).
It’s now able to track all searches on its website, naming the top trend words of each year and an annual compilation of “new words” accepted into the dictionary, such as “blog” and “staycation.”
“Refudiate” is joined on this summer’s list of top words by “inception” and “despicable,” as movies were released with those words in the titles.