Wherefore art thou, refudiate? Sarah Palin as Shakespeare


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On Sunday, Sarah Palin’s Twitter feed appealed to ‘peaceful Muslims’ to speak out against a proposed Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan, a few blocks from ground zero. While this might be troublesome to those who don’t share her political perspective, what’s particularly interesting is her choice of words.

In her first tweet, Palin didn’t write ‘speak out’; she used another term -- ‘refudiate.’ A few minutes later, the Tweet was rewritten with ‘refudiate’ -- which is not actually a word -- removed, replaced by ‘refute.’ While not correct, ‘refute’ was a step up -- it can actually be found in the dictionary.


Another day, another malapropism, right? Nevermind that the Language Log notes another instance of Palin using the word recently (and science fiction writer John Sladke using it in 1984). The word caught someone’s attention, because a few hours later Palin refused to refute ‘refudiate,’ she tweeted that she’s just following in Shakespeare’s footsteps.

‘Refudiate,’ ‘misunderestimate,’ ‘wee-wee’d up.’ English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!

So is Sarah Palin like Shakespeare? According to the I Write Like tool, Palin’s 2008 speech to the Republication National Convention, in which she said, ‘I was just your average hockey mom,’ is like Dan Brown. Her keynote speech at the inaugural Tea Party Convention in February 2010 reads like -- wait for it -- Cory Doctorow.

But those are speeches, which of course read a little differently than what appears on the page. Could Sarah Palin’s book ‘Going Rogue’ be written like Shakespeare?

Alas, alack: no. The first several hundred words of Sarah Palin’s ‘Going Rogue’ read like H.P. Lovecraft. And she didn’t mention Cthulhu once.

-- Carolyn Kellogg