Writing for Business

Jul 21 2010   1:40PM GMT

Refute or repudiate — or refudiate?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
Steve Jobs used a formal four-point argument in the attempt to ________ claims that the iPhone’s design is flawed.
a. refute
b. repudiate
c. refudiate

Answer: a.

To refute is to debunk — to prove an argument or contention is false or to invalidate it by the strength of your own argument.

To repudiate is to reject or refuse to acknowledge. (It’s much easier than debunking — it’s like just saying “No” or “Wrong — because I say so.” Like covering your ears and singsonging “lalalalalala I’m not listening” when your opponent is making a point.)

As you may have heard, Sarah Palin had a little problem with this word choice a couple of times recently. She chose “c” — refudiate. What does it mean? Well — it’s not a word.

She seems to have meant repudiate. The first time she used it was in an interview with (what else?) Fox News, where she appealed to the Obamas to “refudiate” suggestions that Tea Partyers were racist.

Although she may have meant “refute,” I guess. Calling upon those with greater skills than she possesses to craft an argument that would make it clear to all that, despite all evidence to the contrary, the Tea Party is a group of enlightened and tolerant individuals.

Next, Palin sent out a tweet urging “peaceful Muslims” to “refudiate” plans for a mosque near the World Trade Center site. Pretty clearly, she meant “repudiate” in this case.

It was at that point that someone told her that refudiate is not a word. So she deleted that tweet and replaced it with one asking “peaceful New Yorkers” (Nice catch! Not racist at all.) to refute the planned mosque. So, an improvement in that “refute” is an actual word. Just not one that makes sense in this context.

Finally, she deleted that tweet too and settled for “reject.”

Ah, Sarah Palin — repudiate her, refute her arguments. But you just can’t refudiate her.

Oh, and about that iPhone thing? Lisa Phifer offers this timely tip on troubleshooting iPad and iPhone connectivity issues.

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