shift in "refute": another example

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed May 13 03:21:10 UTC 2009

Crawl on ESPN SportsCenter:  "Roger Clemens refutes new book,
_American Icon: The Fall of Roger Clemens and the Rise of Steroids in
America's Pastime_".  And just how did Roger Clemens refute these
well-researched charges levelled against him by four reporters in
that book?  Apparently by claiming that the charges were false.

The OED has for REFUTE:

to prove (a person) to be in error  [not relevant here; no proof offered]
to disprove, overthrow by argument, prove to be false [ditto]
to demonstrate error [no demonstration, just assertion]

Then it allows:
Sometimes used erroneously to mean 'deny, repudiate'.
[Yup, that's the one; it's been around since at least 1964.]

Can "refute the fact" = 'deny the claim' be far behind?


The American Dialect Society -

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