shift in "refute": another example

ronbutters at AOL.COM ronbutters at AOL.COM
Wed May 13 13:00:22 UTC 2009

To some extent, refutation is on the eye of the beholder. When Dr. Johnson kicked the stone and exclaimed, "I refute Berkeley thus!" should he ought to have said "deny?" Does S. Johnson incite Charlie's inner prescriptivist? Is Larry's example a true shift, or just a continuation of a hyperbolic tradition extending back 270 years?
------Original Message------
From: Laurence Horn
Sender: ADS-L
ReplyTo: ADS-L
Subject: [ADS-L] shift in "refute":  another example
Sent: May 12, 2009 11:21 PM

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?


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