It's Official: NOAD Demeans Self for PR Gold (UNCLASSIFIED)

Ronald Butters ronbutters at AOL.COM
Tue Nov 16 16:46:16 UTC 2010

Yeah, well, I agree that word of the year is mostly nonsense that ADS and dictionaries use for publicity purposes. Dictionaries are businesses, and pretty desperate ones these days, what with people not buying books any more but just looking at whatever 1960s definitions they find on the internet. So they are whores when they jump on Palin's word but not whores when they promote "truthiness"? Yeah, sure, cool people have jumped on the truthiness bandwagon, and the goofy people who adore Palin now are jumping on the "refudiate" bandwagon. Why does it really matter that she misspoke--and was clever enough to make a virtue of it--whereas the "truthiness" people set out to find fame by promoting a stunt word that hadn't been used very much since 1935 (in California).  It is all just cynical self-promotion, and if a pox should be wished on one house it should be wished on both.

On the other hand, if linguists really believe that whatever it is that the people choose to say is OK--if we are really opposed to prescriptivism and proscriptivism--then how can we object even to a dictionary reporting a usage from a source that millions of Americans admire and respect, whether it is a right-wing entertainer such as Palin or a left-wing-beloved entertainer such as the truthiness guy?

On Nov 16, 2010, at 10:47 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:

> You betcha.
> Sarah Palin did not coin "refudiate," nor did it make its first appearance
> in 2010.  While the word would be amusing regardless of which supercelebrity
> it was associated with, it was widely seen as embarrassing to Palin, who
> even admitted it was an error, albeit the kind we should "celebrate."
> I have to assume that NOAD knew this, since the word has been discussed
> right here.
> The announcement came within hours of the long awaited premiere of _Sarah
> Palin's Alaska_.  Coincidence?  Or a way to ride her coattails, get extra
> publicity, and move dictionaries?  Friends of Palin get a warm fuzzy feeling
> for NOAD and want to buy it; foes smile at the reminder and want to buy it.
> Unlike "truthiness," "refudiate" wasn't coined to make a point. It's a gaffe
> no matter who uses it. They're regarded, rightly or not, as blunderers.  So
> it isn't a good word for a serious dictionary to lionize, if you ask me.  Of
> course, the whole "word of the year" thing may just be a joke, universally
> recognized as happy horseshit everywhere but here. But serious dictionaries
> shouldn't be in the happy-horseshit business without an HH disclaimer.
> My point, of course, was to slam NOAD's selection and, especially, its
> crudely apparent motive.
> JL
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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