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Words of the year not what they used to be

Slim pickings for this year's 'word' prompt the Monitor's language columnist to suggest some rules for dealing with coinages.

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Whatever happened to the word of the year? Or perhaps I should say, "words of the year." More and more organizations seem to be trying to summarize the year in a single mot juste, but this year's crop doesn't seem all that interesting. The American Dialect Society holds out till January every year to announce its pick. Global Language Monitor has come out with "spillcam," a relic of this year's Gulf oil spill. That, mercifully, seems like old news. Oxford has come up with "Big Society," a reference to the slogan of Prime Minister David Cameron, but not all that sparkly.

Last year, The New Oxford American Dictionary (NOAD) seemed to be channeling the zeitgeist perfectly with its choice of unfriend. You don't have to like it to recognize that it's a phenomenon.

This year NOAD has settled on refudiate. It came from a much retweeted tweet from Sarah Palin: She asked Muslims to "pls refudiate" the Islamic community center planned for a site near ground zero in New York.

Said NOAD editors, "From a strictly lexical interpretation of the different contexts in which Sarah Palin has used 'refudiate,' we have concluded that neither 'refute' nor 'repudiate' seems consistently precise, and that 'refudiate' more or less stands on its own, suggesting a general sense of reject."

OK, it's out there; what are we going to do with it? The "Tip of the Week" column from the newsletter Copyediting provocatively asked, "Should you refudiate neologisms?"

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