George W. Bush’s linguistic difficulties, such as “Is our children learning,” “If the terriers and barrifs are torn down, this economy will grow” and “They misunderestimated me” made him the butt of many a joke back in the day, especially since they used to be played on cable news channels. Yet the current occupant of the White House—not to mention his vice president—does not seem to have found the media’s funnybone. Even Barack Obama’s teleprompter problems never got that kind of coverage, neither did that fact that his speeches are written at two grade levels below Bush.
Then there was the time in Februrary, when Obama mispronuncicated “corpsman” as “corpse-man” and the media ignored it, or when he said he had been to 57 states and they excused it, the media has jumped all over Sarah Palin’s invention of the word “refudiate.”
The word was coined on Fox News July 14, in response to the proposed Cordoba Center in New York City, a $100 million community center and Mosque three blocks from the World Trade Center site, but developed into a full-blown meme Sunday when she posted to Twitter:
“Ground Zero Mosque supporters, doesn’t it stab you in the heart as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate.”
The Los Angeles Times noted that the tweet was quickly edited to say “refute” instead of “refudiate,” writing “While not correct, ‘refute’ was a step up—it can actually be found in the dictionary.”
“Fergalicious,” “truthiness,” “blatherscythe,” “bloviate,” and “sternutation” can also be found in the dictionary—although one might need the unabridged Oxford English Dictionary for that last one.
The merciless mocking of Palin by the mainstream media, which began when John McCain selected to be his running mate in 2008, has led to Keith Olbermann almost constantly calling her an “idiot” and a false item from a blog claiming she thought that Africa is a country.
The same media outlets which have suddenly become such ardent defenders of the English language and attacked Palin with verbal vorpal blades, have never cared whenever Obama erred in his oratory, rarely bothering to post it in their blogs like they have done with “refudiate.”
Jacob Heilbrun at The Huffington Post wrote “Palin isn’t simply trying to bring down big government, but the English language as well.”