‘Rebut,’ ‘Refute,’ ‘Repudiate,’ ‘Refudiate’ … Or Maybe ‘Deny?’

Here’s a cheat sheet about some words we may use these last three weeks of the campaign. The first two often get confused:

Rebut: “To contradict … or oppose, esp. in a formal manner by argument, proof, etc. as in a debate.” (Webster’s New World College Dictionary)

Refute: “To prove (a person) to be wrong; confute. … To prove (an argument or statement) to be false or wrong, by argument or evidence.” (Webster’s New World College Dictionary)

Repudiate: “To refuse to have anything to do with. … To refuse to accept or support. … To deny the truth of.” (Webster’s New World College Dictionary)

Refudiate: “Verb used loosely to mean ‘reject’: she called on them to refudiate the proposal to build a mosque.” (H/T to Sarah Palin and the Oxford American Dictionary.)

We’re not suggesting anyone use “refudiate,” except perhaps on the Politics Podcast.

“Repudiate,” meanwhile, can be a mouthful.

We are suggesting that “rebut” is the word to use when one candidate contradicts or pushes back against another’s charge. Save “refute” for when a candidate actually proves that the other person is wrong. I guess one may “rebut” by seeking to “refute,” but that makes my head hurt.

Sometimes the most effective thing to do is to use the word “deny.”

(“Memmos;” Oct. 17, 2016)

October 17, 2016

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