Sarah, may I have a word?

Sarah Palin’s recent “refudiate” neologism may have attracted opprobrium from some quarters but it does put her in some pretty exalted company.

Shakespeare, as she pointed out, introduced many new words to the English language, while Ben Johnson, John Donne and John Milton were quick to coin a new expression or phrase when it suited their purpose.

The Bard of Avon, she ain’t, though.

My fellow Stratfordian is supposed to have had a vocabulary of nearly 20,000 words compared to the 4,000 or so we lesser mortals command.

He is credited with hundreds of single words like majestic, lonely, gnarled, eventful and with now- familiar compounds such as ill-starred, blood-stained and lack-lustre.

His phrases and idioms are part of our everyday language even if we don’t always realise it:

Eaten out of house and home

As dead as a doornail

A foregone conclusion

As pure as the driven snow

The milk of human kindness

Now, Sarah, did you mean repudiate or refute?

And don’t even start me on the misuse of refute.


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