Word of the Week 2 – Refute

The word ‘refute’ means to demonstrate that a statement is false or incorrect. So if someone claims that the Earth is flat, then we can refute this claim by various methods, including reference to photographs of the planet taken from the upper atmosphere and beyond.

Because of its meaning, ‘refute’ is often used by politicians but, as with other words we can think of, they shrink its meaning somewhat. As used by them ‘refute’ becomes ‘deny’. For them this is attractive, since denial does not require demonstration or proof.

INTERVIEWER I put it to you that voters are increasingly disenchanted with politics, for example, in reaction to so many of you fiddling your expenses.
POLITICIAN I strongly refute that suggestion.

The politician is claiming to have proved the statement false but all he is done is assert that is incorrect. Well, they can do this as much as they like, there’s no law against it, but saying that something is the case doesn’t make it so.

And I am not speaking ex cathedra when I say this.


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