Saturday, January 21, 2017

The word "refute" is in dispute:

"I refute it Thus!"
Bronze, h. 200 cm (2008)
Sculptor: William Fawke

In a recent post that touched on my memory of 9/11, I remarked on a brief moment of agreement I had seemed to have with Noam Chomsky:
I found myself nodding at Noam Chomsky's remark about chickens coming home to roost because I assumed that the United States had funded Bin Laden in the Afghan uprising against the Soviet Union, though I soon discovered that Bin Laden strongly refuted this, claiming never to have received any American money.
My cyber-friend Bill Vallicella commented on my use of the word "refute":
To deny a claim is not the same as to refute it. 'Refute' is a verb of success. But perhaps you disagree.
I responded:
The word "refute" is in dispute:
1. To prove to be false or erroneous; overthrow by argument or proof: refute testimony.
2. To deny the accuracy or truth of: refuted the results of the poll.
I prefer your use of the word (#1), but I used it that way once as an undergrad, and I was was shown a dictionary definition that corresponded to #2.

I should have chosen a different term, but I guess I'll leave the post unaltered - or maybe devote a post to the proper use of "refute" . . .
The proper use of "refute" . . . is in dispute, within the dictionary itself.

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At 12:52 AM, Blogger skholiast said...

I've always been on the "disprove-only" side. But you've refuted me.

At 6:21 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Such paradoxical irony!

Jeffery Hodges

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