Most lists of the “top words of 2010″ are all about sexting, jeggings, vuvuzela, and bromances. But a few GRE-worthy words have made headlines this past year:
Shellacking – An utter defeat or sound thrashing. President Obama used this word to refer to Republicans’ victories in the midterm election. “Shellac” or “shellack” is also a somewhat obsolete form of varnish; the way in which a word for varnish came to be a verb meaning “to beat” is somewhat arcane, as explained in this BBC article.
“Refudiate” – Coined by Sarah Palin in 2010, “refudiate” is NOT A WORD. However, this solecism (or, to be kind, neologism) seems to be a fusion of refute and repudiate, both important GRE words. What’s the difference? To refute is to prove an argument or opinion to be false. To repudiate is to reject, cast off, or disown. You refute an argument; you repudiate your family, country, or religion. I could repudiate my belief that the Earth is round, but I don’t think it would be possible for me to refute it.
“Snowmageddon” and “Snowpocalypse” – These portmanteau words referring to record cold temperatures around the globe (as in, now) are playing off the words apocalypse and armageddon. Apocalypse is any universal or widespread disaster or destruction, or a prophesy of such a disaster. Armageddon is, if possible, even worse: the place where the final battle will be fought between the forces of good and evil, or a final and completely destructive battle. Many movies have a post-apocalyptic setting (recently: Blindness, The Book of Eli, I Am Legend), but a post-Armageddon setting would hardly be possible, as there would be no humans left to be characters in the movie.
A felicitious Snowmageddon and a happy new year!