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Sarah Palin Refudiate and Barack Obama Insourcing Could Become New Dictionary Words

Every day, we see the way politicians and their decisions shape our world, but we often don’t realize how much they influence our everyday language. Since politicians have existed, they have used words to motivate voters, stir debate, and advance agendas. As we approach the 2012 U.S. presidential election, we are seeing more terms coined by politicians and adopted by the masses, a trend that accelerates every four years.

For almost 200 years, the editors at Collins Dictionary have made monitoring the English language our mission. Recently, we opened up CollinsDictionary.com to crowdsourcing, inviting any English speaker with an Internet connection to suggest words they think should be included in the dictionary. After a rigorous review, submissions that make the cut will be added as official entries, an ongoing process that will yield a crop of new words every month.

Of the more than 4,000 suggestions so far, we’ve seen quite a few words – such as “Kenyahoo,” “refudiate” and “insourcing” – that have their roots in American politics. Through this crowdsourcing initiative, we are recognizing the remarkable influence the American political system has on the English language.

An Election of Words

Already, various political terms have become commonplace in our vocabularies. The way politicians use these words over the next couple months is going to have a significant impact on how we speak for years to come. We’ve already seen examples of our government leaders and candidates shaping the way Americans discuss politics.

Between President Barack Obama and Senator Mitt Romney, the economy is a major point of debate. In February 2012, Obama used the term “insourcing,” referring to the act of bringing overseas jobs back to America. Due to the high unemployment rate in America, the term spread like wildfire, and soon, many companies were looking for ways to “insource” jobs. Terms like this that feed off the pulse of an entire country can turn into powerful political propellants, especially during an election.

In addition to jobs, health care is another hot topic this year. Both parties have created new words to try and frame the debate. It all started with “Obamacare,” which refers to the controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Obama in 2010. That then gave rise to “Romneycare,” the informal name for the Massachusetts Health Care Reform bill enacted by then-Gov. Mitt Romney in 2006. These terms simplify each health care plan for the general masses while providing plenty of fodder for debate.

Even Sarah Palin’s word “refudiate,” a made-up word that combines "refute" and "repudiate," has a shot at making the online dictionary.

As the presidential election approaches, these words will continue to grow in usage in the media and on social networks. More terms are sure to be popularized as well. No matter what the election’s outcome, it’s bound to change the way we discuss politics and the issues that are most important to Americans. 

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