RefuteREFUTE: “prove (a statement or theory) to be wrong or false; disprove” – Oxford American Dictionary

You might think our last entry signaled a new direction for Lexicide – perhaps one in which we refute our antagonistic ways. As usual, you would be wrong. And wrong again.

Refute does not mean simply “argue against,” “rebut,” or “deny.” Refuting a premise means you are disproving it (or attempting to, at least) with data or hard evidence. It is the way intelligent and thoughtful folks debate, in contradistinction to the way most people “debate” today.

Some headlines that use refute correctly:

CDC Data Refutes New Anti-Gun Study’s Claims

Progressive Economists Refute AP, Defend The Buffett Rule*

Tesla uses data to refute New York Times report

…and incorrectly:

Oil producing provinces demand parliament to refute 2014 budget law draft

Trend of local violence hard to ignore, refute

Harare refutes Arsenal’s decline

Sheesh. Even The Economist.

You’ll notice two of the “good” headlines contain the word data.** This is because my first Google News search turned up zero correct usages. Only when I added the word data to the search did I get some proper hits (and one about Donald Trump). I also tried “scientists refute,” but most of those hits involved scientists “refuting” the existence of God – probably not a lot of hard evidence there.

A refutation (yes, that is a word) has nothing to do with the moral or political righteousness of an argument (which is why I deliberately picked one article from the NRA and one from Media Matters), so please don’t tell me that someone didn’t actually refute a position because you reject their data. They may not have persuaded you, but that’s not the same thing. Just as refute is not the same word as reject.

Otto E. Mezzo

* I would have preferred the headline to say “Economists refute AP fact check”, as opposed to the AP itself.

**You know data is plural, right? So “data refute” is correct.