This is a very risky posting. Itâs about words, and how we use them. The subject word is ârefuteâ?. This is a word which politicians and lawyers (or policemen; Sir Ronnie Flanagan being the latest) have use for, but it is its misuse that is the focus of attention. It is sometimes used as a substitute or synonym for âdenyâ? or âcontradictâ?.
I contend that this misuse is not accidental. It is chosen because at some level of consciousness the speaker/writer understands its real meaning, which is:
âto prove to be false or erroneous, as an opinion or chargeâ?
However, if you say you refute what Mr. X has said, it carries the implication that he has been completely defeated on the issue and can have nothing more to say about it, a state of affairs much desired by politicians, say.
But it is not correct to say that you ââ¦refute what Mr. X saysâ?, you must say you ââ¦have refuted himâ?. Of course, before you say that, you must actually refute what he says or claims. You do that by adducing evidence. If that evidence conclusively disproves what Mr. X claims, then he is refuted. You can then say you have refuted him.
I contend the misuse of ârefuteâ? is evidence of bad faith. It is intended, at some level, to carry the claim of ââ¦having refuted himâ?, when in fact all that has happened is the issuing of a denial. Denials are respectable; they are weakened, however, by claiming they are refutations, and that weakness is a chicken that should be brought home to roost as soon as possible.