Fredericksburg Features

Columns and stories of life from the Fredericksburg area.

RSS feed of this blog

RED PEN: The Bard has patent for inventing new words



SHAKESPEARE did it on purpose.

But modern mortals rarely get a pass when we make up new words—refudiate, for example—by accident. At least, we don’t get a pass when we were obviously going for a similar, recognizable word.

I thought of that made-up word refudiate—a hybrid of refute and repudiate—as I read the “Web inSites” column in The Washington Post a few weeks ago.

In describing a legal tiff between humor websites TheOatmeal and FunnyJunk, the columnist wrote that the founder of TheOatmeal “attempted to quelch the madness” by paying a settlement to charity.

To be fair, consider that at least four words with prominent Q’s have “suppress” as one meaning: Squelch. Quell. Quash. Quench.

To be even more forgiving, you could shift blame to an editor or copy editor. Someone really should have helped the writer out of her Q-word quandary.

And to be downright generous, you could look at coinages such as refudiate or quelch as adding vigor and richness to our vibrant living language.

Or you could just read and snicker.


The mayor of London was gobsmacked to learn that some soulless bureaucrat pulled the plug on a Hyde Park concert by Bruce Springsteen, who’d just been joined by Paul McCartney.

It seems that the Boss and Sir Paul had violated a curfew by playing too late into the night. They were rocking some Beatles tunes when everything suddenly went silent. They didn’t even get to tell the audience goodnight.

London Mayor Boris Johnson said this:

“It sounds to me like an excessively efficacious decision.”

I don’t think efficacious was the word the mayor was reaching for.

Oh, sure—pulling the plug was efficacious in stopping the concert.

But I think Mayor Johnson was trying to come up with officious.

The mayor said he would have let Springsteen and McCartney keep playing.

“My answer would have been for them to jam in the name of the Lord.”

Laura Moyer of The Free Lance–Star is a lifelong compulsive copy editor. A version of this column appeared in her Red Pen blog on You can reach her at 540/374-5417 or