A Word's-Eye View of the Primetime GOP Debate (Aug. 6, 2015)

Following the first debate in the 2016 Republican primary contest aired on Fox News, Vocabulary.com released this list of the candidates’ vocabulary, showcasing the most relevant word for each of the ten candidates.

Making full use of the data-driven resources that power Vocabulary.com’s word-learning game, the analysis determines relevance by comparing the frequency with which candidates used words in the debate to the frequency with which those words appear in the Vocabulary.com corpus of texts. The corpus consists of 3.2 billion words (and growing), covering everything from classic literature to the latest news.
Read more...

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. voucher
    a negotiable certificate that can be redeemed as needed
    And I know how to do this because as governor of the state of Florida I created the first statewide voucher program in the country, the second statewide voucher program in the country, and the third statewide voucher program in the country.
    --Jeb Bush
    Jeb Bush used the word voucher three times in one sentence, whereas voucher usually shows up only once every 4,181 pages of text. His repeated use of the word was emphasizing how he values “abundant school choice.” This use of the word voucher, as something that can be exchanged for goods and services, is very recent, with 1947 being the first attested use --- making it most likely the youngest use on the list.
  2. reinstate
    bring back into original existence, function, or position
    To me, you terminate the deal on day one, you reinstate the sanctions authorized by Congress, you go to Congress and put in place even more crippling sanctions in place, and then you convince our allies to do the same.
    --Scott Walker
    Scott Walker’s use of reinstate demonstrates that he wants to turn back the clock on the Iran deal and bring back the sanctions Congress had once authorized. Later in the debate he stated he also wanted to reinstate “the missile defense system that we had in Poland and in the Czech Republic.”Reinstate is a very popular word, occurring once in every 1,828 pages of text.
  3. burgeon
    grow and flourish
    The president can't tell you what we got. I'll tell you what the world got. The world has a burgeoning nuclear power that didn't, as the Soviets, say "we might defend ourselves in a war."
    --Mike Huckabee
    Mike Huckabee gets credit for using a form of the verb burgeon. This fairly infrequent word (showing up only once in every 6,109 pages) helped make his point that the world’s nuclear power is continuing to grow and his contention that the Iran deal will make the world “an incredibly dangerous place.”
  4. animus
    a feeling of ill will arousing active hostility
    I still say exactly what my original opinion is. Do you borrow money from China to send it to anyone? Out of your surplus, you can help your allies, and Israel is a great ally. And this is no particular animus of Israel, but what I will say, and I will say over and over again, we cannot give away money we don't have.
    --Rand Paul
    Rand Paul used animus at the debate with its modern meaning of “ill-will,” to indicate his friendliness to Israel. While the original meaning of the word in Latin is “rational soul,” animus has been associated with bad feelings, or animosity, since the 17th century.
  5. amnesty
    a warrant granting release from punishment for an offense
    If they come legally, great. But if they come illegally and they get amnesty, that is how we fundamentally change this country, and it really is striking. A majority of the candidates on this stage have supported amnesty. I have never supported amnesty.
    --Ted Cruz
    Ted Cruz was certainly not the only candidate talking about amnesty, though his repeated use hammered home his longtime opposition to pardoning illegal immigration. Amnesty appears with medium frequency in the Vocabulary.com corpus (once in every 2,076 pages of text), in part due to news coverage of Amnesty International.
  6. recidivism
    habitual relapse into crime
    We now treat them in the prisons, release them in the community and the recidivism rate is 10 percent and everybody across this country knows that the tsunami of drugs is -- is threatening their very families.
    --John Kasich
    John Kasich used recidivism, which means the tendency to return to a previous behavior, often referring to the rate of an ex-convict’s return to crime. It has a wonky quality that fit Kasich’s brass-tacks approach. It’s also an unusual word that many people don't know; our usage tracker pegs it as likely to appear only once in every 42,980 pages of text, making it one of the rarest words in the debate.
  7. entitlement
    right granted by law or contract
    I mean, so, there’s a difference — I’m the only guy on this stage who’s put out a detailed, 12 point plan on entitlement reform and here’s why — because 71% of federal spending right now is on entitlements, and debt service, 71%.
    --Chris Christie
    Chris Christie used forms of the word entitlement three times. In our corpus, it appears once in every 6,840 pages of text, frequently in discussions of welfare and unemployment, which the out-of-work or those living in poverty receive by way of government entitlements, or welfare.
  8. destabilize
    make unsturdy, insecure, or less able to function smoothly
    In July of 2004, I came out strongly against the war with Iraq, because it was going to destabilize the Middle East. And I'm the only one on this stage that knew that and had the vision to say it. And that's exactly what happened.
    --Donald Trump
    Donald Trump, while adopting the role of the anti-politician, twice used a very political word in destabilize. Our corpus shows destabilize often used in contexts such as a powerful nation undermining a vulnerable one. Occurring once every 9,057 pages of text, the word refers to things that are made to teeter, as some would argue Trump himself is doing to the GOP.
  9. eviscerate
    remove the entrails of
    And last but not least, we need to repeal Dodd-Frank. It is eviscerating small businesses and small banks.
    --Marco Rubio
    Marc Rubio, painting a vivid picture of what he feels a piece of legislation is doing to small businesses, used the word eviscerate. Literally referring to removing an animal's entrails and leaving an empty shell of a carcass behind, eviscerate is a strong word not encountered too often, once in 22,176 pages of text, in fact, but Sen. Rubio’s use helps depict failing businesses that are now hollow husks of their former selves.
  10. tithe
    a levy of one tenth of something
    What I agree with is that we need a significantly changed taxation system. And the one that I've advocated is based on tithing, because I think God is a pretty fair guy.
    --Dr. Ben Carson
    Ben Carson used this word for the Christian practice of donating ten percent of your income to the your church four times during the course of the debate. In our corpus, the word is quite rare, appearing chiefly in historical and literary texts. Hard to say if that will make it stick in viewers’ brains more than the image of Carson separating Siamese twins.

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, Vocabulary.com can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.