6 of the Least Presidential Words Used in the Second GOP Debate

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The vocabulary-building site Vocabulary.com can build study lists automatically from books, articles, or transcripts of speeches or debates. It can pull out the most relevant words in a passage of text by comparing the frequency of words in the text with their frequency in the language as a whole. They ran the numbers on last night’s GOP debate, and found that some of the top words were immigration, amnesty, autism, vaccine, destabilize, and nuclear. But they couldn’t resist also collecting the words that were a little too casual, slangy, or odd to seem truly presidential. Here, courtesy of Vocabulary.com, are six of the least presidential words used in last night’s debate.


This was actually used by CNN debate moderator Jake Tapper, but he attributed it to Scott Walker: “Dr. Carson wants to raise the Federal Minimum Wage. You have called it a lame idea. Why is raising the Federal Minimum Wage lame?”


Donald Trump used the word in responding to criticism from Chris Christie about his immigration policy: “ We have a lot of really bad dudes in this country from outside, and I think Chris knows that, maybe as well as anybody.”


Rand Paul complained, “Why are we always the world’s patsies that we have to go over there and fight their wars for them?”


Marco Rubio used this word to describe Russian President Vladimir Putin: “A gangster in Moscow is not just threatening Europe, he’s threatening to destroy and divide NATO.”


Chris Christie suggested Hilary Clinton’s emails could have been hacked by drunken teenagers: “ The fact she had a private email server in her basement, using national security secrets running through it, could have been hacked by the Russians, the Chinese, or two 18-year-olds on a toot wanting to have some fun.”


Right out of the gate, Donald Trump pulled off the vocabulary surprise of the night by declaring, “I say not in a braggadocious way, I’ve made billions and billions of dollars dealing with people all over the world.” Trump raised eyebrows by his use of braggadocious, an unusual adjectival form of braggadocio (“vain and empty boasting”) that the Oxford English Dictionary says is influenced by such words asferocious, precocious, and atrocious. Carly Fiorina returned to the theme later on in the debate, when she said, in a not-so-veiled criticism of Trump, “Let’s talk about what leadership is. It’s not about braggadocio, it is about challenging the status quo, solving problems, producing results.”

Visit Vocabulary.com to study the list of unpresidential words here, or the whole list of most relevant debate words here.