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Which Member of Congress Has the Biggest Vocabulary?

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, February 28 2012

Using the Sunlight Foundation's* Capitol Words API, independent analytics consultant Dan Kozikowski has put together a look at the vocabulary of each member of Congress and mapped the results on a Google map.

By his analysis, the most loquacious legislator in the House of Representatives is Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat of Texas, who holds a bachelor's degree from Yale and a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law.

Kozikowski also looked for words said only once in Congress by members of each party since 1996, which is as far back as the data available through Sunlight goes. (Sunlight gets its data from the Congressional Record.)

Included in the list of words said but once by each party, with the help of some rapidly Googled definitions:

By Republicans:

  • Fishmonger (n., a person or store that sells fish for food): Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Nov. 10, 2009;

  • Contumacious (adj., stubbornly or willfully disobedient to authority): George Gekas (R-Penn.), June 19, 1998;

  • Negligee (n., a woman's light dressing gown, typically made of a filmy, soft fabric): Robert Dornan (R-Calif.), Sept. 18, 1996.

And by Democrats:

  • Pertinacity (adv., adhering resolutely to an opinion, purpose, or design b : perversely persistent 2. : stubbornly tenacious), Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Feb. 1, 2007;

  • Cajolery (n., blandishment: flattery intended to persuade), Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), May 21, 2008;

  • Fondle (v., stroke or caress lovingly or erotically), Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), Oct. 29, 1999.

The full list is here.

* Personal Democracy Media's Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifry are senior advisers to the Sunlight Foundation.