Congress's vocabulary falls a full grade level in seven years


28 Responses to “Congress's vocabulary falls a full grade level in seven years”

  1. This is double plus ungood.

  2. As the OP points out, I don’t see this as a bad thing; in fact, it might align with much of the idea of Plain Language:

    • Cocomaan says:

      If it’s supposed to be the application of the Plain Language initiative, it’s a complete failure, given the state of civics in our primary schools (ie, nonexistent). 

  3. Deidzoeb says:

    I’d like to see politicians concerned about Strunk & White more than Flesch-Kincaid. According to Amazon, The Elements of Style by William Strunk & E.B. White gets 8.6 on the Flesch-Kincaid index.  Omit needless words and eschew obfuscation, y’all!

  4. Navin_Johnson says:

     This is a real miscarriagement of justitude.

  5. IronEdithKidd says:

    Awesome.  So in 25 years congress will mandate irrigation of farm fields with electrolyte laden water. 

    I need a new country to live in.

  6. ChicagoD says:

    I must be missing something here. The IDEAS espoused by too many members of Congress are stupid, but using small, Anglo-Saxon words to explain ideas should probably be viewed positively. The fact that the foundation document of our republic is written at a 17.8 level might explain why so few people understand it, and fail to understand their rights and responsibilities as a citizen.

    Or did I completely misunderestimate this?

  7. Atomicpanda says:

    The stupidifying of our electric officals needs to be finalized. We must decover what is redusing their menal capacitors and project them from it. Probability it is a sucret tearer wepon from a rouge notion. 

  8. blissfulight says:

    Why are Republicans so dumb? 

    • Sagodjur says:

      If uneducated hick English was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for the Republican Party. After all, college is just where they try to indoctrinate you to speak like gay liberal hippie socialists.

    • Jonathan Roberts says:

      If the grade level of politicians’ speeches is a reliable proxy for their intelligence, the Republicans were smarter than the Democrats for most of GWB’s presidency.

  9. Another poorly designed infographic. Dots for both GOP and DEM?

  10. JustinKalb says:

    It’s not the people who are speaking,  it’s the people they are speaking to.  If they all spoke at a college level,  they would only be understood by somewhere around 30% of the population.

    Therefore,  in order to be understood by the teeming mass of imbeciles in this country, they must “stoop” to the level they are presently presenting at.

    • macninni says:

      This is nothing new. Newspapers have been writing down to the masses at a fourth- grade level for years.

  11. Jan Angevine says:

    Strunk and White: “Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready and able.” Flesch-Kincaid rewards long words and winding sentences, but clarity rewards the opposite.

    • wysinwyg says:

      Flesch-Kincaid rewards long words and winding sentences, but clarity rewards the opposite.

      Unless you’re Dickens, or Melville, or Tom Wolfe, or F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Just one more reason Strunk & White is the most overrated style guide in the English language.

      I agree that pith and anglo-saxon-derived words are usually better for both impact and clarity but can we please stop treating Elements of Style like a frickin’ holy book already?

    • BillStewart2012 says:

       Flesch-Kincaid doesn’t “reward” language complexity, it measures it.   The reward comes from successfully matching the complexity of the language to the audience and contents.  Maybe that means you want to talk like a grad student translating literary critiques of classical Latin poetry, or maybe it means you want to write clear simple instructions for assembling a machine so that your readers don’t get the parts in backwards.   Having a tool to measure your language complexity makes it easier to decide whether you’re hitting your target.

  12. Eric Rucker says:

    I recall writing papers in high school, using MS Word’s Flesch-Kincaid meter religiously, to sound smarter.

    All that does is makes you look like a blowhard, using absurd language.

    Flesch-Kincaid is a very flawed test of intelligence, as intelligence can mean using more clear language. It’s a test that’s easily gamed by using unintelligible lawyer-speak, really.

    • BillStewart2012 says:

       It’s not a test of intelligence, it’s a test of complexity.  If you’re trying to write at a complexity level that’s inappropriate for the contents and audience you’re writing for, it can tell you.  On other hand, if you can’t bedazzle them with brilliance, sometimes it’s useful to baffle them with bullsh*t.  Other times it’s really really unuseful  Your call.

  13. Bodhipaksa says:

    It’s nothing to do with stupidity, but to do with the average length of a soundbite having decreased steadily. 1n 1968 the average soundbite was 43 seconds. It’s now less than eight seconds.

    If politicians want to get quoted, they have to speak in shorter soundbites. Blame the media for wanting brevity, or blame the public for having the attention spans of gnats. The politicians are the real victims here, having to cram their distortions and deceptions into shorter and shorter sentences.

  14. Ultan says:

    The bottom 5 respond:

    I’ve been to Georgia on a fast train, honey -
    I wudn’t born no yesterday
    Got a good Christian raisin’ and an eighth grade education
    Ain’t no need in y’all a treatin’ me this way.

    -Billy Joe Shaver

  15. doggo says:

    Words express concepts. Some concepts can’t be described by ten cent words.

  16. Antinous / Moderator says:

    In other news, the Democratic and Republican parties will now be known as the Sweet!s and the Dude!s.

  17. beslayed says:

    Some debunking here: (Language Log, 23 May 2012: “News flash: Congresscritters using slightly shorter words and sentences”)

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