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Tag, You're It!

pres_tags.jpgThis link has made the rounds before, but in the wake of President Bush's speech about troop increases in Iraq (and with another State of the Union coming up on January 23) it seems like a good time to point out Chirag Mehta's brilliant and fascinating Presidential Speeches Tag Cloud.

Mehta has taken the text of some 360 presidential speeches—from a 1776 speech by John Adams on "The Foundation of Government" through Pres. Bush's most recent SOTU—and run them through a script that assigns different weights to words according to frequency and popularity. What you see on his site are the top 100 words in each speech; words that appear more frequently are larger in size, and words that are closer to their "peak usage" are whiter in color.

A few things to look for:

  • First appearances of words in the top 100; for example, "conservation" in 1909, or "terrorism" in 1980
  • Patterns of rapid growth in word frequency; for example, "unemployment" between 1930 and 1935, or "communist" between 1951 and 1953
  • The ebb and flow of perennial favorites, especially "constitution"
  • The gradual disappearance of archaic words. The word "pecuniary" was among the top 100 words in Washington's first inaugural address; how many times do you think it will pop up in the next State of the Union?

Links: Presidential Speeches Tag Cloud (chir.ag)
State of the Union Addresses (complete text, from ThisNation.com)

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