Vocabulary in The Arizona Republican Presidential Debate

Taylor Dearr —  February 23, 2012 — Leave a comment

As a Manhattan GRE employee I tend to see GRE vocabulary everywhere.  When I’m reading a book, or watching TV, or listening to music, GRE vocabulary words just jump out at me.  It is sort of like in the movie They Live when Rowdy Roddy Piper puts on his magic sunglasses and suddenly all of the writing in advertisements is changed to the word OBEY… except for me everything would be saying ACCEDE

Just last night, during the Republican Presidential Debate in Arizona, I heard the candidates use a few great GRE vocabulary words.  While politicians will often use simple language in an attempt to reach the broadest possible segment of the electorate, last night’s candidates didn’t hesitate to throw in a few obscure talking points.

At different points in last night’s debate, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum each used the word feckless.  Here is Romney’s quote:

Romney: We have very bad news that’s come from the Middle East over the past several months, a lot of it in part because of the feckless leadership of our President.

Feckless means ineffective, incompetent, or futile and can also mean lazy.  The word is very negative, but because it isn’t used very often in everyday speech, Romney was able to use it to knock the President without outright calling him incompetent or lazy (harsher wording might have caused political backlash).

Another interesting exchange came when Romney and Santorum clashed over Santorum’s endorsement of Senator Arlen Specter.  Romney argued that Specter was too liberal to deserve Santorum’s support. Santorum countered, saying that though Specter may have some liberal policies, his overall record of supporting conservative judges advanced the conservative agenda during his time in office and in the end Santorum’s support of Specter did advance conservative values.  Romney countered as follows:

Romney: Supporting Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey that was a “ that was a very tortuous route

Santorum: Just about as tortuous as six years later blaming me for Obamacare.

Both candidates used the word tortuous, meaning excessively twisting and indirect, to describe their opponent’s argument.  Essentially both men were accusing the other of manipulating facts to work in their favor by fabricating intricate stories that supported their campaign assertions.  After writing the convoluted summary of the exchange, I agree with them that the whole argument was a bit tortuous and it was torturous trying to summarize it. (Do not confuse tortuous “ twisty “ with torturous “ pertaining to torture or suffering.  They mean two very different things.)

As you can see, GRE vocab words can pop up in the strangest places.  In the past, we have mentioned that a good way to build vocabulary is to learn words in context by reading periodicals.  You should certainly do that, but high-brow periodicals aren’t the only place to find GRE vocab in context; books, TV, and song lyrics can all contain valuable words as well.  The key is to keep a dictionary handy (increasingly easy in a smart phone world), and whenever you come across a word that you don’t know the meaning of, look it up.  So go buy some magic sunglasses “ a pocket dictionary “ and join me in the game of searching out GRE vocabulary words everywhere you go.

Taylor Dearr

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Taylor is Manager of Marketing and Student Services for Manhattan Prep GRE. Since 2010, he has been helping talk students through the complexities of GRE prep. He is an avid follower of all GRE related news and is always game to hear a GRE related anecdote. If you’d like to share a story or ask a question you can email him or follow him on twitter @ManhattanPrep.

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