Skip to main content

Terms Of Debate

June 2023
1min read

The Congress Dictionary

by Paul Dickson and Paul Clancy, John Wiley & Sons, 400 pages

Especially since Congress became available live through cable television, we have needed a guidebook as thorough and good-humored as this one to explain precisely what our lawmakers are saying. Dickson and Clancy have put together a lexicon of three thousand words and phrases, some dating to the earliest years of the Republic but most, like Teflon or wonk , much newer. In addition to clear explanations of everyday Hill terms like floor manager , the book offers pithy explanations for globalony (“murky international thinking”) and vehicle (“bill that is moving through Congress and may be loaded down with other measures”). The Watergate crisis has provided a nonsense suffix for most scandals since. Under You (which lawmakers traditionally don’t say on the floor), Dickson and Clancy cite the 1989 fight over John Tower’s nomination to be Defense Secretary. That debate grew so contentious that senators were snarling, “ You can have the floor.” This book, both pleasurable and useful, contains an appreciative foreword by the former House Speaker “Tip” O’Neill.

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.