History through the president’s words
Since 1900, there have been 116 State of the Union addresses, given by 20 presidents, with some presidents giving two addresses a year. Studying their choice of words, over time, provides glimpses of change in American politics—“communism” fades, “terrorism” increases—and evidence that some things never change (“America” comes up steadily, of course. As does “I.”). Wayne Fields, a professor of English and American Culture Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, and Mark Liberman, a linguist at the University of Pennsylvania, offered their analysis of the meaning behind the words the presidents used.