What’s the magic word in Washington?

Who’s Tom? And why were members of Congress tossing his name about so freely on February 12, 2008? (Two hundred eighteen times, to be exact.) Was it Katie Holmes–related? Were our august representatives passing around a dog-eared issue of Us magazine, cooing over photos of little Suri? Say it ain’t so.

It ain’t. According to the oddly superfun and enlightening website Capitol Words — which spotlights the day’s most frequently used word in the Congressional Record — Tom was the top gun that day, but our own quick search revealed that the name was repeatedly invoked by colleagues lauding Representative Tom Lantos, the Bay Area Democrat who had died the previous day.

Created by the Sunlight Foundation, Capitol Words demonstrates how oil, energy, health, and intelligence are perpetual hot-button issues — while some days are all about spam (presumably not the canned meat). Traveling back in time can be both a pleasure and a sobering slap in the face: The word from Monday, September 10, 2001, conjures a nation with arms wide open: available. By Friday it was war.

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