This Week in Words: July 31 - August 4, 2017

No time to scour the headlines or watch the news? No problem! We’ve rounded up the top ten words heard, read, debated, and discussed this week. Some weeks are like a revolving door — lots of comings and goings. In a week full of turbulence, both Reince Priebus and Anthony Scaramucci made abrupt exits through the White House door. A sports fan who walked out the door in shame long ago reappeared. And, finally, playwright and actor Sam Shepard and Notre Dame football coach Ara Parseghian made their final exits this week. Take a look back at the week that was, vocabulary style.

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. fleeting
    lasting for a markedly brief time
    He was widely regarded as one of the most original voices of his generation, winning praise from critics for his searing portraits of spouses, siblings and lovers struggling with issues of identity, failure and the fleeting nature of the American dream. - The New York Times (July 31, 2017)
    Playwright and actor Sam Shepard died on July 27. Shepard was a singular talent whose writing illuminated the human experience with a truth and an immediacy rarely seen onstage. He was 73 years old. For more on Shepard, see our Tribute List here.
  2. turbulence
    a state of violent disturbance and disorder
    The latest round of internal turbulence at the White House carries potential repercussions for the Russia investigations being carried out by special counsel Robert Mueller, the FBI and Congress. Trump is replacing his ousted chief of staff, Reince Priebus, with Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general - The L.A. Times ( July 30, 2017)
    There was ore turnover at the White House this week. Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was replaced by retired General John Kelly. The administration hopes that Kelly will bring order and discipline to the Trump administration, something that even its supporters say has been lacking.
  3. enigmatic
    not clear to the understanding
    Mr. Ocean is pop’s most enigmatic superstar right now, but what scans from a distance as reluctance is really a kind of meticulousness... He’d rather do nothing than do something that’s not quite right. - The New York Times (July 30, 2017)
    Musician Frank Ocean is on tour, and by all reports he puts on a very unusual concert. Essentially it seemds that Ocean is an introvert, and appears puzzled as to why everyone in the arena is staring at him. There have been plenty of idiosyncratic musicians, but rarely has there been one looks this uncomfortable being the center of attention. Maybe Ocean needs "Look at Me!" lessons. Is Lady Gaga available?
  4. abrupt
    exceedingly sudden and unexpected
    Mr. Scaramucci’s abrupt removal came just 10 days after the wealthy New York financier was brought on to the West Wing staff... - The New York Times (July 31, 2017)
    The other big staff change in the Trump administration this week was the firing of Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, who had only been on the job about 10 days. Scaramucci was dealing with the fallout from a controversial expletive-filled interview he gave to The New Yorker magazine. It seems that getting rid of Scaramucci was one of General Kelly's first decisions as the new Chief of Staff. Order, indeed.
  5. jeopardy
    a source of danger
    The extent of the president’s personal intervention in his son’s response... adds to a series of actions that Trump has taken that some advisers fear could place him and some members of his inner circle in legal jeopardy. - The Washington Post ( July 31, 2017)
    There were new revelations this week that President Trump had some "input" in writing his son's statement about the latter's meeting with Russian officials. Whether this turns out to be a big deal legally speaking remains to be seen, but the president's lawyers had previously denied that Trump involvement at all. If the statement contains falsehoods that the POTUS helped concoct, it would seem the endeavor was less innocent than, say, a regular dad helping his kid with his homework.
  6. infamous
    known widely and usually unfavorably
    Arguably the team's most infamous fan, Bartman is remembered for tipping a foul ball that left fielder Moises Alou unsuccessfully tried to catch in Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series. - ( August 1, 2017)
    Steve Bartman, a Cubs fan who was vilified for his interference in a playoff game back in 2004 was finally exonerated this week and given a World Series ring by the team. Grudges in sports last forever — oil tankers turn around faster than most sports fans — so thirteen years (in this context) is actually pretty fast when you think about it. I'm still not over the Brooklyn Dodger defeat in 1951 and it happened 26 years before I was born.
  7. unbridled
    not restrained or controlled
    Bezos' rise carries important symbolic weight — signaling Amazon's unbridled power and value, presenting a new face of outsized wealth to the world ... ( July 27, 2017)
    For a moment this week, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was the richest man in the world. With stock market fluctuations, however, his reign at the top was brief, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates returned to number 1. My question is, how upset are you when you slip to 2nd on this list? Is there something the person worth $90 billion can do that the person worth $89 billion can't do, practically speaking? Does it hurt your pride just a little? Or are you too busy earning even more cash to really care?
  8. dupe
    fool or hoax
    He has previously duped the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, and Barclays boss Jess Staley by setting up fake email accounts. - (August 1, 2017)
    Adding insult to injury, before he was fired, Anthony Scaramucci was the victim of an email impersonator pretending to be Reince Priebus. The impersonator targeted Scaramucci because he was offended by Scaramucci's cavalier use of terms associated with mental illness, like "paranoiac" to describe Priebus. Whatever one's take on the incident, we should all perhaps be a little worried that it was this easy to impersonate a White House official via email.
  9. exacerbate
    make worse
    These problems have been exacerbated by a president who has publicly predicted that the Affordable Care Act will “implode” and appears determined to help fulfill that prophecy. - The New York Times ( August 1, 2017)
    With the failure of a Republican measure to replace Obamacare last week, everyone was wondering "what happens now?" We began to get an answer to that question this week when members of Congress from both sides of the aisle took steps to secure, stabilize and strengthen Obamacare for their constituents, many of whom stood to eventually lose healthcare coverage if no one intervened.
  10. outlier
    an extreme deviation from the mean
    In his 11 seasons at Notre Dame, Parseghian’s teams lost two or fewer games in 10 of those seasons. The outlier season was an 8-3 season in 1972 that ended in an Orange Bowl berth. - ( August 2, 2017)
    Famed Norte Dame coach Ara Parseghian died this week at the age of 94. Parseghian was tremendously successful and a huge presence on campus, inspiring generations of students on and off the football field.

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.