This Week in Words: August 21 - 25, 2017

No time to scour the headlines or watch the news? No problem! We’ve rounded up the top words heard, read, debated, and discussed this week. This week's top news items were in many respects related to the aftermath of last week. Since Charlottesville, the atmosphere around the White House has been fraught with an almost visceral tension, with former allies denouncing the president, and his opponents feeling emboldened. Many people were also still reeling from the atrocity of the terror attack in Barcelona last week. For comfort, we looked to the skies to enjoy the spectacle of a solar eclipse, an rare and captivating sight. We also remembered all the joy that Jerry Lewis and Dick Gregory brought into our lives. Take a look back at the week that was, vocabulary style.

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. visceral
    obtained through intuition rather than from reasoning
    He has been an unyielding advocate for a visceral brand of nationalism, and though he lost as often as he won in policy debates, his departure could tip the balance on some...contested issues... -The New York Times ( August 19, 2017)
    Steve Bannon, who was a top advisor to President Trump, left the White House job this week. Bannon is a controversial figure, rumored to have clashed with many other members of the White House staff, including the President's daughter and son-in-law, as well as new Chief of Staff General Kelly. Upon his exit, Bannon immediately resumed his editorial position at Breitbart News, a website with a history of extreme political views.
  2. fraught
    marked by distress
    The decision was another episode in an already fraught week for the White House. - The New York Times ( August 19, 2017)
    After several of the honorees of this year's Kennedy Center Honors vowed not to attend the ceremony to protest the President's policies and recent comments, President and Mrs. Trump have decided not to attend, "to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction.” This will be one of only a handful of times that the sitting president has not been present at the Kennedy Center Honors.
  3. denounce
    speak out against
    The CEO of 21st Century Fox has denounced racism and terrorists while expressing concern over President Donald Trump's reaction to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. - The Associated Press (August 18, 2017)
    The fallout from the events in Charlottesville and the president's reaction to those events continued this week. James Murdoch, the CEO of 21st Century Fox, whose family (including father Rupert Murdoch) were Trump supporters, publicly condemned the president for not criticizing the white supremacists and neo-Nazis harshly enough. Murdoch wrote: "I can't even believe I have to write this: standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists."
  4. embolden
    give encouragement to
    ... demonstrators, emboldened and unnerved by the... eruption of violence in Virginia last weekend, surged into the nation’s streets denounce white supremacy and Nazism. - The New York Times (August 18, 2017)
    Counter-protestors took to the streets to denounce the white supremacists who staged a march in Boston this week. After Charlottesville, tension was high at the march. Counter-protestors greatly outnumbered the supremacists at this particular event, drowning them out with a message of acceptance. By all accounts, the event was largely peaceful.
  5. trajectory
    the path followed by an object moving through space
    It’s the first total solar eclipse with a trajectory exclusive to America, as well as the first total eclipse of the sun that will be visible from the contiguous U.S. since 1979. - (August 21, 2017)
    One of the biggest events of the week took place in the sky: the total eclipse of the sun. Many observers who not in the "path of totality" were underwhelmed by the eclipse, because they only experienced partial darkness. Others, equipped with special glasses and Bonnie Tyler's classic song "Total Eclipse of the Heart", wholeheartedly enjoyed the eclipse for the rare spectacle it was.
  6. bedevil
    be confusing or perplexing to
    But in announcing his plan, Mr. Trump embraced deepened American involvement in a military mission that has bedeviled his predecessors and that he once called futile. - The New York Times (August 21, 2017)
    This week President Trump addressed the nation to outline a change in policy regarding the ongoing war in Afghanistan. Although the speech itself was short on specifics, reports indicate that there will be a troop level increase of about 4,000. President Trump's speech put forth a renewed commitment to combat the Taliban. Trump also stressed that it is important to firmly establish an Afghan government that is independent and free of corruption.
  7. atrocity
    an act of shocking cruelty
    Fernando Alvarez had asked officials of the World Masters Championships in Budapest if a minute's silence could be held before his race in honour of those killed and injured in Thursday's double atrocity. - (August 21, 2017)
    There was an uplifting story this week from a swimming competition in Budapest. A Spanish swimmer asked the organizers to arrange a moment of silence for the victims of the Barcelona terrorist attack. When the organizers refused, citing time constraints, the swimmer stood on his starting block for a full minute at the start of his race before jumping into the pool. He sacrificed the race and drew attention to the lives lost in his home country.
  8. artifact
    a man-made object
    The ancient artifact, which is housed at Prittlewell Priory Museum in Southend, Essex, was accidentally knocked off its stand and broken after the child was lifted over a protective barrier. - The Guardian UK (August 22, 2017)
    Here's a tip: if you're in a museum, don't go past the security ropes and let your child mess with ancient artifacts. Because something will get broken. One child in Essex, England did indeed break something — an 800-year old coffin. Compounding their guilt, the family tried to casually leave the gallery, thinking they could get away with it. Here's another tip: if this happens to you, just fess up. There are cameras everywhere. Museums don't mess around.
  9. cavernous
    being or suggesting a large dark enclosed space
    One morning, two house cats bound for London the Ark’s cavernous Pet Oasis, down the aisle from...military explosives-sniffing dogs being redeployed to the Middle East... - The New York Times (August 22, 2017)
    Our feel-good story this week involves tons of cute furry animals. There is a Pet Oasis at New York's JFK Airport that has recently opened for animals of all kinds who are in transit. Many are traveling without human companions, and often animals are the first to be kicked off flights due to weight restrictions. The airport facility known as "The Ark" makes the journeys of everything from pot-bellied pigs to rare pigeons more comfortable.
  10. glib
    artfully persuasive in speech
    Removing his statements about the violence from his jacket pocket, Mr. Trump glibly ticked off a list of racist groups that he had been urged to explicitly denounce... - The New York Times (August 22, 2017)
    President Trump held a rally in Phoenix this week. In his remarks to the crowd, he defended his reaction to the events in Charlottesville and blamed the media for the division in the country. There was a rumor that Mr. Trump would pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio, one of the most controversial figures in the immigration debate, but that did not happen. "I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy,” Mr. Trump said. “I’ll make a prediction: I think he’s going to be just fine.”
  11. multifaceted
    having many aspects
    People hate me because I am a multifaceted, talented, wealthy, internationally famous genius.
    - Jerry Lewis, Quoted in Teaching is More than Pedagogical Practice By Ilghiz M. Sinagatullin
    Comedy legend Jerry Lewis died this week at the age of 91. Lewis could make an audience laugh with the slightest expression or the biggest pratfall. Lewis was also known as a humanitarian, hosting the Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon for decades (59 years!) and raising millions of dollars for "Jerry's Kids".
  12. torment
    intense feelings of suffering; acute mental or physical pain
    Riches do not delight us so much with their possession, as torment us with their loss.- Dick Gregory, Quoted in The Book of Financial Wisdom by C. Foster Stanback
    Comedian and activist Dick Gregory died on August 19, 2017 at the age of 84. Gregory was an amazingly successful and extremely funny comic whose routines commented on politics and race relations at a time when it was uncommon for black comedians to do so. Gregory's style and artistic bravery influenced generations of comedians.
  13. disperse
    cause to separate
    What had largely been a peaceful rally near the Phoenix Convention Center for President Donald Trump's speech...turned combustible afterward, with police deploying pepper spray and stun grenades to disperse the large crowd. - (August 23,2017)
    After the Trump rally in Phoenix, there was some conflict between people protesting the president outside the venue and the police assigned to the event. Although there were no reports of serious injuries, the crowd turned rowdy and the police had to use anti-rioting measures to control the assembled mass of people.
  14. signature
    a distinguishing style
    President Trump issued an extraordinary challenge to his own party late Tuesday, threatening to shut down the government... if Congress did not fund a wall on the southern border that was a signature promise of his campaign for the White House. - The New York Times ( August 23, 2017)
    At the Phoenix rally and afterwards on Twitter, President Trump vowed to shut down the government if his long-promised border wall is not funded by Congress. A government shutdown has occurred in the past, but it usually happens when there are squabbles between political parties. A government shutdown when one party is in control of the White House and both houses of Congress would be unprecedented.

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