This Week in Words: September 4 - 8, 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 was a week of bouncing between extremes. The relaxation of Labor Day was contrasted with the renewed tension brought about by North Korea exhibiting defiance in the face of U.S. and international warnings to cease their nuclear program. The continuing stream of devastating images from a hurricane- ravaged Gulf Coast were balanced somewhat by the pictures of resilience also coming from that region. Finally, popular music is all the more dreary for having lost musician Walter Becker this week, and high art lost one of its geniuses, poet John Ashbery, though we should try to not be too lugubrious about this loss. Take a look back at the week that was, vocabulary style.
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Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. labor
    a social class comprising those who do work for wages
    The government also launched the labor reforms that were central to Macron’s campaign promise to boost France’s lagging economy through pro-free market policies.Seattle Times (Aug 6, 2017)
    This week began with the Labor Day holiday. Any manual or physical activity that is not done for fun can be called a labor. A labor is a task or a burden that one must accomplish, usually in the course of one’s job. In modern times, when fewer people do physical activity as part of their work, a labor has come to mean anything you don’t want to do — anything that is a long, unenjoyable slog can be called a labor.
  2. defiance
    a hostile challenge
    North Korea carried out its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sunday, according to South Korea and Japan, an extraordinary show of defiance by North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, against President Trump. - The New York Times (September 2, 2017)
    North Korea conducted another nuclear test this week. It was by far the most powerful bomb they have tested, but it is not clear if it was in fact a hydrogen bomb, as North Korea has claimed. The United States has promised that any threats to use the weapon will be met with a "massive military response."
  3. ravaged
    having been robbed and destroyed by force and violence
    Amid the floods that ravaged Texas as a result of Hurricane Harvey, a few bright spots have emerged. This particular one comes with cheese. - today.com ( September 3, 2017)
    Sometimes, even in the darkest hour, there are opportunities to smile. There was a huge collective smile on the faces of the flooded-out residents of Texas who received free Pizza Hut pizza this week. The pizza was delivered via kayak.
  4. debunk
    expose while ridiculing
    But in a court filing late on Friday, the Justice Department added itself to the list of entities debunking the allegation. - reuters.com (September 2, 2017)
    This week the Justice Department concluded its investigation into President Trump's claim that President Obama had Trump Tower offices wire-tapped during the 2016 campaign. The Justice Department said that there was no evidence to support the president's accusation.
  5. relinquish
    release, as from one's grip
    Newton’s 4-yard TD run midway through the fourth quarter gave Howard the lead it would never relinquish. - ajc.com (September 3, 2017)
    Howard University's football team accomplished a nearly impossible feat this week. They beat The University of Nevada Las Vegas in the biggest upset in college football history (in terms of predicted point spread). Calvin Newton (whose brother is NFL quarterback Cam Newton) led his team, which was supposed to lose by at least 45 points, to a 43-40 win. It was also Calvin Newton's first college game ever. Whether you're a football fan or not, this achievement is astonishing.
  6. dreary
    lacking in liveliness or charm or surprise
    She said maybe its the skeevy look in your eyes
    Or that your mind has turned to applesauce
    The dreary architecture of your soul
    I said - but what is it exactly turns you off?
    - Cousin Dupree by Steely Dan
    Walter Becker died this week at the age of 67, of undisclosed causes. Becker was one half of rock duo Steely Dan, a band whose smart lyrics and complex musicianship set them apart on the radio of the 1970s. As can be seen from this lyric, Becker and his partner Donald Fagen had a biting wit that is rarely found in pop music, and Becker will be sorely missed.
  7. lugubrious
    excessively mournful
    That armchair is really too lugubrious.
    We’ve got to change all the furniture, fumigate the house,
    talk our relationship back to its beginnings. Say, you know
    that’s probably what’s wrong—the beginnings concept, I mean.
    - from Crossroads in the Past by John Ashbery
    Pulitzer Prize-winning poet John Ashbery died this week at the age of 90. Immensely talented and hugely influential, Ashbery made up his own rules about how poetry could flow and sound. Ashbery could assign adjectives of the educated to armchairs one minute, and insert a diner's lunch specials into a poem the next. Ashbery is also the only person to win the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the National Book Critic's Circle award in the same year, which he did in 1976.
  8. rescind
    cancel officially
    The program known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded,” Mr. Sessions told reporters... - The New York Times (September 5, 2017)
    Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the administration will be ending DACA, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This was a provision that withheld punishment of the illegal aliens who were brought here as children. Sessions assured the so-called "Dreamer" population of about 800,000 that they were not in immediate danger of deportation. He stressed that his chief concern is that the program not extend to new immigrants, but many people are nervous about this news.
  9. rampant
    occurring or increasing in an unrestrained way
    As rumors about Mr. Trump’s impending move to end DACA ran rampant in recent days, advocacy groups and progressive activists agitated strongly against the decision... - The New York Times (September 5, 2017)
    People who object to doing away with DACA point out that the move to rescind it may have unintended consequences. When the law is no longer in force, the people affected have a limited time to register to extend their stay in this country, or they could be deported to a country they left as small children. President Donald Trump has given Congress six months to pass legislation to protect these people, but it is unclear when or if Congress will act.
  10. avert
    prevent the occurrence of; prevent from happening
    The agreement would avert a fiscal showdown later this month without the bloody, partisan battle that many had anticipated by combining a debt ceiling increase and stopgap spending measure with relief aid to Texas and other areas devastated by Hurricane Harvey. - The New York Times (September 6, 2017)
    President Trump and democratic congresspeople have cut a deal on raising the debt ceiling. This is the maximum amount of money the government can owe. It is important to raise that limit because if the government goes over the ceiling then the United States cannot borrow any more money or finance its debts. With the victims of Hurricane Harvey needing financial help and Hurricane Irma looming, apparently the government felt that it would be an especially bad time to run out of money.
  11. magnitude
    the property of relative size or extent
    At least five people died after a quake with a magnitude of 8.1 struck off the Pacific coast late Thursday.New York Times (Sep 8, 2017)
    Late Thursday night an earthquake occurred off the southwestern coast of Mexico, triggering a tsunami warning and resulting in widespread damage, the extent of which remains to be seen.
  12. devastation
    the state of being decayed or destroyed
    In a video, we trace the storm’s trail of devastation in the Caribbean.New York Times (Sep 8, 2017)
    Hurricane Irma, a category 5 storm and one of the largest storms ever recorded, all but destroyed islands in the Caribbean. Irma predicted path has it projected to barrel through Florida this weekend.
  13. parameter
    any factor defining a system and determining its performance
    That appeared to confirm the broad parameters of an agreement that Democratic leaders announced had been reached Wednesday over dinner at the White House.
    -The New York Times (September 14, 2017)
    President Trump seems to have reached an agreement with members of the Senate which protects the "dreamer" population. The dreamers are illegal immigrants who were brought to this country as children. They were in danger of being deported when the Trump administration announced it was was rescinding the Obama administration's executive order known as DACA. President Trump gave Congress six months to come up with a plan and it appears they are on their way to doing just that.

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