This Week in Words: October 22 - 27, 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. Some weeks can seem pretty dismal, not for what did happen, but for what might happen soon, as tension escalates. The Catalonia separatist movement appears vulnerable in the face of Spanish military might. It looks like nothing will mitigate the increasingly barbed back-and-forth between Senator Corker and President Trump, and the culmination of Senator Jeff Flake's career in the Senate involves flagrant name-calling with the president. But the story of an eleven year-old girl who invented a contraption that will help ensure the safety of our drinking water makes the world look a little brighter. Take a look back at the week that was, vocabulary style.

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. escalate
    increase in extent or intensity
    The escalating confrontation over Catalonia’s independence drive took its most serious turn on Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.
    - The New York Times (October 21, 2017)
    There has been much activity, and even more talk, surrounding Catalonia’s proposed secession from Spain. This week the talk escalated into threats by the Spanish central government to remove Catalonia’s leaders. This move would likely not only squelch any movement to form a new country, but also increase the military presence in Catalonia.
  2. culmination
    a concluding action
    Yet at its core, as the culmination of the longest, most punishing schedule in major professional sports, the event should be a showcase for excellence — and greatness will be out in force this time. - The New York Times (October 24, 2017)
    The World Series began this week, and the Yankees can’t win because they were eliminated in the last round of the playoffs. The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros will vie for baseball’s ultimate prize. It is a battle of two great teams — each with several pitchers destined for the Hall of Fame — so here’s hoping for a close, well-played Series.
  3. contraption
    a device or control that is very useful for a particular job
    Tethys, however, is a small portable contraption that uses nanotubes to quickly test water for lead. The device can then be paired with a mobile app to display the results and readings. (October 19, 2017)
    Inspired by the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, an eleven year-old girl has invented an easier, better way to detect lead in water. Gitanjali Rao, of Colorado, won $25,000 for her ingenuity in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge.
  4. mitigate
    lessen or to try to lessen the seriousness or extent of
    Lawmakers must mitigate the revenue loss from those tax cuts in order to avoid a Democratic filibuster and pass a bill along party lines. - The New York Times ( October 23, 2017)
    President Trump took a stance against his fellow Republicans this week when he refused to support limits on the amount individuals can contribute to 401(k) accounts. Those limits were one way the Republicans were exploring to help fund the tax cuts the president's tax plan calls for. Now it is unclear where the money to fund the tax cuts will come from.
  5. forensic
    used in the investigation of facts or evidence in court
    In 2013, Judge Mario Carroza ordered the exhumation of Neruda’s remains and sent samples to forensic genetics laboratories in Canada and Denmark for analysis. - The New York Times (October 21, 2017)
    Famed poet Pablo Neruda may not have died of cancer as previously believed. New evidence, in the form of a poisonous substance found on the deceased Neruda’s tooth, suggest that he may have been murdered. This is one literary mystery that is sure to be intriguing for some time to come.
  6. infamous
    known widely and usually unfavorably
    Timberlake once had the honor of performing at the event in 2004 with Janet Jackson, a now infamous concert. - (October 22, 2017)
    The Super Bowl has been around for 52 years. When he takes the stage to entertain at halftime this year, Justin Timberlake will have performed at more Super Bowl halftime shows than any other entertainer. That’s a pretty cool record for a 36 year-old singer to hold.
  7. countenance
    consent to, give permission
    One aspect of the conflict, by the way, that I will never, ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest-income level of America and the highest-income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur,” Mr. McCain said. “That is wrong.” - The New York Times (October 23, 2017)
    Senator John McCain made scathing remarks about those who got out of serving in Vietnam because of exaggerated medical conditions. Even though the example McCain used was the exact same condition that permitted President Trump to be excused, McCain swears his remarks were not aimed at the President. Countenance is a word with many meanings: it can mean an appearance, the “face” you put on a situation to make it seem better than it is, or as here, “permission.”
  8. barbed
    capable of wounding
    The relationship between the two men, which had already been on rocky footing, soured further this month as Corker and Trump have lobbed increasingly barbed criticisms at one another through the media. - (October 24, 2017)
    There was more name-calling on Capitol Hill this week, as Senator Bob Corker and President Trump used the media to fight an increasingly ugly war of words. Corker is the Republican Senator from Tennessee who, since announcing that he will not run for reelection, has been freely criticizing the President .
  9. prestigious
    having an illustrious reputation; respected
    During the ceremony for one of the most prestigious honors in comedy at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Letterman was also praised by former first lady Michelle Obama, who had made taped comments. - (October 23, 2017)
    Former talk show host David Letterman was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor this week. Letterman broke the mold of the traditional talk show host and established a new model which combined skits with zany antics and a detached, critical air which he used in his monologue and interview segments. As they themselves would be the first to tell you, there would be no Conan, Colbert, Kimmel or Fallon without David Letterman's example.
  10. dismal
    causing dejection
    A number of Columbia alumni are perversely proud of dismal football results, believing they reflect academic superiority. Others speak of building character through adversity. Either way, certain graduates are uneasy. - The New York Times (October 24, 2017)
    The Columbia football team is winning for the first time in decades. Some alumni are worried that this reflects poorly on the Ivy League school, which as has a reputation as a bastion for academic elites, not stellar athletes.
  11. flagrant
    conspicuously and outrageously bad or reprehensible
    He deplored “the casual undermining of our democratic ideals, the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedom and institutions, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency” that he said has become so prevalent in American politics. - The New York Times ( October 24, 2017)
    Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona gave a long speech on the Senate floor in which he denounced the President repeatedly. He then revealed that he will not be seeking reelection. Flake seems to be relishing the freedom that comes with not having to watch what you say for fear of being targeted by President Trump.
  12. vulnerable
    capable of being wounded or hurt
    I've certainly experienced racism, but it has not made a great impact on me. I have always thought, as I got
    older and older, I was more in charge of who I was. What someone thought about me or said about me made less of an impression on me at very vulnerable times.-Robert Guillaume
    Actor Robert Guillaume died this week at the age of 89, one month shy of his 90th birthday. Guillaume had been battling prostate cancer. Known as the lead sitcom character Benson, who rises from butler to Lieutenant Governor, the voice of Rafiki in The Lion King, and as Isaac Jaffe on the short-lived but fondly remembered Sports Night, Guillaume was also an accomplished singer who starred in an all-African American production of Guys and Dolls on Broadway in 1976.
  13. rotund
    excessively fat
    Rotund and standing 5 feet 5 inches — he would joke that he was as wide as he was tall — Mr. Domino had a big, infectious grin, a fondness for ornate, jewel-encrusted rings and an easygoing manner in performance; - The New York Times ( October 25, 2017)
    Fats Domino died on October 25 at the age of 89. Domino brought a stroll, a swagger, and a joy to his piano playing. Although a lot has changed in popular music in the decades since Fats began his career, his influence can still be felt.

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