This Week in Words: November 11 - 17, 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 are the calm before the storm, and some weeks are the storm itself. In terms of both events and the vocabulary used to describe them, this was a stormy week. The earth itself was volatile, with a 7.3 earthquake occurring the Iran-Iraq border. In a storm of words, President Trump frantically assailed critics and was adamant in his insistence that the Republican Tax Plan include a repeal of the Obamacare insurance mandate. And, on a lighter note, Taylor Swift's latest release stormed the pop charts like a force of nature. Take a look back at the week that was, vocabulary style.

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. frantic
    excessively agitated; distraught with violent emotion
    Iranians dug through rubble in a frantic search for survivors on Monday, after a powerful earthquake struck near the Iraqi border, killing more than 400 people and injuring thousands of others, officials said. - The New York Times (Nov 13, 2017)
    A powerful earthquake that measured 7.3 on the Richter Scale rocked the Iran-Iraq border. More than 400 people were killed, with many more injured and left with inadequate shelter.
  2. assail
    attack someone physically or emotionally
    President Trump, who has repeatedly assailed pharmaceutical companies for the high cost of prescription medications in the United States, nominated on Monday a former executive of one of the nation’s largest drug companies to be secretary of health and human services, which has responsibility for regulating the pharmaceutical industry. - The New York Times (Nov 13, 2017)
    President Trump nominated Alex Azar as Secretary of Health and Human Services to replace Tom Price, who resigned because of a scandal involving private jet use. Azar has worked both in government and at pharmaceutical companies, and skeptics have asked if Azar will be willing to stand up to his old colleagues when it comes to issues of drug availability and pricing. Azar's supporters point out that he is familiar with all sides of the issues and uniquely qualified to negotiate.
  3. iteration
    executing a set of instructions a given number of times
    In unveiling the third iteration of the travel ban in late September, the administration said that the eight countries did not share with the United States information to enable proper screening of their nationals. - The New York Times (Nov 13, 2017)
    After three attempts at getting court approval, parts of President Trump's travel ban were upheld by a federal court in California this week. This means that the ban on visitors from certain countries without close familial ties in the U.S. will go into effect immediately. The ban covers visitors from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
  4. pastime
    a diversion that occupies one's time and thoughts
    Mary Frates has always adored doing word searches, but after dementia set in as she aged, the 86-year-old found herself unable to participate in her favorite pastime. - (Nov 12, 2017)
    This week's uplifting story involves adapting to new situations. Mary Frates' grandson realized that her dementia made her beloved word searches difficult, and he discovered that the only available solution were large-print books. Not satisfied with those, John Frates made new word searches for his grandma that weren't just easier to read, but were also more straightforward. These puzzles will now be published as a book marketed to seniors.
  5. stifling
    forceful prevention; putting down by power or authority
    The deal was driven by Senate Banking Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and a handful of red-state Democrats who have long argued that the rules were stifling lending for their rural constituents. - (Nov 13, 2017)
    Both political parties in Congress worked together this week to change some banking laws. The laws involved lending rates that put pressure on the small community banks doing the lending. Many of the rules being relaxed were first put into effect after the banking crisis of 2008, and while easing up on regulation is always risky, in this instance Congress felt that the laws were limiting the banks to an unfair degree.
  6. volatile
    liable to lead to sudden change or violence
    President Donald Trump has been urging congressional Republicans to use the tax bill to strip the requirement that most Americans have insurance, despite concerns it could inject volatile health care politics into the tax debate. - (Nov 13, 2017)
    As rumored last week, the Republican Tax bill proposal will include a repeal of the Obamacare mandate that all Americans have health insurance. Republicans expect a revenue boost from not having to insure everyone, and they also view it as a way to fulfill a campaign promise many of them ran on — to end Obamacare.
  7. swift
    moving very fast
    After Taylor Swift’s Reputation album 700,000 copies in its first day in the U.S., according to Nielsen Music, the set continues to sell at a swift pace. (Nov 13, 2017)
    Taylor Swift's new album is selling very well, and it's no surprise. Even if you don't know her music, Swift's face has been all over, even on UPS trucks.
  8. adamant
    impervious to pleas, persuasion, requests, or reason
    But even as Mr. Sessions remained hazy on the details, he was adamant that he had swiftly rejected the aide’s suggestion. - The New York Times (Nov 13, 2017)
    Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared before the House Judiciary Committee, which is looking into the relationship between the Trump Campaign and Russia. This testimony comes on the heels of the revelation that George Papadopoulos, an aide, offered to set up a meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin at a meeting Sessions attended. Sessions said that he did not remember the meeting until reading about it recently, and was not lying when he failed to address the meeting in previous testimony.
  9. intervention
    the act of getting involved
    A senior White House official said the players had been given relatively light treatment due to Trump's intervention. - The New York Times (Nov 13, 2017)
    Three UCLA basketball players were arrested for shoplifting at a Louis Vuitton store in China! The lesson, if there is one, is that if you are going to do something monumentally stupid in a foreign country that could get you jailed for the rest of your life, it helps to coordinate it with the President's trip to that country. President Trump intervened on behalf of the basketball players, and they have now safely landed back on U.S. soil.
  10. coup
    a sudden and decisive change of government by force
    We have to make sure we aren’t being sold a dummy,” Elias Mudzuri, a deputy president of the Movement for Democratic Change, said by phone. “We aren’t sure of the endgame. They say this is not a coup, but, to us, it’s a coup.” - The New York Times (Nov 15, 2017)
    Robert Mugabe, the former leader of Zimbabwe, was removed from power this week in what appears to be a bloodless coup. Mugabe is 93 years old and has been the only ruler Zimbabwe has known since he first assumed power in 1980. Mugabe is known to rule with an iron fist and has a terrible human rights record. Apparently, the last straw for the military leaders who assumed power was when Mugabe tried to install his wife as his successor.
  11. grimace
    contort the face to indicate a certain mental state
    I grimace, wanting to make Kayla’s stink face, the face she makes when she’s angry or impatient; to everyone else, it looks like she’s smelled something nasty: her green eyes squinting, her nose a mushroom, her twelve tiny toddler teeth showing through her open mouth. I want to make that face because something about scrunching up my nose and squeezing the smell away might lessen it, might cut off that stink of death. - From Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
    Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward won the National Book Award for Fiction this week. It is Ward’s second time winning, having previously won for her novel Salvage the Bones. Ward is the only woman to have ever won the National Book Award for Fiction twice. Sing, Unburied, Sing is a family saga that takes place in Mississippi.

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