This Week in Words : December 23 - 29, 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 holiday week was a time for modern miracles. Inspired by Star Wars, scientists have developed an ultrasonic hand with the dexterity to perform complicated tasks like playing the piano. Researchers who study Parkinson's Disease have discovered that they can correct the gaits of patients and avert serious falls by simply projecting a laser point from the patient's shoe.

Take a look back at the week that was, vocabulary style.

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. divine
    perceive through some inexplicable perceptive powers
    But the decision is also noteworthy for those trying to divine where the White House may be headed next year in its policy toward the Kremlin. - The Wall Street Journal (Dec 24, 2017)
    The U. S. has decided to provide anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, which will likely be used as defense against aggression by Russia. Supplying a Russian enemy with arms may signal that the Trump Administration is not afraid to get tough with Russia, even amid all the controversy surrounding the investigations into the relationship between Russia and the Trump campaign. This verbal use of divine capitalizes on the mysterious nature of holy things and suggests predicting the unpredictable.
  2. mandate
    commission given to a government through electoral victory
    The chances that a boycott would affect voter turnout are low, but Mr. Navalny’s call marks an attempt to strike at Russian authorities’ efforts to boost turnout and strengthen Mr. Putin’s mandate for a fourth term. - The Wall Street Journal (Dec 25, 2017)
    Alexei Navalny, Vladimir Putin's likely opponent in next year's Russian presidential election, was ruled ineligible to run by Russian officials this week. The disqualification stems from a conviction for embezzlement, but Mr. Navalny disputes the veracity of that charge. Putin's approval rating in Russia is close to 80%, and his victory is all but assured, so many wonder why Putin is bothering to ban his opponent. Mr. Navalny is calling on Russians to boycott the polls altogether.
  3. gait
    a person's manner of walking
    One of the symptoms of Parkinson's is " gait freezing," wherein a patient is unable to take the next step despite willing themselves to walk forward; this can cause them to lose balance and fall as the upper part of their bodies continue to move forward. - (Dec 24, 2017)
    Some progress was announced this week in dealing with one of the consequences of Parkinson's Disease. Patients are often literally unable to “take the next step" when walking, because one part of their body is moving forward while their legs resist, leading to dangerous falls. Researchers have placed laser lights in shoes which act as markers so the patient can visualize the next step better and have more confidence in where they are going. The technique seems to be highly effective.
  4. notch
    make a cut in a surface to record something
    Revival notches the third-largest week of 2017 among hip-hop albums, both in total units and album sales, trailing only the debuts of Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. (603,000 units; 353,000 album sales) and Drake’s More Life (505,000 units; 225,000 album sales). - (Dec 24, 2017)
    Eminem achieved a rare feat this week — his eighth number one album in a row. He has now tied Kenny Chesney, Madonna and U2 for sixth most number one albums in a row. Eminem is still far behind the leaders, The Beatles, who have notched 19 number one albums in a row, and Jay Z, who has 14.
  5. avert
    prevent the occurrence of; prevent from happening
    U.S. President Donald Trump signed Republicans' massive $1.5 trillion tax overhaul into law on Friday, cementing the biggest legislative victory of his first year in office, and also approved a short-term spending bill that averts a possible government shutdown. (Dec 22, 2017)
    President Trump and Congress have reached an agreement on a spending bill which prevents a government shutdown. This bill is only a temporary extension of current spending intended to keep the government running through the new year, and most of the funding runs out in late January. Among the issues that need to be negotiated in this spending bill are healthcare, military spending and the economic impact of immigration reform.
  6. buoyancy
    irrepressible liveliness and good spirit
    That newfound buoyancy is a relief to retailers—from department-store giants like Macy’s Inc. to mall favorites like Gap Inc.—that struggled through a difficult year of store closures, declining foot traffic and bankruptcies by chains including the Sports Authority, Toys ‘R’ Us and Payless Shoes. - (Dec 26, 2017)
    Early reports indicate that this was a very lively and robust holiday shopping season. When consumers are confident enough to spend money to buy presents, it is taken as a positive sign for the economy in general. Buoyancy has a technical definition involving the ability of an object to float on water, as well as this metaphorical sense, which highlights the happiness retailers feel when sales are brisk.
  7. dexterity
    adroitness in using the hands
    The ultrasound technology, on the other hand, gives amputees a new kind of dexterity that has never before been made available. (Dec 23, 2017)
    New technology allows amputees to have finer control over robotic arms. Using ultrasound, the new arms exhibit fine motor control over individual robotic fingers, rather than just opening and closing the hand as a whole. This kind of specific control enables the person controlling the arm to perform very complicated tasks, such as playing the piano. Think Luke Skywalker and that gives you a pretty good idea of what's possible.
  8. colossus
    someone or something that is abnormally large and powerful
    Mr. Schmidt’s step down comes as the company—now a colossus valued at $743 billion—has achieved steady financial performance in recent years. - The Wall Street Journal (Dec 26, 2017)
    It was announced this week that Eric Schmidt will leave his post of Executive Chairman of Alphabet, Google's parent company, in January. Schmidt is credited with helping Google break into other areas besides the search engine, spearheading projects like Google Maps. A colossus is a truly gigantic thing, and here the word is used to indicate just how powerful and influential Google has become in its relatively brief existence.
  9. myriad
    too numerous to be counted
    Retailers Offer Myriad Returns Options to Retain Customers. - The Wall Street Journal (Dec 26, 2017)
    Stores are trying to make the process of returns easier in the post-holiday season. In addition to normal procedures, several stores have set up kiosks designed specifically for returns, and are assigning workers to guide customers through the return process. Because studies show that many people purchase new items when they go to a store to return something, it makes sense for retailers to make bringing back an item as smooth as possible.
  10. assailant
    someone who attacks
    Police in Columbia, South Carolina praised a homeless hero last week who came to the aid of a female police officer being overpowered by an assailant during an arrest. - (Dec 26, 2017)
    A homeless man in South Carolina assisted a police officer who had been attacked by an assailant. The man subdued the officer's attacker and was given a certificate for his act of bravery. The police department also brought gifts to the homeless shelter where the man is currently staying.
  11. atrocity
    an act of shocking cruelty
    “Today in Kabul we have witnessed another truly despicable crime in a year already marked by unspeakable atrocities.” - The New York Times (Dec 28, 2017)
    A suicide bomber entered the cultural center where a student meeting was being held in Kabul, Afghanistan on Thursday and detonated a bomb that killed 41 people and injured dozens more. The group known as The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack.

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