This Week in Words: January 13 - 19, 2018

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 showed us that even things that seem to last forever must come to an end. North and South Korea brokered a deal to co-exist for the Olympic Games. The truce ends, at least for now, decades of incendiary rhetoric. Kazakhstan has embraced the Latin alphabet, undermining years of Russian cultural hegemony in that nation. The Nestle corporation has sold off most of its chocolate and candy business, ending its association with with the delicious confections that pleased the child in us all.

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

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. erroneous
    containing or characterized by mistakes
    On Friday, the day before the erroneous alert, several hundred people attended an event in Honolulu sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce in which military commanders, politicians and others discussed the threat to the islands’ population. - The New York Times ( Jan 13, 2018)
    After last year's threats of a nuclear attack by North Korea, Hawaii instituted an alert system to practice seeking shelter in the event of an emergency. A frightening false alarm was broadcast to cell phones on the Hawaiian islands this week, which specifically read "This is Not A Drill." Panic and concern ensued until the error was corrected — almost forty minutes later. The false alarm was traced to someone accidentally hitting the wrong button on a computer.
  2. undermine
    weaken or impair, especially gradually
    The attack also comes as Iraqis prepare for elections in May and is likely to raise fears that violence will increase as political rivals seek to undermine and score points against each other. - The Wall Street Journal ( Jan15, 2018)
    Two suicide bombers attacked the busy shopping area Tayyaran Square in Baghdad this week, killing 38 and injuring more than 90. The group known as The Islamic State has claimed responsibility. Baghdad has been relatively peaceful these past few months, but officials suspect that there may be more attacks to scare people away from the polls as elections near in an effort to undermine the political will of Iraqis.
  3. hegemony
    the dominance or leadership of one social group over others
    But since emerging from the ruins of the Soviet Union as an independent country in 1991, Kazakhstan has steadily chipped away at the legacy of Moscow’s political and cultural hegemony. - The New York Times ( Jan 15, 2018)
    Kazakhstan is switching from the Cyrillic alphabet, used for Russian scripts, to a system using the Latin alphabet. (English uses the Latin alphabet.) The move is controversial because the head of Kazakhstan has decided that instead of using all the markings available, they will only use apostrophes to indicate different sounds. Concerned Kazakhs say that this is a gigantic mistake, as it does not translate well into the computer age, one of the motivations to change in the first place.
  4. makeshift
    done or made using whatever is available
    Saudi Arabia began screening feature-length animated children’s films this weekend in a makeshift theater, after a 35-year-old ban on cinemas was lifted in the conservative Islamic kingdom. -
    ( Jan 15, 2018)
    There were more signs of cultural change in Saudi Arabia this week. After last year's move to allow women to able to drive cars alone and attend soccer matches, now a movie theater has opened for the first time in 35 years. The first movies to be screened at the new cinema were The Emoji Movie and Captain Underpants. Saudis used to have to travel to Bahrain or The United Arab Emirates to see a movie on the big screen.
  5. incendiary
    arousing to action or rebellion
    President Trump’s incendiary words about immigration have dampened the prospects that a broad spending and immigration deal can be reached by the end of the week, raising the possibility of a government shutdown with unknown political consequences for lawmakers in both parties. - The New York Times ( Jan 15, 2018)
    Congress has been in bipartisan negotiations with the president to accomplish two things: reach a deal on immigration reform and draft a new spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. Both efforts were jeopardized this week by the fallout from some vulgar language the president reportedly used to describe some countries. The controversy has further strained relationships between the White House and the many congresspeople who were offended by the reported remarks.
  6. confidant
    someone to whom private matters are told
    Steve Bannon, who was a senior adviser and confidant to President Donald Trump before a public falling-out earlier this month, appeared Tuesday before the House Intelligence Committee. - The Wall Street Journal ( Jan 16, 2018)
    There were two major developments in the saga of former White House strategist Steve Bannon this week. Bannon testified before House Intelligence Committee about ties between the Trump campaign and Russia but, citing Executive Privilege, revealed little. The legal protection has been invoked in the past to cover some presidential communications, not the activities of his staff. Bannon was also issued a subpoena this week to testify in front of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller.
  7. taboo
    a ban resulting from social custom or emotional aversion
    Her wildest dream, which came true, was that one day, she would break the taboos and open the first female-run garage in Jordan. - ( Jan 16, 2018)
    More women are driving alone in the Arab world, but if their car breaks down there's the issue of receiving help from a mechanic, a job typically held be men. To address this cultural challenge, a woman has opened the first female-run garage in Jordan. Balqees Bani Hani and her garage are symbols of the great strides women have made recently in a region that has traditionally placed strict limits on women.
  8. broker
    act as a businessman who buys or sells for another
    South Korea struck a sweeping deal with North Korea on Wednesday that marks the South’s most dramatic embrace of its northern rival in a decade, brokering an agreement over the Winter Olympics that will bring hundreds of North Korean athletes, cheerleaders and other officials to the South. - The Wall Street Journal ( Jan 17, 2018)
    North and South Korea have reached an agreement to march into the Olympic Games next month under one flag. The deal includes athletes from the North training in the South and a merger of the two nations' women's hockey teams. This kind of diplomatic gesture could indicate a thawing in the relationship between North and South Korea, after North Korea spent a good portion of last year threatening the South (and the U.S.) with nuclear missile attacks.
  9. plaintive
    expressing sorrow
    In the band, her voice — high and breathy, but far more determined than fragile — rode atop a rich wash of electric guitars. Her unmistakable Irish accent and the Celtic inflections of her melodies gave her singing a plaintive individuality and a flinty core. - The New York Times ( Jan 15, 2018)
    The lead singer of the The Cranberries, Dolores O'Riordan, died this week at the age of 46 of undisclosed causes. The Cranberries had a string of hits in the '90s like "Dreams" and "Linger," which were all over the radio and MTV. O'Riordan's memorable lyrics and unique voice gave the band its signature sound.
  10. confection
    a food rich in sugar
    The acquisition follows Ferrero’s purchase last year of Lemonheads maker Ferrara Candy Co. for about $1.3 billion, and the much smaller Fannie May Confections for $115 million. - The Wall Street Journal ( Jan 16, 2018)
    Nestle sold their chocolate business, including the Butterfinger and Baby Ruth Brands, for $2.8 billion to Ferrero, an Italian company. We have many questions about this transaction, involving whether we can still buy our favorite candy bars as easily as before. Most important, though, is the fact that the classic jingle " 'N-E-S-T-L-E-S, Nestle's makes the very best..." doesn't quite ring true anymore. Next it'll turn out that Trix aren't really for kids...

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