This Week in Words: January 20 - 26, 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 was a week with events that set up future, bigger events. The impasse that led to the government shutdown has been resolved, but only temporarily, as another deadline for action looms in February. The titanic ruckus that is The Super Bowl and (the hype surrounding it) is all set, but the game itself isn't until February 4th. The Oscar nominations were announced, potentially placing us all in a surreal vortex of glamorous outfits on even more glamorous movie stars, but we'll have to wait for the ceremony on March 4th.

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

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. impasse
    a situation in which no progress can be made
    "I expect the majority leader to fulfill his agreement to the Senate," the New York Democrat said, adding that if he does not, he will have "breached the trust" of bipartisan senators who worked the chamber out of an impasse.
    - (Jan 22, 2018)
    The government shutdown was resolved this week after only three days, but the measure agreed on by Congress and signed by President Trump only keeps the government funded until February 8th. The main issue that is dividing the parties, immigration, has yet to be addressed in a substantive way, so time will tell whether another shutdown lies ahead.
  2. siege
    an action of an armed force that surrounds a fortified place
    Afghan officials declared that a 12-hour gun battle at Kabul’s largest hotel had ended on Sunday after security forces killed four assailants, a siege that left five civilians dead, trapped more than 100 guests and terrorized the country’s capital. - The New York Times (Jan 21, 2018)
    There was a shooting in Kabul, Afghanistan this week at that city's largest hotel. Some estimates place the number of casualties as high as 43. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack, which trapped more than one hundred people in the hotel before police were able to kill four of the six assailants.
  3. ruckus
    the act of making a noisy disturbance
    Other passengers have complained of comfort animals triggering allergic reactions, sprawling over arm rests and causing ruckuses. - The New York Times (Jan 19, 2018)
    Delta Airlines announced that it will be restricting the use of comfort animals on flights, after several incidents where the animals have attacked passengers and caused other disturbances. Animals designated "comfort animals" are intended to soothe their nervous owners on planes and are supposed to be well-behaved and potty trained, but Delta claims that it is too easy to get permission from a doctor to use a comfort animal, and the standards for the animals isn't what it should be.
  4. titanic
    of great force or power
    The tech titans keep getting more titanic. - The Wall Street Journal (Jan 22, 2018)
    This week Alphabet, the parent company of Google, reached a market value of 800 billion dollars, a feat that had only been achieved by Apple, which is now valued at over $900 billion. Also this week, Microsoft reached a value of $700 billion. Earlier this year Amazon crossed the 600 billion dollar mark. Consumer confidence is very high in these companies, and there is no telling how high their market value will go.
  5. surreal
    resembling a dream
    Said Eagles head coach Doug Pederson: "It's kind of surreal. I love coaching this football team. I love coaching those players in there. It's a tremendous feeling, quite honestly. It hasn't sunk in." - (Jan 22, 2018)
    The matchup for Super Bowl LII is set. On February 4th, The New England Patriots will play the Philadelphia Eagles in Minnesota. It is easy to see the game in David vs. Goliath terms, because the Eagles have never won the Super Bowl in their franchise's history, and this Patriots team, led by QB Tom Brady and Coach Bill Belichick, is vying for its sixth title.
  6. gerrymander
    divide voting districts unfairly and to one's advantage
    Pennsylvania’s congressional district map is a partisan gerrymander that “clearly, plainly and palpably” violates the state’s Constitution, the State Supreme Court said on Monday, adding to a string of court decisions striking down political maps that unduly favor one political party. - The New York Times (Jan 22, 2018)
    The voting district map of Pennsylvania was ruled unconstitutional this week. Politicians can vote to alter the shape of voting districts to make victories for themselves and their party more likely, a process called gerrymandering. The process gets its name from an early famous practitioner, Eldridge Gerry, who was governor of Massachusetts. One of the districts he created looked like the outline of a salamander, so the press dubbed it "The Gerrymander."
  7. Zeitgeist
    the spirit of the time
    Campaigning for the 90th Academy Awards has been going on in Hollywood for five months, with films falling over themselves to claim the cultural zeitgeist. - The New York Times (Jan 23, 2018)
    The Academy Award nominations were announced this week. The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro's fantasy about the love between a mute woman and a sea creature, received 13 nominations. Other notable nominations include the horror film Get Out, which received Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Screenplay and Best Director nods, and the nomination for the cinematography of Mudbound which went to Rachel Morrison, the first woman ever nominated in this category.
  8. apprehension
    the act of capturing, especially a criminal
    State police didn’t provide any other immediate details about the shooter or the apprehension. - (Jan 23, 2018)
    On Tuesday morning in Benton, Kentucky, a 15-year old boy opened fire in Marshall County High School, killing two people and injuring 18 others. The suspect is in custody and the police have not released a possible motive for the shooting.
  9. vortex
    the shape of something rotating rapidly
    They created a system of rapidly fluctuating acoustic vortices—basically, tiny sound tornadoes, with a "twister" of loud sound surrounding an inner, and completely silent, core, according to the press release. - (Jan 22, 2018)
    Scientists in Bristol, England have made progress in the field of levitating objects, something that was once thought to be the stuff of magic and science fiction. By surrounding an object by a tiny vortex of silence surrounded by another vortex of sound, these scientists have been able to lift objects off the ground and maintain them in mid-air. So far this method has only been able to levitate objects about an inch across, but the method is seen as a breakthrough.
  10. bolster
    support and strengthen
    The Fed has been gradually raising short-term interest rates since late 2015 and last year started shrinking its portfolio of assets purchased to bolster the economy during and after the financial crisis. - The Wall Street Journal (Jan 23, 2018)
    Congress has approved a new Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank. Jerome Powell will become the 16th Chairman when he takes the position next month. The Federal Reserve bank is in charge of monitoring the economy and adjusting the rate of interest charged on money borrowed in the country. The Federal Reserve is seen as a force that can slow down an economy that is in danger of moving too fast or energize an economy that shows sluggish growth.
  11. waver
    pause or hold back in uncertainty or unwillingness
    President Trump, who has wavered in his willingness to sit down with investigators examining Russian interference with the campaign that placed him in the White House, said Wednesday that he was “looking forward” to meeting with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. - The L.A. Times (Jan 24, 2018)
    President Trump agreed to testify under oath in Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Throughout the inquiry into the relationship between Russia and the Trump campaign, the president has asserted that there was "no collusion" between the parties to sway the election in Trump's favor.
  12. wrangle
    quarrel noisily, angrily, or disruptively
    The Pilsen-based priest has committed to a hunger strike in support of local “Dreamers” whose lives hang in the balance as Congress wrangles over immigration reform. - Chicago Tribune (Jan 25, 2018.
    Chicago priest Gary Graf has started a hunger strike to support the so-called Dreamers in the Chicagoland area. Rev. Graf has not touched solid food in ten days to protest what he sees as Congress's and the president's failing to protect those children of immigrants who were brought here as young people. The Dreamers and the bill that protected them, DACA, is a major source of contention in the current immigration debate.
  13. dormant
    inactive but capable of becoming active
    His son-in-law and Mideast negotiator, Jared Kushner, has been trying to restart the dormant negotiations without apparent success. -
    USA Today (Jan 25, 2018)
    President Trump made some further comments on the Mideast Peace Process this week. During a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the president demanded that the Palestinians respect the United States’ decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy there, and also threatened to withhold U.S. aid to the Palestinians unless they engage in peace negotiations.
  14. prioritize
    assign a status in order of importance or urgency
    On Monday, Steve Bullock became the first U.S. governor to sign an executive order stating that any internet providers signed by the state must refrain from impairing, throttling, degrading, or blocking internet traffic based on content, payment, or prioritization. - Good News Network (Jan 25, 2018)
    Governor Bullock of Montana has become the first US governor to sign an order supporting Net Neutrality. The Federal Communications Commission has taken steps to repeal Net Neutrality, which stipulates one price for access to the entire internet. The plan to replace Net Neutrality would make internet service plans like cable television packages, where a customer pays more to access more content. Bullock has signed an order that his state will only deal with providers that support Neutrality.
  15. conflagration
    a very intense and uncontrolled fire
    “The danger of nuclear conflagration is not the only reason the clock has been moved forward." - USA Today (Jan 25, 2018)
    The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the symbolic Doomsday Clock forward to two minutes until midnight. The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic measure of how close humanity is to destruction. The Clock takes into account nuclear threats to existence and other factors like climate change. This is the closest the Clock has been to Doomsday since The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1950s.
  16. permit
    a legal document giving official license to do something
    Expand the eligibility of spouses of H-1B holders, who come to the U.S. on H-4 visas, to work in the U.S. Currently, only spouses who meet specific requirements can work in the U.S. The Trump administration has plans to do away with those work permits. - San Francisco Chronicle (Jan 25, 2018)
    A bill to address another aspect of the immigration debate was introduced this week. This bill would expand the amount of visas available to highly skilled immigrants and their spouses. President Trump has stressed that he wants to increase the influx of this category of immigrants, who are experts in technological fields.
  17. admonish
    scold or reprimand; take to task
    But she also has publicly admonished him and sought to avoid the political fallout of appearing too close to a leader who is unpopular among many in her home country, including within her Conservative Party. - Wall Street Journal (Jan 25, 2018)
    President Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May met at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week. Relations between the two leaders have seemed strained recently, and both leaders sought with this meeting to ensure the public that they get along well. In the past, May has criticized Trump to the press, but it looks like she is intent on continuing the “special relationship” Britain and the U.S. have as each other’s closest ally.
  18. backlash
    an adverse reaction to some political or social occurrence
    A University of Chicago professor has invited Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, to speak at the South Side campus, a move that sparked immediate backlash among the university faculty members and students on Thursday. - Chicago Tribune (Jan 25, 2018)
    Steve Bannon, former chief strategist for the Trump White House, was invited to speak at the University of Chicago. The invitation caused immediate controversy, with protestors demanding that Bannon be uninvited. The protestors are angry over Bannon’s history as the head of Breitbart News, the conservative website. The protestors view Breitbart’s content as crossing the line that separates valid opinion from racist propaganda. It is unclear whether Bannon will in fact appear.
  19. amnesty
    a warrant granting release from punishment for an offense
    Many Republicans, especially in the House, oppose any legalization proposals as " amnesty," while Democrats resist many of Trump's proposed restrictions on legal immigration programs and a southern border wall. - LA Times (Jan 25, 2018)
    For the first time, President Trump has expressed the opinion that he wants to help the “dreamer” population and find a way to give them a path to citizenship. Last year, President Trump repealed DACA, the measure that protected the dreamers because he viewed it as illegal Federal overreaching. The dreamers are the subject of intense debate, with some wanting to protect them as innocent bystanders and others wary of rewarding illegal immigration at the expense of those who immigrate legally.
  20. folly
    foolish or senseless behavior
    Researchers with deep experience in human-machine interaction say it's folly to think that won't cause problems. - LA Times (Jan 25, 2018)
    A crash of a Tesla vehicle with the capacity to drive itself has caused controversy about the future of the self-driving car. The accident happened in broad daylight on a highway, and the exact details are in dispute. Regardless of what turns out to be at fault for this particular crash, it will be a while before humans can completely hand over responsibility for the operation of their vehicles to machines.

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