This Week in Words: January 27 - February 2, 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 that the time has passed for some old things, while some other old things endure. The provocative and polarizing Chief Wahoo, which has been the Cleveland Indian's mascot since 1947, will be retired in 2019. On the other hand, old man (in professional tennis terms, anyway) Roger Federer displayed his baffling durability by winning the Australian Open, his record 20th Grand Slam title.

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

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. disarray
    untidiness, especially of clothing and appearance
    The surge in violence across the country, particularly deadly attacks that have shut down large parts of Afghan cities, comes as the government is in disarray. - The New York Times ( Jan. 27, 2018)
    There was more violence this week in Kabul, Afghanistan. An ambulance loaded with explosives detonated in a busy street, killing at least 95 and injuring about 150 more. Disarray is really too polite a word for the chaos that reigns in a war-torn country like Afghanistan after an incident like this. Disarray is a word that can appropriately be applied to a messy desk or a room with clothes all over the floor.
  2. provocative
    serving or tending to excite or stimulate
    The next most rewarded artist was Kendrick Lamar, the provocative and critically admired rapper from Compton, Calif., whose five wins included a sweep of the rap categories. - The New York Times ( January 29, 2018)
    The Grammy Awards were held this week, with Bruno Mars sweeping the top honors and, in fact, winning every award he was nominated for. Kendrick Lamar was also a big winner, winning five Grammys. Jay Z, who was nominated for eight awards, was shut out this year. However, Jay-Z has won a total of 21 Grammys over the course of his career, so he'll probably be fine.
  3. durability
    permanence by virtue of the power to resist stress or force
    Federer cruised in Melbourne, not surrendering a single set until Cilic, and his semifinal opponent, South Korea’s Hyeon Chung, retired from injury in the second set—but there’s always lucky breaks and injuries here and there. Durability needs to count for something. - The Wall Street Journal ( Jan. 29, 2018)
    Roger Federer won the Australian Open Tennis championship this week, his sixth career victory in the tournament. Federer is 36 years of age, old by professional tennis standards. Overall, that makes 20 Grand Slam titles for Federer, whose late-career comeback cements his status as the best male tennis player of all-time.
  4. baffling
    hard to comprehend, solve, or believe
    IKEA’s furniture has delighted bargain seekers for decades and made millions of dorm rooms and first apartments habitable, despite maddening the many customers who found the assembly instructions baffling. - The Wall Street Journal ( Jan. 29, 2018)
    The founder of IKEA died this week at the age of 91. IKEA is the unlikeliest of furniture phenomena, successful despite the fact that their products can be frustrating and inconvenient. IKEA thrived on an image of simplicity and ease, with most of its products being packaged flat with an enclosed allen wrench, the only tool needed for assembly.
  5. audacious
    disposed to venture or take risks
    JAB Holding Co.'s audacious effort to build a food-and-beverage empire, which already includes Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and Caribou Coffee, has taken a surprise turn into soft drinks. - The Seattle Times ( Jan. 29, 2018)
    The parent company of Keurig, the coffee pod people, have purchased the Dr. Pepper Snapple company for $18.7 billion dollars. The deal expands the company's reach and immediately makes them a force in the very competitive soft drink industry. JAB Holding, Keurig's parent company, also owns Panera Bread and Au Bon Pain eateries.
  6. oversight
    an unintentional omission from failure to notice something
    An interactive map posted on the internet that shows the whereabouts of people who use fitness devices such as Fitbit also reveals highly sensitive information about the location and activities of soldiers at U.S. military bases, in what appears to be a major security oversight. - The Boston Globe ( Jan. 29, 2018)
    U.S. soldiers may have inadvertently leaked sensitive information by using a fitness app that tracked their movements when they went for a run. Although the app does not identify people by name, it is relatively simple to use other social media information along with the tracking software to figure out who was who and where they were. Needless to say, this is potentially a very dangerous situation. This breach in security was discovered by 20-year old Australian student Nathan Ruser.
  7. tumultuous
    characterized by unrest or disorder or insubordination
    But he took on the role during one of the most tumultuous and politically fraught periods in F.B.I. history. - The New York Times ( Jan. 29,2018)
    The Deputy Director of the F.B.I., Andrew McCabe , has resigned. His departure follows months of pressure from The Trump Administration, who questioned his handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. There was also personal scrutiny of his wife's political ties and the general upheaval in the F.B.I. that led to Director James Comey's firing last year. Tumultuous is a word that evokes active disorder, not passive messiness. Tumultuous things are hard to control.
  8. polarize
    become divided in a conflict or contrasting situation
    The polarizing mascot is coming off the team's jersey sleeves and caps starting in the 2019 season, a move that will end Chief Wahoo's presence on the field but may not completely silence those who deem it racist. - USA Today ( Jan. 29, 2018)
    The controversial mascot of the Cleveland Indians baseball team, Chief Wahoo, will be retired in 2019. Although the caricature of a grinning Native American will still be available on some merchandise, it will no longer be seen on uniforms or caps officially endorsed by the team. Chief Wahoo has long been labeled as racist imagery by some, and he now joins a long list of controversial retired mascots, including the Atlanta Braves' Chief Noc-A-Homa and the St. John's Redmen.
  9. detrimental
    causing harm or injury
    “We need to create awareness around the issue of one-time use plastic straws and its detrimental effects on our landfills, waterways, and oceans,” - USA Today ( Jan. 29, 2018)
    A strange law has been passed in California which fines restaurants up to $1000 if they give a person a drinking straw without being asked to provide one. The law is designed to point out the wastefulness of these plastic straws and the potential environmental hazard they pose. No one, not even the supporters of the bill, expect the fines to really be enforced, but they are symbolic and are meant to support the cause embodied by this law.
  10. conscript
    someone who is drafted into military service
    The exercise cutbacks this year are likely to further diminish the ability of the North Korean military to synchronize large-scale maneuvers involving multiple armor, artillery and aviation units, while slowing the training of new conscripts. - The Wall Street Journal ( Jan. 29, 2018)
    The United States imposed sanctions on North Korea after that country's nuclear posturing last year. Now the consequences of those sanctions have started to become clear. There were fewer military exercises in North Korea recently, likely because of fuel shortages caused by the sanctions.
  11. satiety
    being satisfactorily full and unable to take on more
    "However, pizza packs a much larger protein punch, which will keep you full and boost satiety throughout the morning." - The Chicago Tribune ( Jan. 29, 2018)
    Some interesting food advice was published this week, designed to point out the low nutritional content of many cold cereals. The article observed that if given the choice, it is better to eat leftover pizza for breakfast than many cold cereals, because at least the pizza contains some protein to keep you satisfied until lunch, whereas the cereal often doesn't contain much of value at all. At last, the vindication of my diet plan! Leftover pizza for breakfast!
  12. revamp
    patch up or renovate; repair or restore
    Now, the app, which still allows users to be anonymous, is trying to revamp its image. - The San Francisco Chronicle ( Jan. 29, 2018)
    A few years ago, an app was founded that was intended to be an anonymous forum for school students to exchange positive messages and compliments. It soon became an arena for cyber -bullying, and the program was removed from the Apple Store. Now, a revamped version of the app is back, with sophisticated mechanisms to recognize and stop on-line bullying. There will also be methods to help kids who use the app to discuss the serious problems they may be facing.
  13. perigee
    the nearest point in an orbit around the Earth
    The full eclipse also occurs "during perigee — the moon's closest approach to Earth in a single orbit... - The Los Angeles Times ( Jan. 29, 2018)
    Four celestial events occurred at one time on Wednesday. There was a full lunar eclipse, meaning the moon passed through Earth's shadow during this eclipse, causing it to take on a reddish tint. This is called a “blood moon.” The eclipse occurred when the moon was at the closest point to Earth, making it appear larger than usual — a so-called “supermoon. “ All of these phenomena happened on a “blue moon,” when a second full moon occurs in a calendar month.
  14. venture
    a commercial undertaking that risks a loss
    The three companies announced Tuesday they are teaming up to explore "ways to address healthcare for their U.S. employees, with the aim of improving employee satisfaction and reducing costs," according to a news release about the venture. - USA Today ( Jan. 29, 2018)
    Amazon, JP Morgan Chase, and Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway have announced that they will cooperate in a joint venture to address health care costs and the way health care services are delivered. There are few details on this collaboration as of yet, but health care costs and access are major problems that government has tried solve for years, and now private businesses will try to provide a better solution.
  15. malfeasance
    wrongful conduct by a public official
    Ryan suggested to reporters Tuesday that "there may have been malfeasance at the FBI by certain individuals," citing that as one of several reasons that Republicans want "all of this information" contained in the memo "to come out." - The Orlando Sentinel ( Jan. 30, 2018)
    A controversial memo detailing some potential abuse of power by certain FBI agents is set to be released by House Republicans. Since it concerns some of the same people, the memo is seen by some as a way to distract from the Russia investigation. Those who support the memo's release claim abuses must be exposed to decrease illegal activity in the future.
  16. plethora
    extreme excess
    Apple set the price at $1,000—despite a plethora of lower-priced rivals—in hopes of boosting revenue. - The Wall Street Journal ( Jan. 30, 2018)
    Apple has reduced the production order for the iPhone X, because demand for the new phone isn't what they hoped it would be. The iPhone X has a hefty price tag of $1000 and a redesign that eliminates the "home" button. Without a "home" button, many saw the changes for users to adapt as too radical.
  17. thwart
    hinder or prevent, as an effort, plan, or desire
    Monday's response from the telecom industry to a leaked memo that revealed the U.S. administration was considering building its own 5G network to bring super-fast Internet to consumers and businesses — a government effort designed to thwart what the Administration and some lawmakers say is potential Chinese espionage — was fast and pointed. - USA Today ( Jan. 29, 2018)
    A memo was leaked this week detailing a government plan to build a 5G network and the telecommunications industry's response to such a plan. The telecommunications industry was firmly against any such government plan, preferring to let competition among businesses result in a better, more efficient system for all. The memo indicates that the government wanted to take the lead on this issue because they were worried about spying by China.
  18. swath
    a path or strip
    In a separate action on Tuesday, the commission voted to improve a different aspect of the emergency alert system, allowing public safety officials to send more geographically precise alerts to avoid spreading panic across broad swaths of the public. - The New York Times ( Jan. 30, 2018)
    A few weeks ago, there was a false alarm in Hawaii that suggested that the islands were under missile attack and that "This is not a Drill!" Now more details of the mistake are coming to light. It was originally reported that someone on duty merely hit the wrong button and triggered the warning. It now seems that the person responsible was genuinely under the impression that there was an attack underway, because they only heard half of a test message used for practice drills.
  19. curb
    the act of restraining power or action or limiting excess
    Some companies have offered parental controls as a way of curbing unauthorized preteen use of their platforms. - The Boston Globe ( Jan. 30, 2018)
    Parents' groups and others called on Facebook this week to discontinue its Messenger Kids app. The app is designed for pre-teens without a social media presence. Even though this app lets the parents monitor the child's activity, critics say the target audience for the app, kids 12 and under, are too young to get hooked on social media.
  20. infrastructure
    the basic features of a system or organization
    As we rebuild our industries, it is also time to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. - State of the Union Address Transcript ( Jan 30, 2018)
    President Trump delivered his first State of the Union Address on January 30, 2018. President Trump broadly outlined his agenda for the coming year on matters both foreign and domestic. He also mentioned the ongoing immigration controversy and urged bipartisan cooperation on that issue and others.

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