This Week in Words: October 13 – 20, 2018

News flash! We’ve rounded up the top words heard, read, debated and discussed in the news this week. Take a look back at the week that was, vocabulary style.

What makes news is often a deviation from what is normal, and the greater the deviation, the more newsworthy the event. This week's words characterize something that's not quite right and the feelings and reactions that accompany such situations.

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. angst
    an acute but unspecific feeling of anxiety
    European shares edge up as earnings flurry quells Fed angst. - Reuters (Oct. 18, 2018)
    Angst is a near if not exact synonym of anxiety and it characterizes a feeling of dread that something terrible is happening or is going to happen, probably without your being able to do something about it. Newspapers like to use the word in headlines because it's only five letters long.
  2. commotion
    a disorderly outburst or tumult
    However, the rapper’s two-hour late arrival started to cause commotion in the crowd around 8 p.m., as upset fans of his began to question where he was both audibly at the venue and on social media via Twitter. - The East Carolinian (Oct. 17, 2018)
    The ingredients of a commotion are noise, suddenness, and disturbance of the normal state of affairs. A normal response to commotion is to find out the cause and stop it if possible. If the commotion is loud enough, as it apparently was at this concert, the media will probably hear about it.
  3. crisis
    a crucial stage or turning point in the course of something
    A diplomatic crisis engulfing the world’s most critical oil supplier was the last thing the Trump administration needed. Washington Times (Oct. 15, 2018)
    Crisis denotes a situation so bad that action must be taken immediately or something terrible (or even worse) will happen. The revelation that the Saudi goverment may have had a hand in killing a reporter is being characterized as a crisis. The word is from Greek for "decision".
  4. pandemonium
    a state of extreme confusion and disorder
    The SEC fines LSU $100K following field pandemonium. - (Oct. 16, 2018)
    Pandemonium doesn't carry quite the punch of its original meaning — in Milton's Paradise Lost, it was the place where the devils ruled — but newspapers still like to use it to talk about situations in which there is no order or authority, as in this example where fans stormed a field after a game, which is strictly against the rules. The SEC in the example is the Southeast Conference of college athletics, not the Securities and Exchange commission.
  5. rout
    an overwhelming defeat
    The broad market rout that extended into Asia came after investors got spooked by rising bond yields and the prospect of U.S. interest rates heading higher. - MarketWatch (Oct. 11, 2018)
    Rout is typically used for massive and often unexpected defeat in battle or sports, but it has a meaning to characterize anything that gets much worse very fast — like the stock market did starting last week.
  6. ruckus
    the act of making a noisy disturbance
    Tara Reid was booted off an LA to NYC flight after ruckus over seating. - Daily Mail, (Oct. 17, 2018)
    A ruckus is a lot like a commotion and the words can be used interchangeably in some contexts. A ruckus is likely to be smaller, shorter, and less important than a commotion and it's a perfect word to characterize a temperamental celebrity disrupting a flight.
  7. turbulent
    characterized by unrest or disorder or insubordination
    Investors may take a day off from what has been a turbulent week on Wall Street. - Fox Business (Oct. 12, 2018)
    This word and the next are related to each other and similar in meaning. The adjective turbulent characterizes something that is disordered and quickly changing, and it's popular right now to talk about market conditions.
  8. turmoil
    a violent disturbance
    U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts stressed the judiciary's commitment to independence amid political turmoil when he spoke Tuesday to a full Northrop auditorium at the University of Minnesota. - Minneapolis Star-Tribune (Oct. 16, 2018)
    The noun turmoil characterizes a situation with frequent and unpredictable changes, most of them undesirable. A crisis that is not resolved usually turns into a situation of turmoil. Turmoil can only end when there is some kind of resolution of the conflict that causes it.
  9. uproar
    a state of commotion and noise and confusion
    A senator snatched a student’s phone while being asked about the Georgia voter registration uproar. - Washington Post (Oct. 14, 2018)
    Uproar is used to talk about both a disturbance, and the noisy reaction to an upsetting event. The "Georgia voter registration uproar" is one paper's way of characterizing the news story that many voters in Georgia are unable to complete their registrations in time to vote in the upcoming elections.
  10. volatility
    being easily excited
    A key measure of the expected volatility of U.S. stocks extended its gains in early trading on Thursday, one day after the gauge registered its biggest rise in seven months. - Financial Times (Oct. 11, 2018)
    The underlying adjective volatile applied originally to substances that change or evaporate very quickly. It still has that meaning, but also characterizes things that are subject to frequent and unpredictable change. Market volatility is when prices change a lot and no one can guess in which direction.

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