This Week in Words: November 3 - 9, 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.

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. bastion
    a stronghold for shelter during a battle
    Also on the ballot were 36 gubernatorial races and thousands of state legislative seats— bastions of power that will be crucial to the process of redrawing political lines after the 2020 census.
    – The Wall Street Journal (Nov 7, 2018)
    The biggest story of the week was Election Day. Elections in the middle of a president’s term don’t usually attract many voters, but this year both major parties were fired up and the turnout was huge. The Democrats took control of the House of Representatives, while the Republicans increased their majority in the Senate.
  2. breach
    an opening, especially a gap in a dike or fortification
    If the Europeans manage to create “a small breach in the hold that the U.S. has on international financial transactions, that could be replicated,” he said.
    – The New York Times (Nov 5, 2018)
    The United States pulled out of a nuclear deal with Iran and imposed sanctions on the oil-rich country, making it more difficult for other countries to continue economic ties with Iran. England and France, countries which also signed the deal, and would like to find a way to honor it without angering the Trump administration. Breach is used metaphorically in the quoted sentence to mean any gap or loophole which would enable these countries to work around the sanctions.
  3. craven
    lacking even the rudiments of courage; abjectly fearful
    Rihanna’s remarks came a day after Axl Rose, who has been a vocal critic of the Trump administration, accused his campaign of “using loopholes in the various venues’ blanket performance licenses, which were not intended for such craven political purposes, without the songwriters’ consent.”
    – NBC News (Nov 5, 2018)
    Upbeat, popular music is often played at political rallies to pump up the crowd. But which songs are played has become a sensitive issue. This week Rihanna joined Aerosmith and Bruce Springsteen in insisting that her music not be played at Donald Trump’s rallies. Political campaigns are supposed to get permission to play the songs at their events, but they rarely do.
  4. foment
    try to stir up
    Other Islamic State affiliates in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Libya, Yemen and western Africa continue to mobilize fighters and execute attacks against local governments and group rivals, fomenting and leveraging instability in these already beleaguered areas.
    – The New York Times (Nov 6, 2018)
    U.S. forces are having difficulty wiping out the last stronghold of the terrorist organization known as the Islamic State in Syria. Recently the Islamic State adopted more guerilla-like tactics involving small forces scattered about and not in one central location. This development, coupled with recent bad sandstorms, has slowed the American forces’ progress.
  5. incentive
    a positive motivational influence
    Part of the negotiations involve nailing down the investment targets Amazon would have to meet to qualify for incentives, one of the people said.
    – The Wall Street Journal (Nov 4, 2018)
    Amazon’s search for a second headquarters appears to be over. The company announced it will have two new facilities — one located in a Virginia suburb close to Washington, D.C. and one in the Long Island City area of New York City.
  6. intuitive
    obtained through instinctive knowledge
    While most video games offer similar kinds of distraction, Tetris offers the perfect balance of challenge and accessibility; it’s difficult enough to keep players engaged, but simple and intuitive enough to allow players to stay relaxed and enjoy the experience.
    – Good News Network (Nov 6, 2018)
    Great news! A new study suggests that when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed you should play video games! One game in particular, Tetris, was found to have a calming effect on study participants. The researchers behind the study speculate that Tetris is more calming than other video games because it has clearly defined goals and a basic reward system.
  7. perimeter
    the boundary line or area immediately inside the boundary
    The patrolman stepped back and secured the perimeter until backup arrived before returning to retrieve Mr. Helus out of the line of gunfire.
    – The Wall Street Journal (Nov 8, 2018)
    There was a shooting Wednesday night at a bar and dance club in Thousand Oaks, California. Twelve people, including a staff sergeant who was one of the first responders, were killed. 22 people were taken to area hospitals with injuries. The shooter, an ex-marine who used a legally-purchase firearm, is confirmed dead. There is no word yet on a possible motive.
  8. proprietor
    someone who owns a business
    The people of Seal Beach are more than happy to help out their favorite donut shop proprietors.
    – Good News Network (Nov 4, 2018)
    The feel-good story of the week comes from California. A man and his wife have owned a donut shop for 28 years in the Seal Beach community. Each day, they open early and stay open until all of their donuts are sold. Unfortunately, the wife is ill, but the community has rallied around the couple. People have started buying up all the donuts early in the day so the man can close the shop and spend more time with his wife.
  9. reprisal
    a retaliatory action against an enemy in wartime
    China and other trading partners hit with the tariffs, including the European Union, have sought to maximize the political impact of their reprisals.
    – The New York Times (Nov 5, 2018)
    The effects of the tariff war between the United States and China are starting to be felt by both sides. China, once a huge importer of soybeans, has stopped importing American soybeans altogether. Farmers are left to stockpile most of their crop. Critics say that this will hurt American farmers before it hurts the Chinese economy, but supporters of the tariffs say they are willing to sacrifice now in order to negotiate a fairer trade policy in the future.
  10. seismic
    subject to or caused by an earthquake or earth vibration
    The president didn't directly address the outcome that represents a seismic shift in national politics: the Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives.
    – USA Today (Nov 7, 2018)
    President Trump held a press conference on Wednesday to talk about the election results. During the question period things got very heated, with the President dismissing one question as “racist” and engaging in a war of words with Jim Acosta, a veteran reporter from CNN. Later in the day, the White House revoked Acosta's press credentials. Critics are alarmed at how the president treats members of the press, while his defenders claim he is fighting back against unfair media coverage.
  11. specter
    a ghostly appearing figure
    The president has regularly attacked the Justice Department and Mr. Sessions, blaming the attorney general for the specter of the special counsel investigation into ties between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia.
    – The New York Times (Nov 7, 2018)
    Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned on Wednesday at the request of the President. Matthew Whitaker will serve as the acting Attorney General until a permanent replacement can be found and confirmed by Congress. Sessions was one of candidate Donald Trump’s first supporters, but their relationship soured when Sessions recused himself from presiding over Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Whittaker, a former critic of the Mueller investigation, now has direct oversight of the probe.
  12. thicket
    a dense growth of bushes
    The Supreme Court declined to take up a challenge to a set of robust net neutrality rules put in place by the FCC in 2015, but this is by no means the end of the legal thicket over rules of the road for the internet.
    – Variety (Nov 5, 2018)
    The issue of net neutrality reached the highest court in the land this week, but Supreme Court justices decided not to review the case. The case was brought by the FCC and sought to nullify lower court rulings that upheld net neutrality. The FCC has approved rules which make internet access into a tiered system where the consumer pays more for access to certain websites. Thicket is used here metaphorically, to describe the tangle of legal cases that this issue has inspired.

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