This Week In Culture: August 31–September 6, 2019

We've scoured this week's arts, technology, and sports news and rounded up our favorite vocab words from the stories that everyone's buzzing about.

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definitions & notes only words
  1. apprise
    inform somebody of something
    "We will keep you apprised of our progress along the way."
    Scientific American (Aug 27, 2019)
    Exciting progress has been made in treating blindness by stimulating the brain in a very specific way. This (still theoretical, but promising) approach bypasses the eyes altogether, using genes to change neurons into photoreceptors and then a tiny camera mounted on glasses connected to implants in the visual cortex. There are many steps yet to complete, but this visionary idea could mean that an incredible breakthrough is not far off.
  2. bumptious
    offensively self-assertive
    "He plucks a child from the bumptious autograph scrum at the U.S."
    Washington Post (Aug 31, 2019)
    Tennis star Novak Djokovic had to drop out of the U.S. Open quarterfinals this week due to injury. The author argues that despite his many accomplishments and #1 ranking in the world, he remains underrated by fans. Bumptious means overbearing and rude; pairing it with scrum, a rugby term meaning a tight formation of players pushing forward, paints a vivid picture with just two words.
  3. cogent
    powerfully persuasive
    "In Something Deeply Hidden, Carroll cogently explains the many-worlds theory and its post-Everett evolution, and why our world nevertheless looks the way it does."
    Nature (Sep 2, 2019)
    The many-worlds theory is an attempt to explain the bizarre and extremely complex world of quantum physics. Simply put, the idea is that every time any tiny thing in our universe changes, another universe splits off where the opposite event occurred. While it's impossible to prove — and it can make your head hurt trying to understand it — it is logical and elegant. There might be another world where you already know this word!
  4. convivial
    occupied with or fond of the pleasures of good company
    "The mood was convivial and all in good fun."
    Golf Digest (Sep 2, 2019)
    Nathaniel Crosby, son of the legendary singer Bing, was just picked as the leader of the American team in the Walker Cup, an amateur golf tournament held every two years between the U.S. and Great Britain and Ireland. Convivial originates in the Latin word for feast, and today means a festive atmosphere: a fancy way of saying "We're partying."
  5. frieze
    an ornament consisting of a horizontal sculptured band
    "Last week – in a move that will almost certainly embarrass Britain – France responded with unexpected enthusiasm to the suggestion that it, too, return part of the frieze to Greece."
    The Guardian (Aug 31, 2019)
    The Prime Minister of Greece, with an eye toward his country's bicentennial independence celebrations in 2021, has offered Britain a chance to exhibit antiquities that have never been seen outside of Greece before in exchange for the return of the Parthenon frieze sculptures which have been at the British Museum since 1816. France has agreed to consider returning its famous section of the frieze.
  6. frisson
    an almost pleasurable sensation of fright
    "'One Ton Prop' combines the satisfactions of geometric abstraction with the frisson that derives from hoping that a slab of lead does not topple over onto your foot."
    New York Times (Aug 28, 2019)
    Richard Serra, the sculptor famous for his huge steel works, has a number of shows in the next couple of months featuring his new work made of massive forged steel blocks and cylinders, weighing 40-50 tons each. Some of his earlier pieces involved balancing massive slabs of metal, which could cause a shiver of fear that they might fall. If you've shuddered at a scene in a horror movie, that was a frisson.
  7. idiosyncratic
    peculiar to the individual
    "Even in longhand, he wrote in his signature style, an idiosyncratic precursor of textspeak that he’d perfected back in the eighties: “Eye” for “I,” “U” for “you,” “R” for “are.”"
    The New Yorker (Sep 2, 2019)
    The author of this piece collaborated with Prince on his biography, which comes out next month. Using letters in place of words is commonplace now, but Prince popularized it long before texting existed. Though we're not all geniuses who revolutionize popular music, we do all have traits or habits that make us unique: idiosyncracies.
  8. melancholy
    a constitutional tendency to be gloomy and depressed
    "The race doesn’t go entirely as you might expect, and in a melancholy twist, earlier this year, Ford terminated its factory Le Mans GT program..."
    Variety (Aug 30, 2019)
    The movie Ford v Ferrari premiered in August at the Telluride Film Festival. It tells the story of two drivers — Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles, played by Matt Damon and Christian Bale — who convinced the Ford company to let them develop and drive a car that could beat Ferrari at Le Mans. Melancholy is a medieval word, referring to one of the "humors" which were though to regulate our moods.
  9. practitioner
    someone who carries out a learned profession
    "His family practitioner first prescribed him injections to treat a vitamin B12 deficiency and told him to change his diet..."
    USA Today (Sep 3, 2019)
    A teenage British boy's diet of only junk food caused him to go blind. After years of eating little more than fries and chips, he developed an illness called nutritional optic neuropathy, where vitamin and mineral deficiencies caused his eyes to stop working properly. Doctors and lawyers refer to what they do as a "practice", even if they're experts with decades of experience.
  10. wry
    humorously sarcastic or mocking
    "One of the great door-openers of TV’s last golden — and very dependent on door-opening — age, she often entered a scene with some tale of wry woe."
    Los Angeles Times (Aug 31, 2019)
    Actress Valerie Harper died this week. Best known for playing Rhoda Morgenstern, first on the Mary Tyler Moore Show and then its spin-off Rhoda, she won four Emmys and two Golden Globes over the course of her career. Her sense of humor — smart, sarcastic, and never mean — made Rhoda hugely influential in the history of television. Wry originally meant crooked or bent.
Created on September 3, 2019 (updated September 11, 2019)

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