This Week in Words: September 21–27, 2019

From a teen activist who excoriated world leaders to an ovine solution to renewable energy, here's a collection of current events and the words that describe them. Take a look back at the week that was, vocabulary style.

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definitions & notes only words
  1. austere
    of a stern or strict bearing or demeanor
    Now there was just desert in every direction, stunning in its vastness and austere beauty.
    — The Guardian (Sep 24, 2019)
    Alien enthusiasts took to Facebook to encourage people to “storm” Area 51, a secretive US military base in the Nevada desert. They wanted to find out if the government was hiding extraterrestrial beings. Area 51 is in the middle of an austere, as in “severely simple” desert. There is nothing else around. The Area 51 event happened, but instead of storming, young people in alien costumes mostly just made videos to post online.
  2. brinkmanship
    act of pushing a dangerous situation to the edge of disaster
    What seems clear is that this remains a game of brinkmanship, with all sides still hoping to be able to pull back from a direct military confrontation.
    — BBC News (Sep 21, 2019)
    Two oil facilities in Saudi Arabia were recently attacked by drones. Saudi Arabia and the United States blame Iran, but Iran denies it and Yemen Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility. After the US announced that it’s sending troops to Saudi Arabia, Iran warned it would “destroy aggressors.” The countries involved are playing a game of brinkmanship, which means they’re all pushing each other to the brink, or edge, of war.
  3. buffet
    piece of furniture that stands at the side of a dining room
    Mr. Trump, buffeted by questions about his conduct on a day of international diplomacy at the United Nations, denied accusations that he had withheld $391 million in security aid from Ukraine in an attempt to press President Volodymyr Zelensky to do his bidding.
    — The Washington Times (Sep 22, 2019)
    As the 2020 presidential campaigns heat up, President Trump is being questioned about his attempt to get the Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on Joe Biden’s family. It has come to light that Trump ordered the US to stop providing aid to the Ukraine in the months leading up to his conversation with President Zelensky. In this case, buffet means to hit, so Trump was bombarded with questions, not enjoying an all-you-can-eat buffet.
  4. cadence
    the accent in a metrical foot of verse
    But I often found myself barking with laughter, in thrall to the unhinged cadences of the app.
    — The New Yorker (Sep 23, 2019)
    The short-video platform TikTok is having its moment. The latest social media app isn’t pretending to be good for you; it’s addictive interactive candy run by a Chinese company that specializes in artificial intelligence. On TikTok, people watch a 6-second video, then they can easily post their own video to the same soundtrack. Videos play one after the other, based on algorithms of what the user wants to see. The cadences, or rhythms, of the songs on TikTok are super catchy.
  5. devolve
    pass on or delegate to another
    By late afternoon, the march devolved into confrontations between police and protesters near a shuttered subway station.
    — The Washington Post (Sep 21, 2019)
    Unrest continues in Hong Kong as protestors urge the government to give in to their demands. The protestors have created “Lennon Walls,” which are public walls covered in pro-democracy murals. Beijing supporters have taken many of these murals down, but the protesters say they will just put them back up. The latest protest devolved, or got worse, as the demonstration turned into a confrontation between protesters and police, again.
  6. excoriate
    express strong disapproval of
    Greta Thunberg has excoriated world leaders for their “betrayal” of young people through their inertia over the climate crisis at a United Nations summit that failed to deliver ambitious new commitments to address dangerous global heating.
    — The Guardian (Sep 23, 2019)
    After millions of school children around the world participated in a climate strike to urge world leaders to make changes to curb global warming, a United Nations summit failed to deliver. Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish girl, has led the call for activism. Before the United Nations assembly, Thunberg really let the world leaders have it. In her strongest speech to date, she excoriated, or condemned, the leaders for their lack of action to cut planet-warming gasses.
  7. littoral
    of or relating to a coastal or shore region
    Hassan Rouhani, before traveling to attend the U.N. meetings, said Monday that Iran will invite “all littoral states of the Persian Gulf” to join its coalition “to guarantee the region’s security.”
    — The Washington Times (Sep 23, 2019)">
    Tensions between the US and Iran are ramping up after an attack in Saudi Arabia. The US, Britain, France, Germany, and Saudi Arabia blame Iran for the attack, which Iran denies. The US has already pulled out of a nuclear deal with Iran, and has added sanctions that hurt the Iranian economy. The US is sending troops to Saudi Arabia, and in response, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has said he’ll invite all the littoral states, all the states on the coast, to join his coalition.
  8. ovine
    of or pertaining to sheep
    These are the ovine foot soldiers in one of the most ambitious renewable energy revolutions in the United States.
    — Scientific American (Sep 21, 2019)
    Hawaii became the first US state to mandate a total transition to renewable energy. As the world continues to warm and policy makers look for solutions, eyes are on Hawaii to see how the transition from conventional energy to mostly solar and wind power goes. Sheep are helping with solar energy projects by eating the grass around the solar panels. You could describe anything sheep-like as ovine, but the ovine foot soldiers in this story are actual sheep.
  9. regalia
    paraphernalia indicative of royalty or other high office
    Powwows are important social events for many tribes, featuring traditional dance, songs, food, regalia and other customs, and Sunday’s was held at the tribe’s headquarters in the foothills of the Wichita Mountains.
    — The Washington Times (Sep 22, 2019)
    Democratic presidential candidate hopeful Bernie Sanders campaigned at the Comanche Nation Powwow in Oklahoma on Sunday. The Comanche Nation is a Plains Indian tribe with about 17,000 members, and its headquarters are in Oklahoma. It’s not the largest Native American Nation, but it’s a well-known one. Powwows are a big deal. The regalia at a powwow might include feathered headdresses and brightly colored, ornately decorated clothes and jewelry.
  10. veracity
    unwillingness to tell lies
    News events keep the trending list of top 50 rumours current with a question over the veracity of images emerging as a result of Hurricane Dorian popping up.
    — BBC News (Sep 21, 2019)
    The website Snopes has been debunking junk news for 25 years. It started as a place to find out which urban legends were true, but now it gets to the bottom of fake news and internet rumors of all kinds. For example, Snopes proved that a photo that was supposed to be of the Hurricane Dorian-damaged Abaco Islands in the Bahamas in 2019 was actually a photo from a storm-ravaged Florida coast from 2018. Snopes is all about veracity, or truth.
Created on September 23, 2019 (updated September 26, 2019)

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