This Week In Culture: September 28–October 4, 2019

Here are some of our favorite words and stories from the lighter side of the news spectrum, including a bear absconding with a lobster roll and Jordan Peele tapping into the Zeitgeist.

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definitions & notes only words
  1. abscond
    run away, often taking something or somebody along
    "As seen in photos Frizzell shared to Facebook, a bear allegedly managed to open her car door and abscond with the lobster roll."
    Fox News (Sep 31, 2019)
    A New Hampshire woman left a lobster roll and fries in her car after picking her daughter up from soccer practice. A bear managed to open the car and steal the food, seemingly without damaging the vehicle. Abscond means to run off with something, though in this case it's a safe bet that the bear didn't carry it very far (unless maybe it had a pic-a-nic basket).
  2. bedevil
    be confusing or perplexing to
    "That exacerbated the damage Forever 21 suffered from the overall slowdown in foot traffic at shopping malls that’s bedeviled retailers of all stripes, as buyers increasingly shift to purchasing online."
    L.A. Times (Sep 30, 2019)
    Fast fashion powerhouse Forever 21 filed for bankruptcy in an attempt to adapt to decreased mall traffic as online shopping increases. A third of their stores in the U.S. will close, along with all of its Canadian and most of its European locations as it downsizes and shifts to more e-commerce. A company spokesperson had no comment on whether they would be changing their name to "Forever Chapter 11".
  3. bombastic
    ostentatiously lofty in style
    "The Queen Victoria Memorial, centerpiece of the plaza that fronts Buckingham Palace, is possibly the most bombastic of this city’s monuments to British grandeur."
    New York Times (Sep 30, 2019)
    American artist Kara Walker unveiled her massive sculpture "Fons Americanus" in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern museum in London. Meant to evoke the Queen Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace, the monumental fountain contains imagery that deals directly with colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade. Bombastic means pompous, overstuffed, or full of oneself: an ideal target for mockery or satire.
  4. corpus
    a collection of writings
    "A symbolic machine equipped with a database of puns and jokes generates more of the same, giving us, for example, a corpus of machine-generated knock-knock jokes."
    Scientific American (Oct 1, 2019)
    Teaching machines to be creative, to make art, is proving far more challenging than teaching them to master games like chess. Artificial neural networks allow machines to teach themselves art, writing, music, or anything else by using the rules they're given and a body of work to learn from. "Body of work" is the best definition of corpus, which comes from the Latin for "body".
  5. proboscis
    a long flexible snout as of an elephant
    "You fill it by extending a tube that emerges from under the nib like the proboscis of a mosquito and dipping it in the ink bottle."
    Washington Post (Sep 30, 2019)
    Artisanal fountain pen ink sounds like an idea for a Portlandia sketch, but it turns out to be real. When he gets home from his day job at a pharmaceutical company, a chemist in Maryland makes small-batch inks in his shed. The line is selling well as fountain pens enjoy increased popularity — perhaps because they're about as analog as writing gets.
  6. respective
    considered individually
    "Unsurprisingly, the largest sales increase for individual artists usually came on the day that their respective episode aired on PBS."
    Rolling Stone (Oct 1, 2019)
    Ken Burns's eight-part Country Music documentary on PBS has caused a significant bump in sales and streaming of songs featured in the series. Several artists saw increases of over 1000% on the days that their songs were featured. Respective, from Latin, is a useful word for separating the characteristics of things in a list. If Aretha Franklin's "Respect" had been a country song, this note would have written itself.
  7. salvo
    an outburst resembling the discharge of firearms
    "This was the opening salvo in a treatise about power dressing."
    Washington Post (Sep 30, 2019)
    Demna Gvasalia, designer for Balenciaga, cast a variety of people as models in his most recent Paris runway show. Artists, architects, students, and other "regular" people mixed with models as they showed off the new collection. His point was to explore notions of power in the workplace, and to show ways in which our clothes function as uniforms, suits of armor, and signifiers of our place in society.
  8. stipulate
    make an express demand or provision in an agreement
    "Let’s stipulate, though, that Pitt does eat more than your average actor."
    Seattle Times (Sep 30, 2019)
    Brad Pitt evidently spends a lot of time eating on camera in his many film roles over the years. That's the premise of this hard-hitting piece of investigative journalism, anyway, so you're welcome for that. To stipulate something means that you want it agreed to before you begin a negotiation: a point that need not be argued. Stipulate as an adjective is a botanical term that refers to a characteristic shared by many types of leaves.
  9. strafe
    attack from above with machine guns or cannon fire
    "Let’s just strafe a few of them before digging into ARM."
    The Verge (Oct 1, 2019)
    Microsoft is reportedly planning to release a Surface tablet using the same ARM processor that powers the iPad Pro. This change should increase speed and battery life and allow for a thinner profile, but how these features are implemented remains to be seen. Like salvo, strafe is a military word that has migrated into regular speech. In this case, rather than an aerial attack, it means a quick survey of important points.
  10. Zeitgeist
    the spirit of the time
    "'He is leading a new generation of filmmakers that have found a way to tap into the cultural zeitgeist with groundbreaking content that resonates with audiences of all backgrounds.'”
    Variety (Oct 1, 2019)
    Jordan Peele signed a nine-figure deal with Universal Pictures, which will release all of his movies for the next five years. Two pictures, for which he will serve as writer, producer, and director, are already in the works. Zeitgeist is German, a language that delights in making new words by mashing together existing ones, often with poetic (and long) results.
Created on October 1, 2019 (updated October 15, 2019)

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