This Week In Culture: October 19–25, 2019

Is the old-fashioned menswear suit dead? Did Mitt Romney have the most boring secret Twitter of all time? Does not sleeping make us eat badly? Here's a roundup of current events words that are just as interesting as those questions, all of which are pulled from this week's entertainment, sports, and science stories.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. arcane
    requiring secret or mysterious knowledge
    But it’s become the sartorial equivalent of a fax machine; a faintly arcane piece of equipment reserved for specific uses.
    Guardian (Oct 20, 2019)
    When Mark Zuckerberg appeared before Congress wearing a suit and tie, it prompted a whole lot of discussion about how that particular style of clothing is viewed differently these days. Now that billionaires wear hoodies and most workplaces have relaxed their dress codes, suits can often signify a person who is not powerful, rather than someone who is — such as someone appearing in court or testifying before Congress.
  2. backwater
    a place or condition in which no progress is occurring
    Meanwhile, Mos Eisley is a high-tech town, too populated to be just any old backwater.
    Entertainment Weekly (Oct 23, 2019)
    With the next and final film in the Star Wars series set for release in December, keyboards are clacking all over the Internet with detailed analysis of the trailer and speculation about how it will end. Some fans argue that Tatooine was the most interesting location in all the movies and that the first film — Star Wars, later renamed A New Hope — is still the best. A backwater is a pond remaining after high water recedes: separated from the action, boring.
  3. elegiac
    expressing sorrow often for something past
    China’s film bureau had previously approved Tarantino’s elegiac midcentury nostalgia trip for an Oct. 25 release but reversed its decision “indefinitely.”
    Slate (Oct 19, 2019)
    Quentin Tarantino must edit his recent Once Upon A Time In Hollywood in order for it to be released in China. If he removes a scene with Bruce Lee, which the legendary Kung Fu star's daughter has objected to, the government will allow the film to be shown there. Elegos meant "song of lament" in ancient Greek, so an elegy is a literal or figurative mourning of something or someone gone.
  4. opportunistic
    taking advantage of any circumstance of possible benefit
    In a world overrun by sequels and remakes and reboots, “Terminator: Dark Fate” is an example of that opportunistic but, in its way, stubbornly optimistic form: the do-over.
    Variety (Oct 22, 2019)
    Another much-awaited sequel drops soon, Terminator: Dark Fate, and this positive review says it should be considered the third in the series after several lackluster offerings. We just have one burning question: since this is the last installment with Arnold Schwarzenegger in it, will he say, "I won't be back"? You probably know what an opportunity is, and to be opportunistic means that you try to create opportunities at every opportunity.
  5. stymie
    hinder or prevent the progress or accomplishment of
    Their original plan to put on a race in Miami was stymied earlier this year by objections over its impact on business, traffic and residents at the proposed bayfront site in downtown.
    Guardian (Oct 19, 2019)
    Formula One was all set to launch its first race in Miami in 2021, but public outcry at the potential noise and other adverse effects caused local officials to question the wisdom of such a move. It's unclear whether the deal will survive a vote by the county commissioners. Stymie originated as a golf term; when another player's ball sits on the green between yours and the pin, you're stymied, or blocked.
  6. touchstone
    a basis for comparison
    I suspect this World Series, regardless of result, will be our touchstone emotional moment: “Washington, meet baseball.”
    Washington Post (Oct 21, 2019)
    After 86 years, the World Series returned to Washington D.C. as the Nationals face the Astros. A touchstone is a small, dark rock that gold or other precious metals are rubbed against to determine their purity. That meaning still holds here; to call something a touchstone in this sense means that it sets a standard. You refer to a touchstone to measure the value of everything similar that comes after the original event.
  7. unseemly
    not in keeping with accepted standards of what is proper
    Organizers allowed one of the forfeiters to stay in the tournament with a warning, but the Iranian chess federation is only hurting its own cause with such unseemly boycotts.
    Washington Times (Oct 22, 2019)
    Senator and former Presidential nominee Mitt Romney was discovered to have a secret Twitter account. Using the name Pierre Delecto, which sounds like a lesser member of the French X-Men, Romney only wrote ten tweets and they were all boring. As soon as he was found out, he made the account private. Lamest secret identity ever?
  8. vestige
    an indication that something has been present
    Gone are the vestiges of a more carefree youth
    BBC (Oct 22, 2019)
    The next season of The Crown comes out soon, with Olivia Colman now playing the title role. The series begins in 1977, 25 years after Queen Elizabeth II's coronation, and deals among other subjects with the unrest in British society at that time: a weak economy, striking miners, and IRA bombings. In Latin, vestigium means a footprint, something left behind.
  9. vignette
    a brief literary description
    "I read a book and my assistant director did and that whole team, so that we made those vignettes from the book and just did everything as historically accurately as possible."
    Slate (Oct 19, 2019)
    The premiere of Watchmen, a new HBO series based on the influential comics from the 1980s, opens with a vivid depiction of the Tulsa race massacre, the destruction of a prosperous black neighborhood by white supremacists in 1921. This infamous historical event led to hundreds of deaths and destroyed 35 square blocks of Greenwood, at the time the richest black neighborhood in the U. S. In this interview, director Nicole Kassell talks about how they staged these scenes.
  10. whet
    make keen or more acute
    Kahnt wonders whether such changes exist, and if so, how they will whet the appetites of other researchers studying smell processing.
    Science (Oct 19, 2019)
    Not sleeping enough makes us crave high-calorie food, sweets in particular, and a recent study shed some light on why that is. Under-rested brains react differently to food smells, and appear to have less connection between the "That smells delicious!" cortex and the "You've had enough!" lobe. Whet is of German origin, and means to sharpen. If you've seen a chef honing her knife to a razor edge, she's using a whetstone to do it.
Created on October 23, 2019 (updated October 24, 2019)

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