This Week In Words: October 19–25, 2019

Unlike the friction, blazing fire, and super cannons that populate this lexicon based the week's top news stories, learning these words will not wear you down, burn you up, or be a waste of effort. We promise!

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definitions & notes only words
  1. attrition
    a wearing down to weaken or destroy
    “Our battle today is one of attrition and stretching the enemy,” Mr. al-Baghdadi declared in a video message released in April.
    New York Times (Oct 21, 2019)
    Since U.S. troops have almost completely withdrawn from Syria, one of the results is that thousands of Islamic State fighters have escaped from Kurdish jails. Critics of the move have said that this unexpected exit of American forces has effectively handed ISIS a huge victory, which will allow it to rebuild and launch more attacks. From the Latin of the same spelling, attrition originally meant rubbing together.
  2. bellicose
    having or showing a ready disposition to fight
    No 10 continued to strike a bellicose tone on Tuesday night despite Johnson’s refusal to repeat his election threat after the government’s defeat.
    Guardian (Oct 22, 2019)
    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered a serious setback when Parliament voted to force him to ask the E.U. for a three-month extension on Brexit. It looks like the extension will be granted, and that may result in a new British election sometime soon. Bellicose comes from the Latin bellum, war, so if you're bellicose you're spoiling for a fight.
  3. boondoggle
    work of little or no value done merely to look busy
    That’s not possible yet, partly because we are still developing a measurement of soil carbon buildup that is necessary for the confidence of policymakers and voters that this is not some boondoggle.
    Washington Post (Oct 22, 2019)
    Former Vice President Al Gore hosted a conference at his farm that focused on how climate change is affecting the world's food supply. It's not a pretty picture, and Gore says that we need to act fast or large parts of the planet will be unsuitable for farming as we know it in the not-too-distant future. Convincing the public is key to the solution, which is why he's touring with a new presentation that makes the urgent case for action.
  4. devastating
    physically or spiritually destructive
    Political tensions over an intensifying impeachment inquiry reached fever pitch on Wednesday as Republicans “stormed” a closed-door committee hearing on Capitol Hill where another witness to the Ukraine controversy was appearing – a day after devastating testimony from a key diplomat.
    Guardian (Oct 23, 2019)
    Nearly three dozen Republican members of Congress barged into a secure, closed-door committee hearing chanting "Let us in!" This intrusion, and the fact that they brought their phones, violated security rules. Democrats pointed out that there were already Republican members of the committee present at the hearing, and called the event a "stunt" to distract from recent testimony by a senior U.S. diplomat in Ukraine that was damaging to the President.
  5. incarceration
    the state of being imprisoned
    Attorneys for the Abbotts, Flaxman and Klapper each asked for no incarceration but got prison anyway.
    USA Today (Oct 23, 2019)
    The judge presiding over the trials of wealthy parents who are accused of bribing colleges to admit their children ignored the defendants' requests for no jail time. Instead, the judge sent nearly all of those convicted so far to prison. The judge was unsympathetic to the parents' claims of hardship and their claims that they were doing it all for their children, saying that one can have good intentions and still break the law. Incarcerare is the Latin verb for "to lock up".
  6. memorial
    a recognition of meritorious service
    A formal memorial ceremony for members of Congress, the Cummings family and invited guests will be held Thursday morning, followed by a public viewing, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.
    Washington Post (Oct 19, 2019)
    Congressman Elijah Cummings died this week and lay in state in the Capitol. He was 68 years old and had served in Congress as a Representative of the Baltimore area since 1996. It's easy to see the word memory in memorial, and it can mean either an event, like a funeral service, or a monument, like the Lincoln Memorial.
  7. paradigm
    the generally accepted perspective of a discipline
    Such weapons, he said, can “reverse the paradigm” for potential adversaries who are now spending heavily on capabilities to deny U.S. forces access to key areas and battlefields and who may have control of the airspace above certain future battlefields, Mr. McCarthy said.
    Washington Times (Oct 23, 2019)
    The Pentagon is keen to develop a so-called "super cannon" that can hit targets over 1,000 miles away. The weapon, which may be ready to test by 2023, is intended to foil many countries' current military strategies, especially China's in the area around Taiwan and the South China Sea. However, first it has to work and be cost-effective.
  8. revile
    spread negative information about
    But the site is reviled by many Spaniards who see it as a place dedicated to the victory of Franco's nationalist forces over their Republican opponents.
    – BBC (Oct 21, 2019)
    General Francisco Franco was the fascist dictator who ruled Spain from 1939 until he died in 1975. The current Spanish government plans to move his remains from a controversial site to a plot next to his wife's grave in Madrid. His current resting place, called the Valley of the Fallen, is widely hated by Spaniards, who see it as a monument to fascism that was built in part by forced labor. If something is reviled, then a lot of people think it's awful.
  9. shortcoming
    a failing or deficiency
    “I have my own qualms about Facebook and Libra and the shortcomings of Big Tech,” said Representative Patrick McHenry, the top Republican on the panel.
    Reuters (Oct 23, 2019)
    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress about the company's plans to create a digital currency called Libra. Despite calling Libra "risky", Zuckerberg tried to reassure lawmakers that Facebook could be trusted to enter the financial sector.
  10. torrid
    emotionally charged and vigorously energetic
    China’s growth was set to slow down from the torrid pace of past years.
    New York Times (Oct 19, 2019)
    China's economy continued to cool off in the last quarter, though it is still growing. The trade war with the U.S. is part of the problem, as is slowing investment and a declining automotive sector. Torrere is a Latin verb meaning "to dry with heat", so if something is torrid it's heated, passionate, full of fire and energy.
Created on October 23, 2019 (updated October 24, 2019)

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