This Week In Words: November 9–15, 2019

Secret groups, "hedgehog hair", a record cold snap, and floods battering Venice: exciting times call for exciting words. We've gathered the choicest vocabulary from this week's news, which, let's face it, was mostly about politics and weather.

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definitions & notes only words
  1. belie
    be in contradiction with
    Still, the changes on Long Island belie a more complicated political reality — one that suggests that a transformation may not be as complete as some Democrats would like.
    New York Times (Nov 13, 2019)
    Representative Peter King, a Republican from Long Island, is retiring. He denied that he's worried about losing his next race, but Democrats now make up the majority of voters on the island and the recent election gave them six out of its nine State Senate seats. In the last two elections, Republicans have performed badly in suburban swing districts around the country. If something belies something else, it contradicts it. You may also see the synonymous phrase "give the lie to".
  2. cabal
    a clique that seeks power usually through intrigue
    The witnesses are not all hostile to the president or part of a cabal against him.
    Washington Times (Nov 12, 2019)
    While President Trump and his allies complain that the impeachment inquiry is a witch hunt being fueled by people he calls "Never-Trumpers", many of the witnesses testifying in hearings this week were appointed by the President himself. Other members of his administration have refused to testify. If the House files Articles of Impeachment, the President and his lawyers would be allowed to participate. A cabal is a group of people who work in secret to attain power or influence.
  3. capricious
    determined by chance or impulse rather than by necessity
    But they must “provide a reasoned explanation for the change,” and their actions cannot be “arbitrary and capricious.”
    Slate (Nov 12, 2019)
    The Supreme Court is set to rule on whether the Trump Administration's decision to end the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program was legal. If the program is eliminated, over 700,000 people who were illegally brought into the country as children could be subjected to deportation. Capricious comes from the Italian capriccio, which literally translates to "head of a hedgehog", meaning a head with the hair standing on end in fright or frenzy.
  4. collate
    assemble in proper sequence
    With the help of its cloud tools and G Suite, Google is collating Ascension patient data, including medication history, lab tests, and biographical information.
    The Verge (Nov 12, 2019)
    Google, which is working on a number of healthcare-related projects, has been accused of collecting the data of millions of people without permission. As it catalogs patient data for Ascension, a healthcare provider in 23 states, it's also working on a number of tools that it says would improve care by making data searchable and using AI to identify patterns. Experts agree that these could be useful, but express concern about privacy and patients' rights.
  5. impassioned
    characterized by intense emotion
    When Cummings passed away last month, House Democrats lost one of their most impassioned opponents of President Donald Trump.
    Salon (Nov 12, 2019)
    The widow of Elijah Cummings, the Congressman from Maryland who recently passed away, will be running for her late husband's seat. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings was chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party, a job she resigned upon announcing her candidacy. She says that she and her husband discussed the possibility of her replacing him in Congress if he succumbed to the cancer that took his life. Impassioned is an easy one to remember, what with passion right there in the middle.
  6. incumbent
    the official who holds an office
    “The overwhelming fact of this race is defeating the incumbent,” Mr. Hart said.
    New York Times (Nov 12, 2019)
    Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has declared that he will enter the already crowded Democratic primary field, and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is on the verge of entering. Both have said they're worried that Joe Biden, seen by many as the Party's best hope for defeating Trump, is not up to the task. Observers aren't sure what these two potential candidates would bring to the field that can't already be found among the current roster.
  7. meteorology
    the earth science dealing with phenomena of the atmosphere
    NWS meteorologist Kevin Birk said the air mass was "more typical for the middle of January than mid-November."
    BBC (Nov 13, 2019)
    A record-breaking cold snap has hit the Midwest and is moving east. Chicago got as low as 7˚F this week, and parts of Kansas dropped below zero. There was even snow on the Texas-Mexico border. This type of cold normally occurs in the middle of winter, not late fall. More extreme weather is a characteristic of the changing climate.
  8. ravaged
    having been robbed and destroyed by force and violence
    The floods, accentuated by driving rains and strong winds, also ravaged areas beyond the city itself.
    Reuters (Nov 12, 2019)
    Venice, Italy is also suffering from extreme weather, in this case catastrophic flooding due to extremely high tides. 80 percent of the city was flooded at the highest water, which broke the previous record set in 1966. A huge flood barrier is under construction and expected to be ready in 2021. Most of the buildings in the city date from the 12th century, and the flooding is causing severe damage to many structures.
  9. subversion
    the act of overthrowing or destroying, as a government
    It includes allegations of espionage, subversion and interference in elections.
    BBC (Nov 12, 2019)
    Hillary Clinton was harshly critical of Boris Johnson's decision to not release the U.K. government's report on Russian interference in British politics, specifically the Brexit referendum, until after the next election in December. She said that given how much we know about Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, the British people should know what role foreign powers played in manipulating public opinion before the crucial vote.
  10. trappings
    ornaments; embellishments to or characteristic signs of
    Contrary to its judicial trappings, impeachment is more a political process than a judicial one.
    Washington Post (Nov 12, 2019)
    As the public impeachment hearings get under way, people are drawing comparisons with the impeachments of Nixon and Clinton. While a narrow majority of Americans now believe that President Trump should be impeached, 60 Senators would have to vote to convict after the House impeaches him. With Republicans controlling the Senate, that's seen as virtually impossible unless public opinion shifts dramatically. Nixon resigned before impeachment, and Clinton was acquitted in the Senate.
Created on November 13, 2019 (updated November 14, 2019)

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