This Week In Culture: November 16–22, 2019

Stories about possible alien life, a theft that wasn't, and some lucky ducks all contributed words to this week's vocabulary roundup drawn from stories about science, sports, and culture.

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definitions & notes only words
  1. attenuation
    a weakening in force or intensity
    Music journalism—like nearly all journalism that is mostly unrelated to Donald Trump—is in a state of attenuation and crisis.
    New Yorker (Nov 18, 2019)
    Millennial Indie rock darlings Big Thief have released four albums in the last three years, two of which came out in the past seven months. As their popularity has grown, so has criticism of their understated sound. Fans say that the lack of fireworks is a big part of the music's appeal. The Latin verb attenuare means "to make thin."
  2. diligent
    quietly and steadily persevering in detail or exactness
    “We performed diligent safety checks to remove possible contaminants in ground-based observations,” Goddard planetary scientist Avi Mandell said of the water vapor discovery in the statement.
    Futurism (Nov 18, 2019)
    Water vapor has been detected above Europa, one of Jupiter's largest moons. Because it's believed to be covered in water ice, under which there may be liquid water, scientists have long favored the moon as being a prime candidate for hosting extraterrestrial life. The Europa Clipper spacecraft is scheduled to arrive there in 2023, where it will make 45 passes at the moon with a wide variety of cameras and other instruments to analyze the surface in much more detail.
  3. docket
    a temporally organized plan for matters to be attended to
    The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame duo have five shows on the docket.
    Consequence Of Sound (Nov 15, 2019)
    Boomer yacht-rock darlings Hall & Oates have released no new songs in the last fifteen years but will be touring this fall nonetheless. What do you think? Can you go for that, or is missing this tour on your to-do list? Docket is a fancy way of saying "to-do list" with a slightly official flavor since the word is still used to refer to cases coming up on a court's schedule.
  4. graft
    cause parts of different plants to grow together
    Then, as now, trees planted for eating apples were not raised from seeds; cuttings taken from existing trees were grafted onto a generic root stock and raised to maturity.
    Washington Times (Nov 19, 2019)
    Of 17,000 types of domesticated apples that once grew in North America, only around 4,000 are left. In response, two men have formed the Lost Apple Project, where they scour the Northwest for old trees, map them, and identify the variety through genetics and extensive historical research. Many of the old apples aren't great for eating — they can be bitter and sour — but they make excellent cider and may possess traits that can help orchards thrive in a changing climate.
  5. hyphenate
    divide or connect with punctuation used between word parts
    Multi-talented multi-hyphenate Cynthia Erivo plays Harriet Tubman in Kasi Lemmons’ biopic “Harriet.”
    Variety (Nov 19, 2019)
    Cynthia Erivo plays the famous African-American abolitionist Harriet Tubman in the new movie Harriet directed by Kasi Lemmons. The film took a long time to make; the screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard wrote the script 25 years ago. He recently said that in a meeting back then, a studio executive actually proposed Julia Roberts for the title role. Tubman was supposed to appear on the new version of the $20 bill in 2020, but the Trump Administration has delayed that until at least 2028.
  6. illuminate
    make lighter or brighter
    Scientists on Monday unveiled the first global geological map of Saturn’s moon Titan including vast plains and dunes of frozen organic material and lakes of liquid methane, illuminating an exotic world considered a strong candidate in the search for life beyond Earth.
    Reuters (Nov 18, 2019)
    The first detailed global map of Saturn's moon Titan was published this week. Titan, while very different from Europa, is another possible place where alien life could have developed. Under its frozen crust and lakes of liquid methane it has liquid water oceans, and organic hydrocarbons like methane are building blocks of life as we know it. If life is discovered, Hall & Oates will probably tour there. Maybe the aliens are man-eaters...
  7. provenance
    where something originated or was nurtured
    Whatever their reasons, the aggressively proprietary attitude adopted by the Neues seems strange considering the controversial provenance of the Nefertiti bust.
    Open Culture (Nov 18, 2019)
    The "theft" two years ago of high resolution scans of the famous Nefertiti bust in Berlin's Neues Museum turned out to be a different story. Two artists claimed to have made the scans to draw attention to the museum's policy of keeping such images private, but it was revealed recently that the scans were actually leaked by a museum employee. Nonetheless, it spurred conversation about who owns images like these, especially when so much ancient art may have been stolen from its home countries.
  8. racket
    a loud and disturbing noise
    Douthe’s neighbours, who moved from the city to Soustons around 430 miles south-west of Paris in the foothills of the Pyrenees in June 2018, had complained that the racket from the 60 ducks and geese kept in the next-door garden was making their life a misery.
    Guardian (Nov 19, 2019)
    A woman in Southwestern France won a legal battle against her neighbors when a court ruled that the ducks do not need to be killed for quacking too loudly. The neighbors, who had moved to the small town to escape big city stress, filed the suit because they said the noise was keeping them from opening their windows or relaxing outside. The ducks will still end up becoming delicious confit de canard, but they'll be able to happily annoy the neighbors until then.
  9. waiver
    a formal written statement of relinquishment
    He and his team also took issue with a waiver the NFL wanted him to sign.
    Fox News (Nov 19, 2019)
    Colin Kaepernick held a workout for NFL team representatives, but after a last-minute venue change only six out of the scheduled 25 were able to attend and he did not get signed. He may hold another workout, though observers question whether he really wants to play again. Waiver comes from the same Anglo-Norman root as waif, "orphan," meaning an abandoned child. If you waive your right to something, you give up any claim to it.
  10. Zeitgeist
    the spirit of the time
    Harry Styles is a glamour-puss for the zeitgeist: a man who gleefully mines the sartorial glory days of rock ‘n roll with his eyes firmly fixed on the future.
    GQ (Nov 18, 2019)
    Harry Styles hosted Saturday Night Live, where he was also the musical guest. He sang, he acted, and he did his name justice by wearing many interesting outfits that showed how wide open today's fashion is to personal expression. Zeitgeist is a German word meaning "spirit of the time." Saying that something taps into the Zeitgeist is a stylish way to refer to something that perfectly represents the present moment.
Created on November 19, 2019 (updated November 22, 2019)

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