This Week In Culture: February 29–March 6, 2020

Batman's new wheels, insights into neutron stars, and midwestern cooking gets national attention: these stories and more offered up some choice vocabulary from the tech, sports, and culture worlds.

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definitions & notes only words
  1. archival
    of a depository containing historical records and documents
    The video, directed by Seanne Farmer, sees the Chicks wearing military outfits on television, cut together with archival clips of old Hollywood performances, Coney Island getaways, and other images of vintage Americana.
    Rolling Stone (Mar 4, 2020)
    The Dixie Chicks released the first single from their new album, their first record in 14 years. Titled Gaslighter, the song was co-written by the band and the record's producer Jack Antonoff. The full album drops on May 1. Archive has suitably ancient roots, going all the way back to the Greek word archeion, meaning "public office." That became archivum in Latin, and then came to English via French.
  2. cowl
    a loose hood or hooded robe
    A few Verge editors were immediately into the design (the cowl!), and the Batmobile seems no different.
    The Verge (Mar 4, 2020)
    Matt Reeves, director of the upcoming The Batman film, released a few photos of the new Batmobile, which looks like a nine-year old's drawing of a 1970s muscle car. Cowl originally described the hooded robes worn by monks. Most appropriately for this subject, these days cowl can refer to two types of hood: the kind that covers your head, and also to the housing of an engine.
  3. enigma
    something that baffles understanding and cannot be explained
    Now, after decades of speculation, researchers are getting closer to solving the enigma, in part thanks to an instrument on the International Space Station called the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER).
    Nature (Mar 4, 2020)
    Neutron stars, the ultra-dense remnants of exploded giant stars, fit the mass of our sun into an area only a few miles in diameter. While their origins are well understood, little is known about their interiors. New data from the NICER (Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer) telescope is helping scientists determine how the insides of these mysterious bodies are structured, with subatomic particles mashed together by inconceivably intense gravity.
  4. impeccable
    without fault or error
    Armed with a pen, paper and the impeccable handwriting he gained when he was forced into a government boarding school for Native Americans as a child, Wazhushk (meaning muskrat) goes about fighting the bill the only way he can...
    Washington Times (Mar 3, 2020)
    Louise Erdrich's new novel The Night Watchman released this week. Her seventeenth novel, it tells the story of a 1953 legal battle between the Turtle Mountain Chippewa and the U.S. government, as the tribe fought to keep the land they were granted under a treaty. Peccare is Latin for "sin," so impeccable literally means "without sin" but we use it to refer to something that's perfect, pristine, or flawless.
  5. occult
    supernatural forces and events and beings collectively
    There’s a Hemingway archive containing a doll figure of Fidel Castro, cherubic face swallowed by a curly black beard, and a stand dedicated to ephemera of the occult.
    Guardian (Mar 4, 2020)
    The Booksellers, a documentary about the world of antiquarian book dealers, opens this week. As more and more of our culture and writing take digital forms, the filmmakers wanted to show the importance of books as physical objects with stories beyond those held between their covers. Occult comes from the Latin occultus, meaning "secret" or "hidden."
  6. progenitor
    an ancestor in the direct line
    Houston-based rapper Megan Thee Stallion, who had a breakout 2019 with her debut album Fever and was the progenitor of the nationwide sensation known as “Hot Girl Summer,” has found herself at the mercy of a crummy contract that she signed with a record label earlier in her career.
    Slate (Mar 3, 2020)
    Rapper Megan Thee Stallion is suing her record label, which is run by former baseball star Carl Crawford. She claims that her contract is unfair, and that the label is not paying her what she is owed. Though the suit has not been settled, she did win a restraining order allowing her to release a new record, titled Suga, this week.
  7. quantum
    the smallest discrete quantity of some physical property
    As a professor at the institute in 1965, he won the prestigious Dannie Heineman Prize for Mathematical Physics for his work in quantum field theory, just a few years after taking leave to try to develop an interplanetary spacecraft powered by nuclear explosions.
    New York Times (Mar 2, 2020)
    Physicist Freeman Dyson died at 96. Though he was most famous for imagining the Dyson Sphere, something a highly advanced civilization might construct, his most important work was in the subatomic world of particle physics. He also theorized about the possibility of encoding human consciousness onto matter, allowing our minds to live forever.
  8. revenue
    the entire amount of income before any deductions are made
    Insiders said theater closures are having a huge impact on their bottom line, with revenues in places like Hong Kong and Taiwan plummeting nearly 50% and the box office drying up in Italy.
    Variety (Mar 4, 2020)
    No Time To Die, the next James Bond movie, had its opening delayed until fall because of the COVID-19 epidemic. Some of the worst-hit countries are huge markets for films, and without those audiences a $200 million movie like this would have a much harder time making a profit. People talk about the "return" on an investment — the money that comes back to you after your initial expense — and revenue is French for "return."
  9. thwart
    hinder or prevent, as an effort, plan, or desire
    The Bucks currently have the top defensive rating in the NBA, which is only partly because of Antetokounmpo’s eye-popping length and versatile skills in thwarting opposing offenses.
    Guardian (Mar 4, 2020)
    The Milwaukee Bucks could win over 70 games this season, something only done twice before in NBA history. League MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is on track to have the highest Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of all time this year. The Bucks also have the best defense in the league, and fans are excited at their prospects for winning a championship. Athwart is an archaic way of saying "across." To thwart something is to block it, like putting a barrier across a path.
  10. unpretentious
    lacking affectation
    When Klobuchar held her Hot Dish House Party campaign events, there was a sense that she was trying to communicate that she possessed the same traits inherent to the clean-out-the-pantry dish: hearty, resourceful, unpretentious.
    Salon (Mar 4, 2020)
    Midwestern cooking is sometimes stereotyped as being simple and heavy, but a new generation of chefs are bringing fresh energy and imagination to the region's cuisine without sacrificing its identity as comfort food. Waves of immigrants from around the world over the last few decades have transformed the culinary landscape, adding all sorts of flavors and influences, and chefs are winning awards and gaining national reputations.
Created on March 4, 2020 (updated March 23, 2020)

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