This Week In Culture: March 14–20, 2020

The sports and entertainment worlds are both reeling from the pandemic. Stories about responses to the crisis, and some tech and media tools that might make social distancing easier to bear, contributed words to this week's list of pertinent vocabulary.

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definitions & notes only words
  1. acknowledge
    declare to be true or admit the existence or reality of
    In a tweet today, the Chrome development team acknowledged that “adjusted work schedules” have led the company to hit pause on “upcoming Chrome and Chrome OS releases.”
    The Verge (Mar 18, 2020)
    Google announced that it will not be updating Chrome or Chrome OS as previously announced so that the company, adjusting to different work schedules and requirements, can focus on maintaining existing products for users. With so many people even more dependent on their laptops and mobile devices for working from home, industry watchers say this is the right choice.
  2. compassionate
    showing or having sympathy for another's suffering
    “It’s even more essential to be reminded about what it really means to be human: compassionate, caring, creative,” he continued.
    Rolling Stone (Mar 18, 2020)
    Rufus Wainwright is performing a song from his catalog online every day from his L.A. home. Many other artists are doing the same, staying in touch with their fans and trying to make up for having cancelled spring tours. Compassionate means "empathetic," from the Latin meaning "to suffer together with." In related news, Wainwright is an Old English name; a wain is a horse-drawn cart for hauling hay and other goods. A wainwright is a person who makes wains.
  3. genteel
    marked by refinement in taste and manners
    It’s strange to listen to voices from throughout the twentieth century offer fond, genteel reminiscences, like this one, and to know that they do not see what awaits them, both personally and globally.
    New Yorker (Mar 19, 2020)
    Desert Island Discs is a BBC interview show that started back in 1942. over 2,000 episodes are now available for download or as podcasts. Celebrities discuss their all-time favorite records, which they would need if they were stranded on a desert island. Genteel comes from the same root as the gentle in gentleman. It referred to someone who was well-bred and of high social standing, reflected in the overtly French pronunciation of gentil.
  4. isolation
    the act of setting something apart from others
    The lyrics see him walk through a deserted Dublin, and speak of isolation and fear amid the coronavirus outbreak.
    Guardian (Mar 18, 2020)
    Bono released a new song inspired by all the quarantined Italians he saw on TV in the early days of that country's pandemic response. Titled Let Your Love Be Known, the song is just him accompanying himself on piano, evidently recorded at his home in Dublin. He posted the song on Saint Patrick's Day.
  5. loom
    hang over, as of something threatening, dark, or menacing
    But there are looming concerns about where to move these films without impacting fall and winter release schedules.
    Variety (Mar 18, 2020)
    With movie theaters closing or already closed, Hollywood is postponing the releases of many movies. Studios are scrambling to figure out when to schedule these pictures without competing with their fall releases. Loom appears to have nautical origins, as in something, like a large rock, that appears suddenly out of a dense fog: dark, scary, and surprising.
  6. respite
    a pause from doing something
    These signings did not put anybody at risk, and I must admit that I have found a little respite in news droplets from the fantasy world of sports, where paying somebody $15 million to play a game can be a bargain, and intelligent, mature people can get animated about whether Ryan Tannehill’s 2019 performance was a fluke.
    Sports Illustrated (Mar 18, 2020)
    Tom Brady left the New England Patriots for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brady announced the move on social media, but there was no news conference and none of the usual attention that this would have brought. Respite, from the same root as respect, means "a delay," with the positive connotation of being a welcome break from something.
  7. revamp
    patch up or renovate; repair or restore
    Apple has released a new version of its top iPad Pro with new 3D depth-sensing lidar technology and a revamped MacBook Air with a new keyboard, as it attempts to continue normal business in spite of the coronavirus pandemic.
    – Guardian (Mar 18, 2020)
    Just in time for millions of new work-at-home employees, Apple has released the new iPad pro. It comes with a lidar-enhanced camera, making it usable as a 3-D scanner, and a new keyboard includes a trackpad, and USB port, making the combination very like a laptop. The vamp is the front of a shoe, so to revamp originally meant "to repair your shoes." Now it refers to anything that receives a significant upgrade or redesign.
  8. sediment
    matter that has been deposited by some natural process
    "The water now looks clearer because there is less traffic on the canals, allowing the sediment to stay at the bottom," a spokesman said.
    CNN (Mar 16, 2020)
    One of the side effects of the pandemic is a huge decrease in pollution. Skies over Los Angeles are clearer than they've been in decades, and the canals in Venice, Italy, normally churned up by countless gondolas and motorboats ferrying millions of tourists around, are crystal clear. Fish are clearly visible, and the remarkably shallow depth of many smaller canals is obvious.
  9. stoic
    seeming unaffected by pleasure or pain; impassive
    The coronavirus crisis has us stuck at home (working from home, if you’re lucky enough to have a job like that), socially distanced and stoically trapped.
    Washington Post (Mar 19, 2020)
    If you're going to be stuck at home, you might as well learn about some good TV you've missed out on in this golden age of streaming. The stoics were followers of the Greek philosopher Zeno in the third century B.C.E. He advocated for a life ruled by reason, not emotion, where ethical conduct was the main point of living. Stóa is Greek for "porch;" since Zeno lectured from a colonnaded portico in the Agora of Athens that's the name that stuck.
  10. treacherous
    dangerously unstable and unpredictable
    Waerner took his dog team over mountain ranges, on the frozen Yukon River and across treacherous Bering Sea ice to the finish line on Nome’s main street in 9 days, 10 hours, 37 minutes and 47 seconds.
    Washington Times (Mar 18, 2020)
    Thomas Waerner, a 47-year-old Norwegian, won the Iditarod sled dog race in Alaska. Because the competitors remain far apart from each others, this race was one of the few sporting events to not be cancelled. Waerner won the nearly 1,000-mile race with a time of 9 days, 10 hours, 37 minutes, and 47 seconds. He is the third Norwegian to win this century.
Created on March 18, 2020 (updated March 19, 2020)

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