This Week In Culture: January 18–24, 2020

Are you hungry for more Hunger Games? Do you love loud restaurants? What if we told you that fruit fly brains are really interesting? Stories that address these questions and more served up some choice vocabulary for this week's list from the culture, tech, and sports worlds.

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definitions & notes only words
  1. convulse
    move or stir about violently
    The thing that convulsed the internet for much of yesterday was this Reuters report that Apple decided against throwing away its keys to users’ encrypted iCloud backups after the FBI complained about encryption.
    The Verge (Jan 22, 2020)
    Apple will continue to maintain a back door — known as the iCloud loophole — to users' backups, saying that it's necessary if people forget their passwords. Apple has positioned itself as a company that guards its customers' privacy carefully, and that reputation is part of the reason that some observers are troubled by the continuing existence of the loophole.
  2. delineation
    representation by drawing, painting, etc.
    The justice secretary, Robert Buckland, told Sky News there must be a “line of delineation” over who funds the security costs of the Sussexes.
    Guardian (Jan 22, 2020)
    Shortly after arriving in Canada, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have already sued some media outlets for violating the Duchess's privacy by taking pictures of her without permission. The couple recently renounced their status as active members of the royal family in favor of financial independence and more privacy. You can see the word line there in the middle of delineation, showing its meaning: to outline something either literally in a drawing or figuratively in a speech.
  3. eviscerate
    remove the entrails of
    The “floundering 20-something” construct might work if “Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens” possessed the originality, momentum and eviscerating comedic timing of its star, but it does not.
    Los Angeles Times (Jan 22, 2020)
    Awkwafina, the stage name of Nora Lum, has a new show on Comedy Central. Lum was the first Asian-American woman to win a Golden Globe, taking home the best actress award earlier this month for her role in The Farewell. She previously appeared in Crazy Rich Asians and Ocean's 8. Viscera are guts, so to eviscerate something is to rip its guts out, either literally or metaphorically.
  4. idiosyncratic
    peculiar to the individual
    From influences like Gene Kelly and Michael Jackson, they’ve learned that small, idiosyncratic details can imbue an extravagant movement with an approachable warmth and specificity.
    New York Times (Jan 21, 2020)
    Beyond Babel opens February 1 in New York after a successful run in Los Angeles. The evening-length hip-hop dance show depicts a love story loosely based on Romeo and Juliet. The couple behind it, Keone and Mari Madrid, have previously choreographed music videos, including one for Justin Bieber. In Ancient Greek, synkratikos means "closely connected" or "mixed together," and the prefix idio- means "personal," "peculiar," or "distinct."
  5. obsequious
    attempting to win favor from influential people by flattery
    He literally explodes after being offered one last indulgence – a wafer-thin mint – by an obsequious waiter (Cleese).
    Seattle Times (Jan 22, 2020)
    Terry Jones, a founding member of Monty Python's Flying Circus, died at 77. Monty Python was the most influential sketch comedy group in history; their TV shows and movies inspired generations of comedians and earned them devout fans around the world. Jones, who directed three of the Python movies, was especially famous for playing screechy women, including Brian's mother in The Life of Brian. Post-Python, he wrote a number of children's books and some serious scholarly history as well.
  6. sanguine
    confidently optimistic and cheerful
    Yet others appear more sanguine about the idea, describing it as "interesting".
    BBC (Jan 22, 2020)
    The new Hunger Games novel comes out in April, and tells the story of a young Coriolanus Snow, the villain of the initial trilogy. Snow was played by Donald Sutherland in the movies made from those books. Some fans are not happy with the decision to make the villain into a hero. Author Suzanne Collins joins a line of other authors who added to successful franchises with prequels or sequels, most famously J.K. Rowling and Philip Pullman.
  7. schematic
    represented in simplified or symbolic form
    That physical schematic becomes a roadmap for all kinds of inquiries, Rubin says—anything from understanding the role of the brain’s wiring in psychiatric disorders to how our brains store memories.
    Wired (Jan 22, 2020)
    A fruit fly's brain is about as big as a poppy seed, but it's taken 12 years and over $40 million to map it out in detail so far, and the work isn't finished. A diagram that covers about a third of the total brain was released, showing 25,000 neurons which have a total of 20 million connections. The human brain is a million times larger, so any maps of our brains will require much more powerful computers and a lot more time and money.
  8. sommelier
    a waiter who manages wine service in a hotel or restaurant
    The minute the next table over wants help choosing the wine, the sommelier’s voice becomes noise.
    New York Times (Jan 21, 2020)
    Many people complain about noisy restaurants, but others enjoy an atmosphere charged with music, conversation, and laughter. The food critic for the New York Times is in the second camp, coming down firmly on the side of those who like a side of hubbub with their dinner. Sommelier is a French word, like so many in the food and drink world. To become a Master Sommelier, you must pass an extremely challenging series of tests requiring years of study.
  9. throttle
    reduce the air supply
    His counting stats have jumped, plus the Bucks have both picked up big wins over the league’s best competition and throttled the league’s middle-class.
    Sports Illustrated (Jan 22, 2020)
    Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to dominate the NBA, leading his team to 39 wins so far, the best in the league, despite only averaging 31 minutes per game. Observers see him as the likely winner of the MVP award for the second year in a row. Throttle comes from the word throat, and it means "to choke or strangle." As a noun, it refers to the device that controls the supply of air to an engine: more makes it run faster, less slows it down.
  10. unorthodox
    breaking with convention or tradition
    Perry took an unorthodox approach to wooing Nas: He slid into his DMs on Instagram.
    – Variety (Jan 20, 2020)
    When Old Town Road blew up, becoming the longest-running number one song in history, Lil Nas X was an unknown 20-year-old in Atlanta. The first festival he performed at was the first concert he had ever attended. As a result, he had a hard time getting used to being on stage in front of huge crowds. He cancelled some shows and took time off to consider his next moves. He'll perform the song at the Grammys with Billy Ray Cyrus and others.
Created on January 22, 2020 (updated January 23, 2020)

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