This Week In Words: February 8–14, 2020

Are you up to speed on the Democratic primaries, the COVID-19 epidemic, and the so-called "coup of the century?" If not, we've got you covered with this list of vocabulary from these and other stories in the week's news.

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definitions & notes only words
  1. berate
    censure severely or angrily
    The sources said Kawtharani berated the groups, as Soleimani had done in one of his final meetings with them, for failing to come up with a unified plan to contain popular protests against the Baghdad government and the paramilitaries that dominate it.
    Reuters (Feb 11, 2020)
    Since the U.S. killed the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike, the resulting power vacuum has local and regional powers in Iraq scrambling to establish control in his absence. Hezbollah, an Iran-backed group labeled as a terrorist organization by the U.S., is helping to coordinate the various Iran-backed militias in Iraq. Iran wields a lot of influence in Iraq, especially among its Shiite population.
  2. default
    an option that is selected automatically
    The executive order would make “the classical architectural style … the preferred and default style” for all new and upgraded federal buildings.
    – Star Tribune (Feb 11, 2020)
    A draft executive order titled Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again seeks to make neoclassical architecture — like the Capitol building, for example — the official style of government buildings. Modern and contemporary architecture will no longer be permitted. Architects and cultural figures have denounced the order, saying that it goes against the Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture, written in 1962.
  3. denouement
    the outcome of a complex sequence of events
    It’s a sad denouement for a once-promising candidate who seemed capable of bridging the party’s left and its establishment and who could articulate a progressive vision for the country without the baggage of referring to herself as a socialist.
    Slate (Feb 12, 2020)
    Elizabeth Warren came in fourth in New Hampshire. She says she's still in the race, with so many states and territories left to vote. Warren was briefly leading in the polls, so some commentators are analyzing why she wasn't able to stay on top. Dénouement is a French word meaning "untying," and it refers metaphorically to the finale of a story.
  4. foist
    force onto another
    The engineers and designers responsible for developing prototype models often questioned the algorithms being foisted on them by a mysterious external entity.
    Washington Post (Feb 11, 2020)
    Crypto AG was a Swiss company that began by selling code-making machines to the U.S. military during World War II. It continued to sell encryption technology to many governments around the world over the following decades. None of these countries knew that the company was secretly controlled by the CIA and West German intelligence, and that all communications using Crypto AG's technology were being listened in on. This information was recently made public, stunning many people.
  5. improvise
    manage in a makeshift way; do with whatever is at hand
    “This sounds just dangerous, like people are still improvising and making up the rules as they go,” said Doug Jones, a University of Iowa computer scientist and expert on voting technology.
    Seattle Times (Feb 12, 2020)
    After the serious problems with Iowa's caucus, the preparations for Nevada's upcoming caucus are causing concern. The company behind the malfunctioning Iowa app was fired, but iPads issued by the Nevada Democratic Party will still be using software to record the results. In addition, Nevada allows early voting, which was not a factor in Iowa. Critics say that caucuses are undemocratic and should be abolished altogether.
  6. lenient
    inclined to be permissive or indulgent
    The president suggested angrily on Twitter that Stone deserved more-lenient treatment.
    Washington Post (Feb 11, 2020)
    Four federal prosecutors withdrew from the case in protest after the Attorney General intervened in the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, a close associate of the President, who was convicted of several serious crimes. Prosecutors originally asked for 7-9 years in prison as a sentence, then the President tweeted angrily about this request, and shortly after that Attorney General Barr said that he would recommend a much shorter sentence.
  7. muddle
    make clouded as with sediment
    Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders edged former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg in New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary Tuesday, a closer-than-expected finish that leaves the race for the Democratic presidential nomination still muddled.
    USA Today (Feb 12, 2020)
    Senator Bernie Sanders finished first in the New Hampshire primary, followed closely by Pete Buttigieg. Both candidates won 9 delegates. Senator Amy Klobuchar finished third and won 6 delegates. Senator Elizabeth Warren finished fourth, at 9.2% of the vote, below the 15% threshold required to win any delegates. Moddelen is Dutch for "mud," so if you think of something messy and opaque, that's muddled.
  8. pathogen
    any disease-producing agent
    It was an astonishing pace for the response to a pathogen never seen before—and yet it was only a beginning.
    Science (Feb 11, 2020)
    The coronavirus, now with the official name COVID-19, has sickened over 43,000 people. As it spreads, scientists are trying to understand as much as possible about it: where it originated, how it spreads, how long it's contagious, and what its mortality rate is. With an estimated 2 percent fatality rate, it appears to be much less deadly than similar viruses like SARS. But reports of its spread are unreliable, since many countries lack testing facilities.
  9. stagnate
    stand still
    Aviation technology has stagnated over the past decades, she says.
    BBC (Feb 11, 2020)
    Harbour Air, a small Canadian commuter airline, tested an electric seaplane. At only four minutes long, the flight marked the first time an all-electric commercial passenger aircraft took to the air, and the airline has high hopes for the future of electric flight. Though batteries cannot yet compete with combustion engines in terms of stored power, electric motors are far more efficient and do not contribute carbon emissions to the atmosphere while flying.
  10. stringent
    demanding strict attention to rules and procedures
    The UK isn’t the first European country to want more stringent controls over the internet.
    The Verge (Feb 12, 2020)
    The U.K. has released its new plan to regulate the internet, requiring sites to protect visitors from malicious, harmful, or illegal content. Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator, will implement the new rules. Social media sites and any others that allow user-generated content will be required to state and enforce rules regarding appropriate content and behavior. Stringere means "to tighten" in Latin, so stringent rules don't allow any wiggle room.
Created on February 12, 2020 (updated February 13, 2020)

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