This Week In Words: February 22–28, 2020

A lot of coronavirus stories from different angles — economic, political, and of course, medical — contributed words to this week's round-up of vocabulary from the news.

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definitions & notes only words
  1. bona fide
    not counterfeit or copied
    The billionaire former Republican attempted to hit back at criticism from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., over his large contributions to Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina by touting his Democratic bona fides.
    Salon (Feb 26, 2020)
    In the Democratic debate, Elizabeth Warren once again went after the billionaire former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg. She criticized him for his donations to many Republican candidates, and he replied that he spent $100 million to elect Democrats in the House. But his answer brought still more criticism, since he said of those House seats, "I bough — I, I got them," catching himself in the word "bought." Bona fide means "of good faith" in Latin; now it's a fancy way of saying "real."
  2. exacerbate
    make worse
    For many U.S. companies, the coronavirus has exacerbated troubles they were already having manufacturing in China, after the Trump administration last year levied large import tariffs on Chinese-made goods.
    Washington Post (Feb 25, 2020)
    The stock market fell sharply as the COVID-19 virus continued to spread in several countries around the world. Because China is a hugely important part of the supply chain for many industries, the shutdown of large portions of that country's economy has been rippling outward and causing shortages of components and finished products, especially in the tech sector. Exacerbare is a Latin verb meaning "to make more harsh, bitter, or painful."
  3. excoriate
    express strong disapproval of
    Democrats slammed the request as woefully inadequate and excoriated the administration for cutting public health budgets for years.
    Washington Post (Feb 25, 2020)
    Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar testified before a Senate subcommittee, saying that the administration's $2.5 billion plan to combat the COVID-19 virus is sufficient. Senators were skeptical, and pointed out that the White House has cut infectious disease prevention programs for years. Corium means "hide," as in "animal skin," in Latin, so excoriate means "to skin" something or someone. It's used metaphorically today to refer to extremely harsh criticism.
  4. infrastructure
    the basic features of a system or organization
    The Myanmar and the Philippines cases highlight the dangers of introducing and expanding platforms without first establishing the local infrastructure to mitigate the effects of hate speech and other dangerous incitement.
    – Guardian (Feb 24, 2020)
    Democratic Senator Michael Bennet wrote an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, addressing the problem of hate speech and misinformation that plagues the platform. Bennet cites research showing that authoritarian regimes use the site to control information and suppress dissent. Facebook was used to help the current Philippine president win office, and the U.N. said that Facebook posts played a "determining role" in the Burmese government's attack on the country's Rohingya minority.
  5. machination
    a crafty and involved plot to achieve your ends
    It was a sleight of hand characteristic of Asia’s shrewdest veteran politician — and it left Malaysians breathless from the political machinations.
    New York Times (Feb 24, 2020)
    Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed resigned, but has not left power. Mohammed, 94, and his chosen successor Anwar Ibrahim, successfully beat the former governing party, which was involved in a massive scandal involving the theft of billions of dollars of public money. Following his resignation, Malaysia's constitutional monarch appointed him interim prime minister, puzzling many who have been watching the unfolding story for clues to the country's future after a period of uncertainty.
  6. messianic
    of or relating to a savior promising deliverance
    That number is expected to rise in coming days as the country begins the mass testing of more than 200,000 members of a messianic religious movement at the center of an outbreak in the city of Daegu.
    Washington Post (Feb 26, 2020)
    At a press conference, the President named Vice President Mike Pence to lead a task force on the coronavirus as new cases spread around the globe, including another here in the U.S. Officials say that a vaccine is likely a year or more away. You can see the Hebrew word messiah, meaning "anointed one" in messianic, an adjective describing any religion that believes in a savior.
  7. prestigious
    having an illustrious reputation; respected
    Michelle Janavs, whose family made its fortune creating the microwave snack Hot Pockets, was sentenced Tuesday to five months in prison for agreeing to pay bribes totaling $300,000 to get her two daughters into prestigious universities.
    USA Today (Feb 25, 2020)
    An heir to the Hot Pockets fortune was sentenced to five months in prison for bribery as part of the scandal involving wealthy parents paying to get their children into top colleges. Michelle Janavs admitted to paying $300,000 in bribes. In addition to the jail time, Janavs was sentenced to two years of supervised release, 200 hours of community service, and was ordered to pay a $250,000 fine.
  8. recuse
    disqualify oneself as a judge in a particular case
    It would be exceptional for any supreme court justice to recuse themselves from all cases involving the White House.
    Guardian (Feb 25, 2020)
    The President attacked two of the women on the Supreme Court on Twitter, accusing them of being biased against him. Last week, Justice Sotomayor said that the conservative majority on the Court was granting White House requests for stays on lower court rulings too frequently. This all comes at a time when the President and Justice Department are facing increased scrutiny, and after over 2,300 legal professionals signed a letter demanding that the Attorney General resign.
  9. respiratory
    pertaining to the act of breathing
    “It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a news briefing.
    New York Times (Feb 25, 2020)
    The Center for Disease Control said that the COVID-19 virus will very likely spread in the U.S., and that individuals and institutions should prepare accordingly. While there are very few cases currently in the country, the disease's rapid spread elsewhere lead officials to say that we should expect it here, though they could not predict how severe any epidemic might be.
  10. rickshaw
    a small two-wheeled cart for one passenger
    Shahid Alvi, an auto rickshaw driver, died from a bullet injury he suffered during the protest.
    BBC (Feb 25, 2020)
    India's capital Delhi was the scene of widespread violence that killed over a dozen people. The violence appears to have started after a politician in the Hindu nationalist BJP — the party that Indian President Narendra Modi belongs to — threatened Muslim protestors who had gathered in response to a new law, the Citizenship Amendment Act. The law relaxes citizenship requirements for refugees, but excludes Muslims. Protests have been numerous, but were peaceful until this week.
Created on February 25, 2020 (updated February 27, 2020)

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