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"Sordid" and "Blatant" Attacks: Ten Words in the News You Need to Know

October 15, 2013
In this week's news, the U.S. Congress continues negotiations on reopening the federal government and raising the debt ceiling, Iran outlines a plan for containing its nuclear program, and, in Central Florida, a 12-year-old and 14-year-old are arrested on felony stalking charges following the suicide of a girl they admitted to bullying.

To fully understand these unfolding news stories, learn ten key words taken from Washington Post, Miami Herald, and New York Times coverage.
negotiation
Mastering the meaning of this word might put you a step ahead of members of Congress, who can't seem to get a handle on what it means.
“Senator Reid and Senator McConnell have re-engaged in negotiations and are optimistic that an agreement is within reach,” said Adam Jentleson, spokesman for Reid (D-Nev.).
-- House cancels vote on plan to reopen government, The Washington Post, Oct. 15, 2013
rebuke
Think of rebuke as a figurative slap on the hand. Congressional party leaders are judged on how much discipline they're able to muster among members of their party, so when members break ranks, it's a rebuke to their leader.
The stunning turnaround could represent yet another rebuke to Boehner, whose previous efforts at compromise have been thwarted by his party’s right flank.
-- House cancels vote on plan to reopen government, The Washington Post, Oct. 15, 2013
blatant
As the conflict in Washington heats up, so does the rhetoric. Blatant means obvious or undisguised, and is often used to express outrage. Not only is someone doing something wrong, they're not even trying to hide it!
“It’s nothing more than a blatant attack on bipartisanship,” Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-Nev.) said of the first House proposal.
-- House cancels vote on plan to reopen government, The Washington Post, Oct. 15, 2013
tepid
When referring to temperature, tepid means "moderately warm." In the context of the Congressional standoff, it means "not enthusiastic." Compare this temperature-derived adjective to phrases like, "left me cold," or "hot to trot."
Senior leadership aides and some lawmakers said a meeting to discuss that plan did not go well, with one Republican saying the “response was tepid” when Boehner laid out the proposal.
-- House cancels vote on plan to reopen government, The Washington Post, Oct. 15, 2013
covert
When you see covert, think covered. The word means "hidden" or "kept secret," as in a "covert operation" where only people directly involved with it are aware that it's going on.
But the Iranian Students’ News Agency, ISNA, quoted Mr. Araqchi as saying the Iranian side had made several points to address international concerns over what Iran asserts is the groundwork for a peaceful nuclear industry but which the Western powers and Israel believe is a covert weapons program.
-- Iran Presents Nuclear Plan To Big Powers, The New York Times, Oct. 15, 2013
prompt
As an adjective, prompt means "on time." But as a verb, as it's used here, it means "to incite." In diplomacy, movement and speech are subtle; prompt is a good word to describe the causal relationship between speech and action.
In Israel, the talks have prompted concern that in its eagerness to reach a deal, the West might relax demands on Iran.
-- Iran Presents Nuclear Plan To Big Powers, The New York Times, Oct. 15, 2013
hasten
Hasten is a fancy way of saying "cause to come faster." Checking your watch and seeing that you're late for school might cause you to hasten your pace. A drill sergeant yelling in your ear might hasten your decision to drop out of ROTC. Or hasten your capacity for being able to handle it.
The especially callous remark hastened the arrest of a 14-year-old girl and a 12-year-old girl who were primarily responsible for bullying Rebecca, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.
-- Fla. bullying case: girls aged 12 and 14 charged, The Miami Herald, Oct. 15, 2013
affidavit
An affidavit is a sworn statement and a good word to understand when following stories involving the law. If you've ever watched a cop show, it's the end result of the transaction that begins, "We'd like you to come down to the police station and make a statement."
With a probable cause affidavit in hand, he sent his deputies Monday night to arrest two girls, calling them the “primary harassers.”
-- Felony Counts for 2 in Suicide of Bullied 12-Year-Old, The New York Times, Oct. 15, 2013
befriend
To befriend is to make friends with. The be prefix locates this word in the 16th-17th centuries, where, according to < The Online Etymology Dictionary ( www.etymonline.com), words like behead, bespatter, and even betongue were in circulation.
She told anyone who tried to befriend Rebecca that they also would be bullied, the affidavit said.
-- Felony Counts for 2 in Suicide of Bullied 12-Year-Old, The New York Times, Oct. 15, 2013
sordid
This story about bullying and its tragic consequences is rife with the vocabulary of shock and shame. Sordid is a strong word used to denounce behavior that is morally repugnant.
The bullying leapt into the virtual world, Sheriff Judd said, and Rebecca began receiving sordid messages instructing her to “go kill yourself.”
-- Felony Counts for 2 in Suicide of Bullied 12-Year-Old, The New York Times, Oct. 15, 2013

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