WORD LISTS

A Hero "Intervenes": Ten Words in the News You Need to Know

October 22, 2013
This week in the news, the country is continuing to get to know Obamacare, economists are trying to get a handle on the impact of the government shutdown, and the nation watched in horror as yet another school shooting made headlines, this time from Sparks, Nevada.

To fully understand these unfolding news stories, learn ten key words taken from Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and New York Times coverage.
lobbyist
Knowing the word lobbyist, which may originate from the "lobby-agents" who lie in wait for legislators in lobbies, might be as important to understanding our government as knowing words like senator, act, and legislature, and the American League of Lobbyist insists this is okay. Lobbying, they say, is "a legitimate and necessary part of our democratic political process," protected by the First Amendment right to "to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Resistance to the initial proposal quickly materialized on Capitol Hill, in part because of pressure from insurance industry lobbyists.
-- Health co-ops, created to foster competition and lower insurance costs, are in danger, The Washington Post, Oct. 22, 2013
ironic
Ironic comes up in the study of literature, but it's perfectly appropriate to use in describing real world events as well. Here, it softens the critique of a rhetoric vs. policy disconnect when whipping out the harsher term hypocritical might feel too extreme.
“It’s a little ironic to say you are for competition in the free market, and then you don’t make it easy for new entrants.’’
-- Health co-ops, created to foster competition and lower insurance costs, are in danger, The Washington Post, Oct. 22, 2013
solvent
In a financial context, solvent means having enough cash to be able to pay your bills. In chemistry, the term refers to a chemical used to dissolve other chemicals. Connect the two meanings in your mind with the concept of "loosening." People who can't pay their bills are all tied up in knots.
The review...said the Maryland co-op initially did not qualify for funding because its financial statements “indicate a tenuous ability to remain financially solvent.’’
-- Health co-ops, created to foster competition and lower insurance costs, are in danger, The Washington Post, Oct. 22, 201
helm
The helm of a ship is the steering mechanism. To "take the helm" of a ship is to control its course. Landlubbers have borrowed the phrase to refer to the assumption of non-nautical positions of leadership, as well.
Carney said Zients, who is slated to take over the helm of the White House National Economic Council, would take on a "short term assignment: at the Department of Health and Human Services.
-- White House enlists Jeffrey Zients to help fix HealthCare.gov, The Washington Post, Oct. 22, 2013
lag
If you're following our nation's slow economic recovery, lag is a good word to know. Think of a horse race in which a horse starts out strong and then begins to slow, or lag behind.
Even before the federal government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis this month, the nation’s economy was lagging and job growth was sluggish.
-- Weak Job Data May Weigh on Fed’s Decision on Stimulus, The New York Times, Oct. 22, 2013
discretionary
To anyone living on a budget, be it personal or institutional, the word discretionary is a breath of fresh air. It's the money that's not already spoken for. Save it for a rainy day or throw caution to the wind and buy ice cream cones for all your friends.
A recent report...estimated that government reductions in discretionary spending...had pushed the national unemployment rate higher.
-- Weak Job Data May Weigh on Fed’s Decision on Stimulus, The New York Times, Oct. 22, 2013
lackluster
Luster means a shine or glow, so Lackluster describes things that are lacking that quality. It's another great term for anyone following our slow economic recovery, and is commonly used to describe performance--be they artistic, academic, or personal. You can have a lackluster conversational style, but be brilliant in writing. Or your dog might have a lackluster attitude toward sitting on command.
Other details of the report were lackluster.
-- Weak Job Data May Weigh on Fed’s Decision on Stimulus, The New York Times, Oct. 22, 2013
deluge
Deluge got its start referring to heavy rain and resulting flooding. (The Deluge--note capital "D"-- refers to the flood in the Bible, just as The Fall refers to Adam and Eve's departure from the Garden of Eden.) Now, deluge can mean not just literal but figurative flooding as well, as in 911 operators reporting a "deluge of calls."
The 911 tapes released Tuesday by the Sparks Police Department reveal the deluge of calls for help from adults and children...in the minutes that a 12-year-old shooter opened fire on campus Monday.
-- Sparks Middle School 911 calls: 'We have a teacher down', Los Angeles Times, Oct. 22, 2013
automatic
To understand why the gun control advocates are looking to control the sale of automatic guns, note that automatic refers to machinery that operate with very little human control. Automatic guns are capable of much more damage than manual ones.
Police said that student, using a 9mm semi-automatic handgun, drew his weapon about 7:15 a.m.
-- Sparks Middle School 911 calls: 'We have a teacher down', Los Angeles Times, Oct. 22, 2013
intervene
Intervene might seem like a mild word to describe an act of heroism by Sparks Middle School teacher Michael Landsberry, who was shot Monday while attempting to talk down a student with a gun, but in fact, it gets to the heart of what heroic bravery means. Heroes are the ones who chose to put themselves at risk to stand between "inter-" innocent victims and the source of harm they see coming "vene."
Flags in Nevada have been ordered to half-staff and tributes continued to pour in Tuesday for a teacher who died trying to intervene when a student at his middle school shot two schoolmates before killing the instructor and himself.
-- Tributes pour in for teacher killed in Nevada school shooting, Los Angeles Times, Oct. 22, 2013

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Friday October 25th 2013, 12:39 AM
Comment by: Skee K.
This vocabulary list taken from newspaper is excellent. I look forward to more. Thank you.
Tuesday November 12th 2013, 2:55 PM
Comment by: Nick M. (FL)
I think that lists like this allow you to learn words at a small time and not become overwhelmed with new words.

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