WORD LISTS

On Torch-Bearing "Ineptitude" and Fed "Conclaves": Ten Words in the News You Need to Know

December 18, 2013
This week's news is marked by Olympic torch bearing ineptitude leading up to the Sochi Games, speculation as to discussion topics at a Fed conclave, and the Indian government's diplomatic retaliation after a member of its corps was arrested and strip searched while on a mission in the United States.

To fully understand these unfolding news stories, learn ten key words taken from this week's New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post coverage.
ineptitude
Inept means being bad or clumsy at a certain task, as in an actor who can't learn his lines or a baseball player who cannot catch. It's a word people toss around when someone's about to be fired, as well as the adjectives incompetent, and incapable.
It was bad enough when the Olympic flame went out and had to be relit with a disposable lighter rather than the official backup flame, and even worse when a torchbearer managed somehow to set himself on fire in the Siberian city of Abakan. But perhaps the low point in what has seemed less like an Olympic torch relay than an exercise in ineptitude and misfortune came earlier this week when one of the runners carrying the torch to the Sochi Games had a fatal heart attack while attempting to walk h
allotted
A lot, as in your " lot in life," is your "share," or the portion you have been assigned. And although a lot refers to a large quantity of something, to allot means "to assign."
But perhaps the low point in what has seemed less like an Olympic torch relay than an exercise in ineptitude and misfortune came earlier this week when one of the runners carrying the torch to the Sochi Games had a fatal heart attack while attempting to walk his allotted distance, about 218 yards.
-- Got a Light? Olympic Torch Relay Seems Cursed to the Ends of the Earth, The New York Times, Dec. 17, 2013
caldron
It's always interesting to encounter a word that you are familiar with in one context--as in a "witch's cauldron"--used in a more generalized way, as it is here, where cauldron indicates the large repository of fuel that supports the Olympic flame during the games.
In 1988 in Seoul, South Korea, several doves released in a dramatic gesture during the opening ceremony flew into the Olympic caldron and roasted to death.
-- Got a Light? Olympic Torch Relay Seems Cursed to the Ends of the Earth, The New York Times, Dec. 17, 2013
conclave
Although you might associate conclave with the meeting of Catholic cardinals whose job it is to select a new Pope, the term is used to refer to other secret meetings as well.
The Federal Reserve’s policy committee concludes its latest two-day conclave Wednesday, and it’s a cliffhanger.
-- What to Watch for From the Fed Meeting, The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 17, 2013
inflation
To follow any economic news here or abroad, you'll need to be familiar with the term inflation, which refers to the rate at which prices are rising. Too much is a bad thing, but too little can lead to deflation, or a reduction in prices, which is also bad.
Those who want to wait may also argue the central bank shouldn’t pull back while inflation remains so stubbornly below the Fed’s 2% target (The November consumer-price index showed prices up just 1.2% from a year earlier).
-- What to Watch for From the Fed Meeting, The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 17, 2013
placate
Placate derives from the same Latin root as "please" and means to "please, distract, or soothe." Think of a hotel's sending complimentary champagne after you complain about the smell of mold in the bath. Or offering a lollipop to a tantruming child.
If the Fed does taper, Mr. Bernanke could try to placate some officials reluctant to make that move through adjusting the thresholds.
-- What to Watch for From the Fed Meeting, The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 17, 2013
mission
If you know and use the expression "on a mission" to mean determined to get something done, you are already familiar with one of the most common meanings of this word. It can also work as a noun to describe a group that has been sent on a mission--to spread a specific religion, or, as in this case, to represent their country's government abroad.
The woman, Devyani ­Khobragade, has been transferred to a new post in the country’s permanent mission at the United Nations, Indian officials said, a move that capped a day of protests in front of the U.S.
-- More fallout from diplomat’s strip-search arrest, The Washington Post, Dec. 18, 2013
deplorable
Deplorable's a strong way to say "very bad." Like horrible or awesome, it can be tossed off casually, but in a diplomatic context where words are highly considered, deplorable is meant to express outrage and raise a red flag.
India’s Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, also weighed in, telling reporters that the treatment of the diplomat was “ deplorable.”
-- More fallout from diplomat’s strip-search arrest, The Washington Post, Dec. 18, 2013
erupt
Erupt is what volcanoes do when they become active and spew lava, and it can describe any sudden burst of activity. You can erupt into tears. Anger can erupt in a people. Think of it as related to interrupt, which carries the same sense of a sudden burst or break.
The furor between the U.S. and India erupted last Thursday when the 39-year-old deputy consul was arrested and charged with lying on her Indian babysitter’s visa application.
-- More fallout from diplomat’s strip-search arrest, The Washington Post, Dec. 18, 2013
retaliation
The "eye for an eye" concept of retaliation means you punish by giving what you got. And it's always bad: after your neighbor shovels your driveway you don't retaliate by baking him cookies. But after he parks his car on your lawn, you would retaliate by driving across his grass whenever you felt the need.
The treatment struck a nerve in the deeply traditional society, and on Tuesday, the government moved to sharply curtail privileges afforded U.S. diplomats in retaliation.
-- More fallout from diplomat’s strip-search arrest, The Washington Post, Dec. 18, 2013

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