WORD LISTS

A Quick Current Events Vocab Quiz! Are "Nihilistic" Dissidents Threatening Sochi?

February 5, 2014
As the world prepares to watch the Sochi Olympics despite fears of violence from amorphous and diffuse groups of nihilistic dissidents a new farm bill offers only incremental change and CVS sacrifices cigarette revenue as incongruous to its health-related focus.

Follow this week's news coverage from a vocabularian's perspective by learning 10 words from this week's New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post coverage.
brook
You probably know this word as a noun meaning a small running stream, but as a verb, brook means "to put up with or tolerate," and it's usually used in the negative.
The Russian hosts of the 2014 Winter Games made clear long ago they would brook no political protests at the Olympics, and now, it seems, they are having second thoughts about allowing dissidents even to attend as spectators.
-- Russia Blocks Several Activists From Olympics, Even as Spectators, The New York Times, Feb. 4, 2014
nihilistic
Nihilistic is used to signal a group's willingness to engage in violent tactics, but it's also often appropriate to non-violent teenagers or depressives. It means someone ascribing to the belief that life is meaningless.
Even if Russia succeeds in keeping Sochi safe, the violence is certain to grind on here in the Caucasus when international attention moves on, nurtured by the nihilistic ideology of the international jihad and punctuated by terrorist attacks outside the region that experts say Russia, like other countries, will never be able to prevent completely.
-- An Olympics in the Shadow of a War Zone, The New York Times, Feb. 5, 2014
diffuse
Don't confuse this word for "spread out" with defuse, which means to disarm as in a bomb or just an explosive situation. The words are pronounced differently, too. Diffuse rhymes with spruce and defuse with use.
Mr. Umarov, who is described as Russia’s Osama bin Laden, has led the insurgency since 2006, but his influence and operational command are now a matter of dispute. Many officials and experts describe him as little more than a figurehead for a diffuse constellation of terrorist cells operating independently.
-- An Olympics in the Shadow of a War Zone, The New York Times, Feb. 5, 2014
amorphous
Morphology alert! If you know that morph means "to change shape," and that a means "not," you'll be able to guess that amorphous means having no defined shape or structure.
Like the majority of Muslims in southern Russia, [Mr. Tlyepshev] showed no outward signs of embracing a radical strain of Islam, let alone aiding the amorphous networks of fighters who do, his wife said.
-- An Olympics in the Shadow of a War Zone, The New York Times, Feb. 5, 2014
curtail
Curtail is a formal way of saying "cut short." It's not the same as postpone or cancel, as the activity in question is already underway.
Since returning to power in 2012, President Vladimir V. Putin has cracked down on all forms of dissent, jailing activists, curtailing public demonstrations and muzzling private news outlets in an effort to contain an opposition movement that blossomed in previous years.
-- Russia Blocks Several Activists From Olympics, Even as Spectators, The New York Times, Feb. 4, 2014
relegate
You can relegate people, things, or activities to inferior positions with this useful word. You might relegate your stuffed animal collection to your bedroom closet when you hit high school. Note the relationship between relegate ("send down") and delegate, which means to appoint or send forth on a task and can be seen as "send up."
Approved protests have already been relegated to a small area under a freeway viaduct, far from the sight of fans or athletes.
-- Russia Blocks Several Activists From Olympics, Even as Spectators, The New York Times, Feb. 4, 2014
incremental
An increment is a small but measure. So to change in an incremental fashion means to change a little bit at a time. Here, where Obama was hoping for wholesale change, change that is only incremental is seen as a failure.
The bill’s authors urge support because it eliminates egregious “direct payment” subsidies and makes a few other incremental reforms.
-- In Congress’s farm bill, the rich get richer, The Washington Post, Feb. 4, 2014
apologist
An apologist is not necessarily someone apologizing. Rather, it means to defend or argue in favor of something that's often controversial or widely disapproved of.
Contrary to what its apologists claim, the 2014 farm bill is not a hard-won triumph for bipartisanship.
-- In Congress’s farm bill, the rich get richer, The Washington Post, Feb. 4, 2014
woo
In an old fashioned context, look for woo to mean "trying to get someone to marry you." While that definition still holds today, it's more generally seen as used here, where it means "to seek someone's favor." You might be wooed by a potential employer trying to convince you to take a job.
Each of those competitors, like CVS, is wooing sick patients with the promise they could help them better manage their health—and make sure they stay on their prescription medications.
-- CVS to Stop Selling Cigarettes, The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 5, 2014
incongruous
Incongruous is at the heart of this story of CVS taking cigarettes off its shelves as it seeks to transition into a more comprehensive healthcare provider. Swap incongruous into the old Sesame Street song, "One of these things is not like the other," with you'll have both an easy way to remember its meaning and a rhythm that doesn't really work because...it's incongruous!
Some municipalities have balked at the incongruous combination of pharmacies and cigarettes.
-- CVS to Stop Selling Cigarettes, The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 5, 2014

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Wednesday February 12th, 8:18 AM
Comment by: Steve C. (Glenmont, NY)
CVS has displayed a welcome effort at social responsibility in place of the all too common focus strictly on the bottom line.
Bravo and I believe your sales will grow in gratitude from the public for your altruistic decision

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