WORD LISTS

Would E-cigarettes Lose the Smoker's Stigma if Called by Another Name? A Quick Current Events Vocab Quiz

March 5, 2014
An evolving conundrum in the Ukraine, semantics issues behind undetected use of e-cigarettes among teens, continuing disfigurement and worse for U.S. soldiers deaths in Afghanistan, and news from the Vatican.

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.

Commit to this list on weekly basis! Here are six reasons why.
bluster
Bluster can describe the behavior of both humans and winds. Blustery winds come in fast and hard; they gust. Blustery people make a big show of force and courage which they may or may not be able to back up.
For all his bluster and bravado, President Vladimir V. Putin’s assurance on Tuesday that Russia does not plan, at least for now, to seize eastern Ukraine suggested a possible path forward in the geopolitical crisis that has captivated the world.
-- No Easy Way Out of Ukraine Crisis, The New York Times, Mar. 4, 2014
conundrum
The classic Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum puzzle. An impasse in weekend planning: lie to your parents or annoy your friends? These difficult decisions can be described as a conundrum, a question or a puzzle with no easy answer.
But the development presented a tricky conundrum for President Obama and his European allies.
-- No Easy Way Out of Ukraine Crisis, The New York Times, Mar. 4, 2014
influx
Can you find the Latin root meaning "flow" inside influx? It's flu. Think of how something's that fluid will flow, and you'll remember. Here influx, which means "a flowing in," is being used to describe Russian troops moving into the Ukraine.
And they detected no new influx of troops into Crimea.
-- No Easy Way Out of Ukraine Crisis, The New York Times, Mar. 4, 2014
vapor
Teens deny smoking "e-cigarettes" but when it comes to "hookah pens" or "e-hookahs" or "vape pipes," well, that's a horse of a different color. The vape in vape pipe comes from vapor, which translates into steam carrying something else. Here, it's carrying all the stuff teens don't smoke because they want to avoid.
Olivia Zacks, 17, recently took a drag of peach-flavored vapor from a device that most people would call an e-cigarette.
-- E-Cigarettes, by Other Names, Lure Young and Worry Experts, The New York Times, Mar. 4, 2014
stigma
In elementary school, "having cooties" was the ultimate stigma. Now, cigarettes are stigmatized, or seen as tainted, in the same way.
These devices are part of a subgenre of the fast-growing e-cigarette market and are being shrewdly marketed to avoid the stigma associated with cigarettes of any kind.
-- E-Cigarettes, by Other Names, Lure Young and Worry Experts, The New York Times, Mar. 4, 2014
semantics
When teens who wouldn't go near e-cigarettes are apparently sucking on "vape pipes" without any awareness of the dangers, the problem comes down to semantics, or the names by which these devices are known.
Indeed, public health officials warn that they may be misjudging the use of such products — whatever they are called — partly because of semantics.
-- E-Cigarettes, by Other Names, Lure Young and Worry Experts, The New York Times, Mar. 4, 2014
disfigure
A person's figure can refer to their shape, their face, or just the whole of their appearance--"to cut a fine figure" means to look particularly sharp. Therefore, disfigure means to mess with your appearance in ways large or small. Anything from a pimple to major scarring to an amputation can be described as disfiguring.
“We must fight the battles that need to be fought,” Obama told those in attendance, among them a soldier disfigured by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
-- The last casualties: As a long war ends, risks still prove real, The Washington Post, Mar. 4, 2014
proficient
If you're proficient at speaking a foreign language, it means you can make yourself understood with confidence and skill. Here, where insurgents are described as proficient in developing bombs, it means they're getting very good at it. Wouldn't it be nice if they spent their energy learning a foreign language instead?
Kirby Gross, a physician who studies trauma care for wounded troops and who is deployed at Bagram, struggled to find the right words to explain how insurgents have become so proficient at killing and maiming American service members.
-- The last casualties: As a long war ends, risks still prove real, The Washington Post, Mar. 4, 2014
rebuff
To rebuff is to reject or defend against. An army can rebuff the advances of an invading force. A love object might rebuff the advances of a suitor. Here, the pope is rebuffing, or defending himself against criticism.
As the anniversary of his election approaches, the Argentinean-born pontiff also sought to rebuff criticisms that he has done too little to respond to the sex abuse scandals that have rocked the church, while he also renewed his criticisms of globalization.
-- Women Could Have Greater Role in Church, Says Pope, The Washington Post, Mar. 4, 2014
papacy
You probably know what a pope is, but do you also know that papacy, like presidency, describes a pope's administration? Now you're in on this knowledge, and congratulations! This key vocabulary word will help you discuss the pope in the news with more precision and fluency.
At the same time, Pope Francis sought to play down the huge popularity that his papacy has generated, saying that he is "not some sort of superman."
-- Women Could Have Greater Role in Church, Says Pope, The Washington Post, Mar. 4, 2014

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