WORD LISTS

A Quick Current Events Quiz: Pulitzer Prizes in the News

April 15, 2014
Talking about the Pulitzer Prizes awarded this week? Make sure you're up on these ten words essential for talking about the forces shaping our culture.

We publish this ten-word list drawn from news coverage in sources such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post every week.
Here are six reasons why you should commit to it on a weekly basis.
wry
A great word to know, wry means "humorously sarcastic or mocking," and sums up a deliciously subtle set of associations in a handy three-letter word. Don't confuse it with rye, as in the bread, though both carry a sense of a bit of bitterness and complexity of flavor.
Ms. Baker’s wry drama about three misfits who work at a movie theater features long, lifelike silences in sometimes-awkward conversations.
lyric
In musical theater, one writer comes up with the spoken words, the "book," while another is responsible for the lyrics, or the words in the songs.
Finalists Madeleine George, “The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence”; Lisa Kron, book and lyrics, Jeanine Tesori, music, “Fun Home.”
compensate
Although it is often used as a formal way of saying "pay for," you don't always compensate with money. You might compensate for being a jerk to your in-laws at the summer reunion picnic by being extra nice to Aunt Marge at Thanksgiving.
Mr. Taylor, 58, drew on records of a commission to compensate slave owners for their lost property.
rectify
If you've studied Latin, you'll know rectus means straight or right, and here, rectify means to make right. A great motivation, apparently, for writing a Pulitzer Prize-winning book.
Ms. Marshall used to think that Margaret Fuller — the pioneering writer, critic and women’s rights advocate who died in a shipwreck in 1850 — was too well known to need a new biography...But when mentioned, her name drew only blank looks, said Ms. Marshall, 59, who teaches at Emerson College. “I had to go back and rectify that.”
deftly
Handily, easily, effortlessly are all synonyms for deftly. Think of watching your Pilates instructor work her way through a series of abdominal crunches. Or reading the prose of a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer.
Mr. Fagin, 51, was cited by the board for his book “that deftly combines investigative reporting and historical research to probe a New Jersey seashore town’s cluster of childhood cancers linked to water and air pollution.”
subsequent
Subsequent is an elegant word that keeps you from having to say, "the thing that comes after the thing I was just talking about." It means "next," or "following," and is used here to describe the manhunt subsequent to the Boston Marathon bombing, coverage of which earned The Boston Globe a Pulitzer Prize.
The Globe was awarded the prize for its reporting on the Boston Marathon bombing and the subsequent manhunt that left a terrified city in a daylong lockdown.
empathetic
Don't confuse empathetic with sympathetic. With empathy, think of Bill Clinton's famous "I feel your pain." To sympathize is simply to understand that pain but not take it on personally. Perhaps the deeper empathy achieved by the Globe's marathon bombing coverage contributed to it's winning of the Pulitzer prize.
The committee cited The Globe’s “exhaustive and empathetic coverage” and also its use of “photography and a range of digital tools to capture the full impact of the tragedy.”
somber
Capturing the mood in Boston, somber means serious and gloomy, though not necessarily lost to the throes of grief.
On its own website, the paper struck a somber note: “With the one-year anniversary of the bombings on Tuesday, and the 118th running of the race scheduled for next Monday, the region is remembering the pain of the bombings and vowing to move resolutely forward.”
squalid
No matter the fetid gym socks or ancient cup of coffee turned science experiment, the mess in your room is unlikely to earn it the dubious honor of being called squalid. The word is reserved for conditions that are truly foul, potentially disease-producing, run-down and in some cases, even morally compromised. Think degraded slums, rat-infested orphanages, and other Dickens-worthy horror shows.
Their series chronicled a trail of money from public coffers to operators of squalid rental units across the county.
complicity
Word morphology fans might be interested to note that complicit, the adjectival form of complicity, or an accomplice's guilt, is not related to implicit which means "unspoken." Implicit relates to the Latin implicare while complicit comes from complicare "to fold together."
The board noted the “courageous reports” that exposed the violent actions of Buddhist monks and the complicity of officials in Myanmar and Thailand.

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