WORD LISTS

This Week in Words: May 18–24, 2019

May 23, 2019
We’ve rounded up the top words heard, read, and discussed in the news this week. Take a look back at the week that was, vocabulary style.
acumen
The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Ben Carson, appeared before congress this week. One lawmaker asked him about REOs — real estate owned properties — and he thought that she was referring to Oreo cookies. For Carson, it was an embarrassing beginning to the testimony, and critics say the gaffe shows that Carson lacks the expertise to do his job well. His questioner, on the other hand, is being credited for her acumen.
The exchange was also another example of Porter's incisive questioning and economic acumen.
- CNN (May 21, 2019)
bombard
New research suggests that broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are even better for you than previously thought. Scientists have isolated a molecule occurring naturally in broccoli that they believe “turns off” the cancer gene and prevents cancer growth. Researchers hope to isolate the molecule and create a tumor-suppressing medication in the near future.
“The study’s really exciting,” Pandolfi told the Harvard Gazette. “I’ve been bombarded by journalists — because of the broccoli connection, let’s be honest. Forget what you think about the science, the fact that [we found] something that your grandma would say [is] good for you, it’s appealing.”
- Good News Network (May 19, 2019)
curtail
The President’s lawyer, Don McGhan, was served with a subpoena to appear before a congressional committee, but resident Trump directed him to ignore it. McGhan did not appear for his scheduled testimony, so Congress held him in contempt. Lawmakers are now considering how they are going to enforce this ruling, and how to proceed with their investigation into possible obstruction of justice by the President.
McGahn was a key figure in Mueller’s investigation, describing ways in which the president sought to curtail that federal probe.
- Time (May 20, 2019)
discretion
Whether or not the President must turn over his tax returns continues to be a contentious issue. A lengthy memo leaked this week lays out the legal case that the President must turn over the records unless he declares executive privilege. It is unclear whether President Trump will do this to keep his tax information sealed. Discretion involves the power of personal decision-making.
The 10-page memo, however, comes to a different legal conclusion: that handing over the returns “is mandatory” and the law “does not allow the Secretary to exercise discretion in disclosing the information provided the statutory conditions are met…”
- Slate (May 21, 2019)
ecstatic
Robert F. Smith, a billionaire philanthropist, gave a commencement speech at Morehouse College's graduation. Smith didn’t just give a motivational speech, however — he pledged to pay the student debt for every student in the graduating class, a gift worth approximately $40 million dollars. To be ecstatic is to be in a state of joy.
"If I could do a backflip, I would. I am deeply ecstatic," Elijah Dormeus, a business administration major from Harlem in New York City who has $90,000 in student loan debt, told the Journal-Constitution.
- USA Today (May 20, 2019)
inhospitable
Kami Rita has set a record by reaching the summit of Mount Everest for the 24th time, with his last two ascents done in the space of a week. Rita is a Sherpa, a professional guide and a native of the Himalayas, who takes other climbers up the treacherous mountain. Sherpas set up rope bridges and provide oxygen to make the climb possible in the most extreme conditions on Earth. Inhospitable means not fit to live in, or preventing life from taking root.
It’s a place so dangerous that the bodies of most climbers who die on Everest remain there, a ghoulish testament to the idea that some places on Earth are most inhospitable.
- The Washington Post (May 21, 2019)
notorious
Scientists in Germany are working on a type of battery that uses a form of salt to store heat energy. Fossil fuels like oil and gas harm the environment, and some alternatives are too dependent on weather, so a battery that stores energy is a valuable resource. So far the calcium oxide battery system is only heating 100 homes in Germany, but researchers hope to expand the program to more users in the near future. Here, notorious means well-known, but in not in a good way.
The technology is also far more efficient at storing heat compared to water storage systems that are notorious for gradually losing their heat over time.
- Good News Network (May 20, 2019)
obviate
The House Intelligence Committee has reached a deal with the Justice Department to begin receiving documents related to the Mueller investigation. The committee had been threatening to execute a subpoena to get the material, but now it appears that the Justice Department is will cooperate. The Intelligence Committee is looking to reconstruct the evidence that led to the findings of the Mueller report about collusion and obstruction of justice.
Speaking with reporters a short time later, he said the initial compliance “does not obviate the need for the subpoena.” He added: “We will keep that in force until we get all the documents we are seeking.”
- The New York Times (May 22, 2019)
optimize
Google continues to branch out in new directions. The tech giant is behind a new artificial intelligence program being developed at Northwestern University that can detect lung cancer earlier and at a more accurate rate than human radiologists. Lung cancer is particularly difficult to detect in the early stages when treatment is most effective. If a detection method can be optimized, more lives can be saved.
Our work examines ways AI can be used to improve the accuracy and optimize the screening process, in ways that could help with the implementation of screening programs,” added Shetty.
- Good News Network (May 22, 2019)
restive
President Trump abruptly left a White House meeting with Democratic leaders after about three minutes. The President said that there will be no negotiations with Democrats until they stop investigating him. The word restive means the exact opposite of what it looks like; it doesn’t describe a quiet, peaceful state, but rather an annoyed, agitated, and uncomfortable one.
Ms. Pelosi arrived at the White House for a session with the president set to talk about infrastructure shortly after meeting with restive House Democrats to talk about impeachment.
- The New York Times (May 22, 2019)

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