WORD LISTS

This Week In Culture: November 23–29, 2019

November 27, 2019
The universe gets an x-ray. Kanye writes an opera. Dolly gets her due. These and other assorted happenings contributed the choicest vocabulary from this week's sports, science, and culture stories.
bombastic
Country superstar Dolly Parton is 73, and yet she has never been more visible or relevant. Dolly Parton’s America, a new podcast from one of Radiolab's creators, investigates her 50-year career and continuing impact on the culture. Besides the podcast, this year she performed for her 50th anniversary on the Grand Ole Opry, and Netflix launched a new show, Heartstrings, based on her songs. She also recently wrote new songs for the movie Dumplin'.
Past poverty and present success collide in Parton’s biography and the bombastic version of it, reincarnated for visitors’ entertainment.
Guardian (Nov 25, 2019)
debut
When Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens, it could take Disney's record box office year to a new level. Four Disney properties have already grossed over $1 billion so far in 2019, and forecasts show this latest Star Wars movie and Frozen 2 could both break that milestone. Debut, often spelled début, is a French word, from the verb débuter, meaning "to lead off, "to start." Debutante comes from the same root.
While that figure won’t come close to dethroning “Avengers: Endgame” and its historic $357 million launch, it would still rank among the best domestic debuts of all time.
Variety (Nov 27, 2019)
jibe
The rapid rise in vaping, especially among young people, is causing widespread concern amid news of mysterious illnesses and 47 deaths in this country alone. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute is increasing funding on the health effects of e-cigarettes, which show signs of causing serious changes to lung tissue and possible links to cancer.
That finding jibes with earlier research showing combustion products are the cause of airway inflammation in smokers.
Science (Nov 26, 2019)
mercurial
NBA player Kyrie Irving was sidelined with a shoulder injury when his new team, the Brooklyn Nets, traveled to Boston for a game. Observers have wondered how the Celtics will fare now that Irving is gone, but they beat the Nets 121-110. Mercurial comes from Mercury, the Roman god of speed and commerce. Also, mercury, sometimes called quicksilver, is the only metallic element that's liquid at room temperature, with a slippery and quick-changing appearance.
Many franchises would be shaken to the core if a mercurial top-15 player stormed into town, exerted total control, failed to deliver and then took off in free agency.
Washington Post (Nov 26, 2019)
predecessor
South Korean "Go" champion and former wolrd number one Lee Se-dol retired from competition in the face of computers that he deemed unbeatable. Over the last few years, engineers at Google and other companies have successfully developed AI that can play "Go", the most complex board game in the world, better than any human. The opposite of predecessor is successor.
After three days of self-play using hugely powerful computer systems that let it play games at superhuman speeds, AlphaGo Zero was able to defeat its predecessor 100 games to nil.
The Verge (Nov 27, 2019)
proclamation
Thanksgiving became a national holiday in 1863, thanks to Abraham Lincoln. That same year, just a week before the first official Thanksgiving, he delivered the Gettysburg address, considered to be some of the most powerful words uttered in our country's history. Proclamation is a word well associated with Lincoln; in January of that same fateful year he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, putting an official end to slavery.
Over just a few weeks, Lincoln offered two markedly different presidential declarations that forever changed this nation: his Gettysburg Address and the proclamation of a Thanksgiving holiday.
– Slate (Nov 25, 2019)
remnant
The universe is full of X-ray radiation. To figure out why, and where it came from, NASA launched the Chandra X-ray Observatory. On its 20th anniversary, the orbiting telescope has provided a huge amount of information on the nature of the cosmos including how stars are born and what dark matter might be. And, in case you're wondering, all those X-rays are the result of supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies.
Since its launch in 1999, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has been studying the heavens through short-wavelength x-ray light, the best window for sighting colossal black holes, galaxy clusters and the remnants of violent supernovae.
Scientific American (Nov 26, 2019)
roster
In an astonishing upset, the unranked Stephen F. Austin State University men's basketball team beat Duke in overtime, 83-82. Prior to this game, Duke was ranked number 1 in the country; since the loss they have fallen out of the top ten. Nathan Bain, who scored the winning bucket, comes from the Bahamas, which was hit hard by Hurricane Dorian. Bain was pleased to have given his home country something to be happy about.
The roster has seven junior college transfers.
New York Times (Nov 27, 2019)
tumultuous
Kanye West's new work Nebuchadnezzar premiered to mixed reviews. Inspired by West's conversion to Christianity, and based on the story of a Babylonian king, the performance was staged by artist Vanessa Beecroft, a frequent collaborator. Tumultuous comes directly from the Latin tumultuosus, meaning "disorderly, unruly, or turbulent." A tumult is a confusion, a mess, an uproar.
And West has clearly been searching for purification and healing after a tumultuous period of canceled tour dates, opioid addiction, hospitalization for mental illness, public support for President Trump that has infuriated a good chunk of the country, and incoherent statements about slavery that have infuriated almost everyone.
New York Times (Nov 25, 2019)
vitriol
Damon Lindelof's HBO drama Watchmen has similarities with Lost, the hit series that addicted and infuriated viewers in equal measure. It asks a lot of questions, answering few of them, and keeps compounding the mysteries with new plot twists. Vitriol originally referred to iron sulfate, which often had a glassy appearance; vitrum means "glass" in Latin. When heated, it releases sulphuric acid, which gives a good sense of how caustic vitriolic criticism can be.
Seeing “Watchmen” through that filter makes its risks and challenges to the viewer even more impressive, especially when one recalls the horrendous level of vitriol directed at Lindelof for a very long time after “Lost” ended.
Salon (Nov 26, 2019)

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