WORD LISTS

This Week In Words: November 21–27, 2020

November 17, 2020
A special Thanksgiving week edition comes to your table stuffed with words for cooking, eating, shopping, and more. Dig in to this list of timely vocabulary!
baste
Turkeys are big birds, without a lot of fat, so the meat can dry out if it's not cooked carefully. Because of this, many recipes call for basting the bird at regular intervals: brushing it with butter or pan drippings to keep it moist and to help the skin get beautifully brown and crispy. There are even specialized basting brushes, which look like small, flat paintbrushes, made for this task.
concession
Officials in Pennsylvania and Nevada certified that Joe Biden won the Presidential election in both of those states, and the General Services Administration filed the paperwork that allows the Biden transition team access to federal funds and information to ensure a smooth transfer of power when he is sworn in on January 21. President Trump has not yet given a concession speech.
contagious
The Transportation Safety Administration said that the Saturday before Thanksgiving was the busiest travel day since the pandemic began. Millions of people traveled to see family for the holiday, despite warnings that negative test results do not necessarily mean that people are not contagious. Experts predict that the already severe infection rates around the country will explode in the days and weeks following the holiday.
feast
The Thanksgiving feast originated as a celebration of a bountiful harvest. Such gatherings were already established traditions in both European and Native American cultures before 1621, but that's the year the Pilgrims hosted what would become known as the first Thanksgiving. Feast comes from the Latin "festa." which is the root of "festival" and "fiesta." Originally a term for a large celebration, over time " feast" came to refer to a large meal, often on a special occasion like Thanksgiving.
float
Parades, like the iconic Macy's-sponsored event in New York every Thanksgiving, often feature impressively decorated floats, each with a theme. " Float" is Old English, and as early as 1686 it was used to describe a wagon or cart with a platform built on it to enlarge its cargo area. A couple of hundred years later the word was used specifically for festive parade vehicles.
frenzy
On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, many shoppers go a little nuts trying to score holiday shopping deals at stores offering big sales. Occasionally there are even fights or other disruptive behavior from people whipped into a frenzy by crowds grabbing at the same items. " Frenzy" comes from the Greek "phrenitikos," meaning "insane" or "raging mad," which is also the root of "frantic" and "frenetic."
gluttony
The Thanksgiving meal, famous for covering the table with a wide variety of dishes, can easily become an excuse for gluttony. One of the seven deadly sins, a concept that developed in the Medieval Christian church, gluttony was divided into subcategories: eating too much, eating too often, eating too expensively, and eating only for pleasure rather than out of hunger. "Glutire" means "to gulp" or "to swallow" in Latin. It's also the root of "glut."
messenger
The two new vaccines that have showed exceptional promise in providing immunity from the coronavirus both take advantage of a new technology that uses messenger RNA from the virus to teach human immune cells to recognize the characteristic spike proteins that cover the germ's surface. Messenger RNA is the part of the virus's genetic code that tells infected cells how to make more viruses, but by itself it can't make people sick.
merchandise
Holiday shopping increasingly happens online, as consumers order merchandise of every imaginable kind from huge companies and small mom-and-pop shops alike. Much of the shopping happens in the days following Thanksgiving, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday. "Marchandise" is Old French, from the Latin root "marcandisa," meaning "goods." It's also the root of "market" and "merchant."
optimism
The recent announcement that two vaccines currently being tested appear to give immunity to 90 percent or more of the people who receive the shots has caused a surge in optimism around the world as people can begin to imagine a return to something resembling normal life next year. Doctors and other essential personnel may begin receiving the injections as early as next month, with a much wider distribution planned for spring.
preparation
A meal the size of many Thanksgiving dinners sometimes requires days of preparation, as home cooks work their way through the many dishes they plan to serve. "Parare" is a Latin verb meaning "to make ready," and the prefix "pre-" — which you can conveniently see in "prefix" — means "before."
restriction
As the virus spreads uncontrollably, more and more states are imposing restrictions on risky behavior like indoor eating and drinking, large gatherings, and entering buildings without wearing a mask. " Restriction" comes from the Latin "restringere," which means "to limit" or "to tighten."
retail
Many retail businesses begin to show a profit during the holiday shopping that follows Thanksgiving. That's where Black Friday gets its name: from the fact that old accounting ledgers used to show profits in black and losses in red. The fact that people can do so much of their gift buying remotely is predicted to be a big help for many business owners suffering serious economic hardship during the pandemic.
rivalry
The Dallas Cowboys will host the Washington Football Team on Thanksgiving, one of three prime-time games scheduled. This will be the 122nd time the two teams have met. Though the Cowboys have largely dominated their contests since the two teams first faced off in the 1960s, in 2005 Sports Illustrated called these two teams the top NFL rivalry of all time. "Rival" comes from the Latin "rivalis:" "person living across a stream" in the sense that both people would be competing for the fish.
virtual
The pandemic will force many people to have virtual holiday gatherings instead of in-person celebrations. While there's no substitute for hugging and hanging out with loved ones, video chat technology does allow for inviting guests from anywhere in the world. " Virtual" comes from the Latin "virtualis," referring to "power" or "potency." Today we use " virtual" to describe something that's not the real thing, but which has much of the force or effect of whatever it's imitating.

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