This Week in Words: Current Events Vocab for August 20–August 26, 2022

August 22, 2022
Stories about an internet meme, a tennis star, and a 17-year-old solo pilot all contributed words to this list of vocabulary from the week's news.
A Black couple in Maryland is suing two businesses after an appraisal of their home valued it $300,000 higher when a white acquaintance posed as its owner. 20/20 Valuation, a home appraisal company, estimated the couple's home was worth $472,000, and a mortgage lender, loanDepot, denied them a loan based on the assessment. When their white colleague stood in for them, it was appraised at $750,000. The couple filed suit against both companies for discrimination.
A new study by neuroscientists helps explain why mosquitos are so good at sensing human aromas. The researchers took a close look at the insects' brains and discovered a startling difference between the way they and other animals detect smell. In a fruit fly's antennae, each neuron has one receptor that can detect a single type of scent. Mosquitos, on the other hand, have multiple receptors that can sense many different odors. In Greek, aroma means "spice or sweet herb."
As live performances returned around the U.S. this year, attendance has lagged far below what arts organizations expected and hoped for. Audiences for Broadway shows in the past season were less than half as large as in 2019, and symphonies around the country have had to cut performances due to low ticket sales. The Latin root of attendance is attendere, "give heed to," or "stretch toward."
So-called "forever chemicals," or PFAS, are found in nonstick pans, on furniture, and even in dental floss. These substances, which are harmful to human health, take a notoriously long time to decompose. Scientists have recently discovered a simple, inexpensive way to destroy them, by gently boiling them with two compounds. The method causes the molecules to break down, completely eradicating the chemical. Researchers are now focused on trying it outside a laboratory.
Sixteen-year-old Mack Rutherford became the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe in a plane when he landed his ultralight Shark in Bulgaria on August 24. Rutherford, who turned 17 during the voyage, flew across five continents and 52 countries as he circled the earth. Circumnavigate derives from Latin roots circum, "around," and navigare, "to sail."
Librarians at the University of Michigan confirmed a historian's suspicion that a valuable Galileo manuscript held by the university was most likely a counterfeit. The document, purportedly written in 1610, includes sketches of Jupiter and its moons. An investigation found it was inauthentic, not by Galileo but instead the work of an early 20th-century forger. The Old French source of counterfeit means "imitate," from contre, "against," and faire, "to do."
Recent studies show that although millions of workers have returned to in-person jobs, about 30 percent of all work in 2021 and 2022 was done remotely. Economists say the shift to working from home has affected the country's demographics, with cities like New York and San Francisco losing more than 10,000 residents in a year. Small- and medium-sized cities have gained population, as have some rural areas. Demographic is from a Greek root, dēmos, which means "people."
Tennis star Serena Williams, who announced her retirement this month, has profoundly changed the sport over the course of her career. Many commentators credit her for an increase in diversity among U.S. tennis fans, who have historically been white and wealthy. At the 2016 U.S. Open, 25 percent of the spectators were Black, a testament to Williams' influence in a sport where non-white players remain underrepresented. The root of diversity means "turned different ways."
Astronomers who study stars that have surrounded and consumed their planets are eagerly awaiting data from the James Webb Telescope that will help them better understand this phenomenon. In five billion years, our own sun will grow so large that it will engulf many of the planets in its orbit, a relatively common occurrence. Closer examination of planet-swallowing stars may help scientists deduce what the end of our world might look like, and provide new clues about extraterrestrial life.
Humans probably evolved to spend less time chewing their food, according to a new study. Researchers calculated how much energy people use when they masticate by measuring oxygen and carbon dioxide in their breath as their teeth ground up each bite of a meal. Changes in our teeth, jaws, and skull shape may have occurred in order to save energy. Etymologists aren't sure of this word's origin, but they suspect it's closely related to the Greek mastikhan, "to gnash the teeth."
A 2018 photograph became a viral sensation on social media this month, in the form of a meme known as "Girl Explaining." The image, of a young woman apparently yelling into a young man's ear, has been shared online thousands of times with added captions endorsing climate change solutions, complaining about the end of the movie Titanic, and more. The original photo was taken at a concert where Denise Sanchez was singing along to a cumbia song as she leaned toward her boyfriend.
One of the few companies outside of China that processes the minerals needed to make electric car motors has announced it will start mining them in Greenland. The move is part of a push to divest from Russian sources of ore. These rare earth metals are also used in clean energy technologies like wind turbines. Mineral is from the medieval Latin minerale, "something mined," and its root, meaning "a mine."
After nearly being eradicated worldwide, polio has reemerged in recent months. The infectious disease, which has no treatment or cure but is preventable through vaccination, sickened and paralyzed people in Malawi, Pakistan, Israel, and the U.K. over the past year. Last week, the virus was also detected in New York City wastewater. Polio is short for poliomyelitis, from roots meaning "pale," "marrow," and "inflammation."
For the first time in the U.S., hearing aids will be available without a prescription. The FDA has established a new rule intended to increase access to these devices, making them cheaper and not requiring a doctor's visit. Prescription is from a Latin root that means "a writing before" or "a prefix in writing." The medical meaning dates back to the 16th century, from the sense of a doctor writing out directions for a patient.
The longest pandemic-related school shutdown in the world ended this week, when classes resumed in the Philippines. Students across the country went back to classrooms for the first time in over two years on August 22. Although remote school was held over those months, the majority of students have no access to computers or the internet. The Philippines has one of the lowest rates of literacy in kids under the age of ten, making the return to regular classroom routines imperative.
Anthony Fauci, who has led the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, announced that he will retire in December. Fauci has worked in public health at the federal level for almost 50 years. Working with a total of seven presidents, Fauci advised on responses to Covid-19, HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Zika, and other health crises. Retire was commonly used in the 17th century to mean "step out of the room and go to bed" as well as "stop working."
A study of dogs' physical reactions to their owners found that their eyes fill with tears when they are reunited with their favorite people. The experiment's small sample size means further research is needed, but if the initial results are accurate, it's the first recorded evidence of emotions producing tears in any non-human animal. Rejoining a person who wasn't their owner after a period of separation did not have the same effect on the dogs being studied.
One hiker died and about 200 were stranded on August 20 after flash flooding at several national parks. The death occurred at Utah's Zion National Park when the Virgin River swelled and swept several visitors off their feet. At Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, tourists were trapped for more than nine hours when roads became flooded, some on the roofs of their cars. The verb strand comes from the noun and its "beach" meaning, from the sense of a ship stranded on a shore.

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