This Week in Words: Current Events Vocab for October 8–October 14, 2022

October 10, 2022
Stories about Indigenous People's Day, urban coyotes, and a cursed concert hall all contributed words to this list of vocabulary from the week's news.
The world's oldest conifers, ancient bristlecone pines in California, are currently threatened by enormous wildfires like the blaze that destroyed some of the largest redwoods and sequoias last year. The longest-lived tree is believed to be a 4,800-year old bristlecone, a bare evergreen with a gnarled, twisted trunk. The trees thrive in dry, rocky soil, producing cones with spiky protrusions, or "bristles," and for generations the beloved conifers have been thought of as indestructible.
Researchers studying a population of coyotes in New York City discovered that the urban animals had a surprisingly similar diet to their rural counterparts. Urban ecologists examined scat left behind by the small, wolf-like canines and found that just 22 percent of their food was scavenged from humans. The rest of the coyotes' meals were made up of small mammals and reptiles, plants, and insects. Coyote is from a Spanish word borrowed from the Nahuatl coyōtl.
The former chair of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics on October 10. Bernanke won along with two other economists for their research into the role failing banks play in financial crises. Their research began decades ago, and it was particularly relevant during the global fiscal crisis of 2008. The 18th-century definition of economics was "the science of wealth," from a root meaning "household management."
Two years after tech workers began to leave San Francisco in droves at the start of the pandemic, many have still not returned. This exodus of well-paid residents meant a major drop in the city's wealth. According to the Census Bureau, the Bay area saw the country's largest decline in 2021 per-capita income, a drop of nearly five percent. Many workers abandoned the city for less expensive areas. The Greek roots of exodus are ex-, "out," and hodus, "way."
Following an unusually hot, dry summer across much of the United States, most autumn foliage is less colorful than usual. While deciduous trees are changing to muted shades of rust and brown in many places, leaf peepers can still find the brilliant red, orange, and yellow leaves they crave in damp and soggy areas, like wetlands. Foliage derives from the 15th-century ffoylage, an ornamental arrangement of leaves or branches, and its root word meaning "leaf."
Preliminary results of several new studies have led some doctors to predict that they will be able to immunize patients against at least three types of cancer in the near future. They say that people at high risk of developing colon, breast, or pancreatic cancer would be vaccinated. A patient's own immune system, aided by the vaccine, would then be able to attack any malignant cancer cells that formed. Immunizations may be available in as little as five years, according to researchers.
The Lincoln Center concert hall where the New York Philharmonic orchestra plays has long been rumored to have an acoustic jinx. It's reopening this week after a costly renovation that is meant to break that curse. From the hall's opening night in 1962, its sound was described as disastrously muddled, clashing, and distant. A 1976 revamp didn't improve the acoustics, leading to whispers of a malevolent spell. Originally baseball slang, jinx is an American English word.
In India, a struggling industry is experiencing a resurgence, thanks to the global popularity of reusable bags. Many of the totes replacing single-use plastic bags are made of jute, a coarse natural fiber, and most are exported from India. In 2021, the country exported three times more jute shopping bags than the previous year. The Sanskrit juta-s, "twisted hair," is the root of jute.
Drinking coffee may be connected to living longer, according to several recent studies. Researchers comparing the benefits of coffee and tea consumption found a correlation between sipping these drinks regularly and reaching an older age. Coffee had an especially close connection with longevity; while tea drinkers had a 13 percent lower risk of death during the study, coffee drinkers were 30 percent less likely to die during a seven-year period than non-coffee drinkers.
Russian missile strikes hit a dozen Ukrainian cities over several days, starting on October 10. Dozens of people were killed in the attacks, which appeared to target civilian areas, and thousands of residents lost power. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the rocket assaults were launched in retaliation for a Ukrainian bomb blast last week that destroyed parts of a bridge linking Russia with the Crimean Peninsula. The Latin root of missile means "a throwing."
One of the worst effects of climate change, as well as one of the most well-hidden, is the growth of dangerous mold. Increasing storms and rising sea levels have resulted in more flooding, along with more outbreaks of the furry or dusty fungus. Inhaling mold spores can have serious health effects, and moisture is an ideal breeding ground for the fungi to grow and spread. FEMA has recently added mold remediation payments to its disaster assistance.
Around the world, so-called "edible cities" are turning parks into orchards where people are welcome to pick fruit from trees and bushes. There are more than 150 of these public green spaces, which include vegetable gardens and berry patches as well as fruit and nut trees. Managers and organizers report that they haven't had problems with people picking more apples or raspberries than they need. The Old English wortgeard, "plant yard," is the likely root of orchard.
President Biden formally recognized Indigenous People's Day on October 10 by issuing an official proclamation. He declared that the occasion honors "the sovereignty, resilience, and immense contributions that Native Americans have made to the world.” Though not a federal holiday, it has replaced Columbus Day in many cities and towns. Proclamation has its roots in the Late Latin proclamationem, "a calling or crying out."
Trains in northern Germany were stalled for hours this weekend, after cables controlling the rail lines were deliberately cut. German officials described it as an act of sabotage. The incident followed the recent malicious destruction of natural gas pipelines in Germany. Sabotage evolved from a French word meaning "wooden shoe" and first meant "walk noisily," then "malicious damaging of a workplace by workmen," prior to its current meaning, "deliberate destruction."
Several new studies about bears seek to understand how they stay so healthy despite being sedentary through most of the winter. Research suggests that the bears, who carry about 40 percent more body fat and settle into dens where they hardly move all winter long, undergo a dramatic cellular-level change. Researchers identified proteins in the bears' blood that may eventually be used in humans with metabolic disorders. The root of sedentary means "sit."
Dogs enlisted in a new study were able to detect smells in humans associated with stress. Earlier research had shown that dogs can identify illness in people through odors, but this is the first evidence of their ability to sniff out an emotional state. The canine study participants correctly identified people who showed physical effects of a stressful situation: elevated blood pressure and heart rate. Stress is from the Middle English distress.
An 18-year-old Minecraft player spent two months creating a virtual version of the known universe. Using the game's building blocks, Christopher Slayton designed the observable parts of outer space, using mathematical calculations to make his Minecraft universe a scale model of the real one. It includes galaxies, black holes, planets, and stars. The Latin source of universe is universus, "all together" or "all in one."
Scientists who study the way humans control flexible objects observed people as they cracked whips, gathering data they hope to use in engineering better robots and prosthetic devices. Volunteers wore special sensors that tracked their movements as they flicked the strips of cord. It's easy for most humans to manipulate wobbly things, but robots find it nearly impossible. Etymologists suspect a connection between whip and the Low German wippe, "quick movement."

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