This Week in Words: Current Events Vocab for November 12–November 18, 2022

November 14, 2022
Stories about an inflatable flying saucer, a popular Marvel movie, and a less popular hairstyle all contributed words to this list of vocabulary from the week's news.
Cats are famously aloof, but new research proves they're not as standoffish as we might think. A study in Animal Cognition shows that cats distinguish between "cat-directed" words and conversational speech — and they react differently to different speakers. Cats respond in subtle ways, by twitching an ear or freezing briefly, and these reactions increase when their owners speak to them. Aloof began as a nautical term, first "to the wind," and later "at a distance."
Fifty years after archaeologists found a miniature comb in Israel, scientists have translated an inscription in the ivory: "May this tusk root out the lice of the hair and the beard.” The comb is estimated to be 3,700 years old, making the inscribed letters the earliest known sentence written in the alphabet that evolved into the one we use today. The system of letters, developed around 1,700 BCE, was the first to replace older pictorial systems like cuneiform and hieroglyphics.
Preliminary data from the drug company Moderna suggests that its most recent coronavirus booster shot produces higher levels of antibodies than the first booster. The updated vaccine appears to boost the immune system in a way that allows it to specifically target and fight off the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5. The word antibody was formed from anti-, "against," and body, as in "a body that fights against pathogens."
On November 15, former president Donald Trump announced that he will be a candidate in the 2024 presidential election. Trump's official statement confirming his plan to run for office again followed the overwhelming defeat of midterm candidates he had endorsed. He is likely to face many other prospects in the Republican primaries, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. The Latin root of candidate, meaning "one aspiring to office," originally meant "white-robed."
President Biden met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in person for the first time on November 14. Xi, who has been president of the People's Republic of China since 2013, expressed a desire to return to a stable relationship between the two countries. Biden said despite serious disagreement between the two leaders, there was no need to fear "a new Cold War." Counterpart derives from the French contre, "opposite," and partie, "copy of a person or thing."
Two federal agencies are considering a plan that would return endangered grizzlies to an area of Washington state where they once flourished. It's been more than 25 years since the large bears were seen in the area, which they had inabited for more than 10,000 years. Grizzly is the nickname of the Grizzly bear, whose Latin name is Ursus horribilis. The source is either grisly, "horrible," or the gentler grizzle, "gray-colored."
NASA tested a new device that could help make a Mars landing possible in the future. A large, inflatable heat shield was launched into space on a rocket before being filled with air and then dropped into the Pacific Ocean. Because it can be easily folded and stored before being inflated, the lightweight heat shield will allow for heavier spacecraft and safer touchdowns. The Latin source of inflatable is inflare, or "puff up."
Democrats will keep their narrow Senate majority, after winning close midterm elections in Nevada and Arizona. There are currently 50 Democratic senators and 49 Republicans. Vice President Kamala Harris casts her vote in the case of a Senate tie, so Democrats will have the advantage even if the Republican candidate wins the upcoming Georgia runoff election. In the House, Republicans edged closer to their own slight majority as results from competitive races continue to be tallied.
Italian researchers watched dozens of pigs for six months, and their resulting study reveals new evidence that the animals are smart and empathic. Scientists repeatedly observed that when a pig saw two others start to fight, it would step in to mediate by touching them with its snout. By gently interceding in altercations using physical touch, these mediator pigs reduced aggression and anxiety in the group. Mediate derives from the Latin mediare, "in the middle."
The 2022 USA Mullet Championships are down to 25 final contestants, with the winner being named next week. The contest ranks photos of people whose hair fits the "business in the front, party in the back" description of the iconic 1980s hairstyle. The finalists all have one thing in common: their hair is cut short on top and long in the back. Mullets were most popular in the 1980s, but the word came later; it first appeared in the Beastie Boys' 1994 song Mullet Head.
After a viral tweet from a fake account, the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly halted ad spending, costing Twitter millions of dollars. The tweet, "We are excited to announce insulin is free now,” appeared to come from the drug maker. The company faces criticism over its high prices for insulin and other medications. Twitter's slow response to the phony account led Eli Lilly to pull its advertising from the platform. The Greek root of pharmaceutical means "preparer of drugs."
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was a bright spot in a very slow period for movie ticket sales. The follow-up to the 2018 Marvel film Black Panther took in $300 million worldwide this weekend. It also broke an IMAX theater record for the month, with ticket sales of $14.2 million. The sequel continues the story of Wakanda, and like the first film, it's rooted in Black culture and stars a mostly Black cast. Sequel's Latin root means "that which follows."

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