This Week in Words: Current Events Vocabulary for March 11–March 17, 2023

March 16, 2023
Stories about prolific pollen, libeled lobsters, and a downed drone all contributed words to this list of vocabulary from the week's news.
On March 14, President Biden announced an executive order that bolsters background checks for gun sales. Biden made the announcement during a speech in Monterey Park, California, the site of a January shooting that left 11 people dead. The new measure is meant to strengthen existing laws, ensuring that gun dealers fully comply with background checks. Shoring up these regulations, the president said, is just one step toward preventing future mass shootings.
The U.S. government stepped in to rescue depositors after last week's collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. The bank's failure, during which it was unable to cover the money customers attempted to withdraw, was just one of three separate bank closures this month. Economists worry about the health of the financial industry in the wake of these collapsing banks. Collapse, originally "fall together," is from Latin roots com, "together," and labi, "to fall or slip."
A group of Maine lobstermen is suing the Monterey Bay Aquarium for adding lobster to its "do not eat" list. The coalition filed a defamation suit on March 13 arguing that the crustacean should not be boycotted along with overfished marine species. The aquarium's conservation group says lobstering practices threaten the endangered right whale. The Latin root of crustacean means "crust," a reference to the animals' hard, crusty shell.
A Russian fighter jet collided with an unarmed U.S. drone on March 14. The remotely-operated aerial vehicle, which is used for surveillance, was flying in international airspace over the Black Sea when it was struck and damaged by the plane. Video footage shows two Russian jets dumping fuel on the drone before the collision. The Kremlin denies the planes made contact with the robotic vehicle.
Researchers have found that dozens of ant species are troubled by imposters that pose as queens. These parasitic ants have evolved to resemble winged queen ants, but they don't contribute to the colony like authentic queens do, instead they eat the other ants' food and hatch more phonies. Imposter derives from the Late Latin impostor, "a deceiver," and its root imponere, "impose upon or deceive."
An overdue book was returned to an Oregon library years after its due date. The Hockey Trick, which had been checked out on April 25, 1979, was mailed to the Deschutes Public Library along with an apologetic note and a check for $20. Librarians said the book was approximately 44 years overdue. Since about 1890, the word overdue has been used to describe library books that are kept out too long.
Despite widespread opposition, French President Emmanuel Macron passed a bill that raises the age at which workers receive a pension. Strikes and protests around the country made the proposal's unpopularity clear. The new bill means that retirees will begin collecting their government payments at 64 instead of 62. The Latin pensionem, "a payment," is the root of pension.
Scientists say that due to climate change, allergy season is starting earlier and becoming more intense across the United States. Along with warm days and blooming flowers, early spring means more pollen in the air. The Midwest has been especially hard-hit by the tiny grains in recent years, a trend that's likely to increase. In Latin, pollen means "fine flour," a reference to the flour-like yellow dust that spreads on the breeze to pollinate plants (and make people sneeze).
After being hunted nearly to extinction, California's elephant seals have fully rebounded. The distinctive marine mammals' population is estimated to be about 175,000 today, after a span of eight years during the 19th century when there were no elephant seal sightings at all. In the late 1800s, researchers discovered one remaining colony in Mexico; once hunting restrictions were enacted and enforced, the seals flourished, their population bouncing back from the devastatingly low numbers.
In Changzhou, China, a bystander scaled a building to rescue a child who had fallen out a window onto a ledge. The unidentified man was caught on video ascending the side of the apartment building and climbing up a pipe to reach the crying boy. The child's parents threw down a rope, which the rescuer tied around the boy's waist. After the parents hoisted the boy up, the man climbed back down and strolled away. Scale derives from the Latin scala, "ladder."
science fiction
The science fiction action-adventure movie Everything Everywhere All at Once won seven Oscars on March 12, including best picture and best lead actress for Michelle Yeoh. The film defied all genres, incorporating a moving story of parental love and an immigrant family's experience into an outrageous exploration of dimension-hopping through multiverses. Science fiction was in use by 1929; an earlier term with the same meaning was scientifiction.
March Madness, the annual three-week tournament that pits the best college basketball teams against each other, has begun. The competition officially kicked off on March 16, starting with an upset as the No. 15-seeded Princeton Tigers beat the No. 2 Arizona Wildcats 59-55. The contest ends on April 3, when the two remaining teams meet for a final game. The original tournaments involved knights jousting on horseback, from the Old French tornoier, "to joust."

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