This Week in Words: Current Events Vocabulary for May 20–May 26, 2023

May 22, 2023
Stories about blue jeans, sad songs, and stylish saris all contributed words to this list of vocabulary from the week's news.
Anti-government demonstrations in France have gotten louder lately, as protesters have taken to banging on pots and pans using spoons and lids. Crowds of people who strongly oppose President Emmanuel Macron's recent pension overhaul are creating cacophonies around the country to get their point across. Macron's official travels are often interrupted by the deafening clamor. The Greek roots of cacophony are kakos, "evil," and phonē, "sound."
California's "superbloom" this spring has allowed botanists to find wildflowers that had been dormant for many years. After an unusually wet winter, unfamiliar flowers have been blooming prolifically across the state. Some of these species were inactive for decades, their tiny seeds lying passively in the top layer of soil, until the damp conditions they prefer prompted them to bloom. The word dormant derives from the Latin dormire, "to sleep."
On May 20, 1873, a tailor named Jacob Davis teamed up with a merchant named Levi Strauss to obtain a patent for blue jeans. The sturdy denim dungarees are more popular than ever as Levi's celebrates the garment's 150th birthday. Originally worn by male workers, jeans are ubiquitous these days, with annual sales worldwide of more than $90 billion. The Hindi word dungri, or "coarse calico," is the root of dungaree.
Film director Spike Lee is funding a new fellowship to provide Hollywood opportunities for students from historically Black colleges and universities. Five aspiring filmmakers from Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College, and Morehouse College were named as the inaugural members of the Spike Fellows Program. In addition to a full-time salary, the fellows received $25,000 toward paying off student loans. They will spend a year working in a department of their choice at the Gersh Agency.
Scientists suspect that an Asian jumping spider, Siler collingwoodi, uses its imperfections to elude its most dangerous predators. Like many spider species, this one mimics ant behavior to avoid being eaten — but S. collingwoodi does it in a clumsy, inexact way, mirroring different movements of a variety of ants. In lab tests, researchers found that this imperfect mimicry was the most successful strategy for evading larger predatory spiders.
A new study suggests that people enjoy melancholy songs because they make them feel connected to others, not because they want to feel sad. Although no one relishes feeling sorrowful, many of us love gloomy music. Researchers studying this paradox found that listening to this somber genre evokes an empathetic response, an ability to feel the singer's sorrow, which fosters a sense of connection. The Greek root of melancholy is melankholia, "sadness."
According to meteorologists, new analysis of climate data shows that temperatures on Earth will hit record highs during the next five years. Forecasters at the World Meteorological Organization announced that fossil fuel emissions, in conjunction with the El Niño weather pattern, will temporarily cause the hottest global conditions ever recorded. Meteorologist is derived from the Greek meteōrologia, "discussion of high things."
Carmelo Anthony announced he will retire from the NBA after 19 seasons. Anthony played for Syracuse University, leading the team to an NCAA championship in 2003, before going professional. He was drafted by the Denver Nuggets, and he has also played for the New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers, and Los Angeles Lakers during his nearly two-decade career. Anthony departs pro basketball with a record as the ninth-highest scorer in NBA history.
A new exhibition at the Design Museum in London explores the influence and evolution of the sari. This traditional South Asian garment, consisting of yards of fabric wrapped around the body, is typically worn over a blouse and petticoat. "The Offbeat Sari" examines artistic and contemporary versions of the flowing apparel, including saris embellished with gold-wrapped cotton threads and sequins. The Sanskrit root of sari is sati, "garment or petticoat."
On May 24, Typhoon Mawar hit the coast of Guam with violent winds that reached speeds of 150 miles per hour. The powerful, swirling storm knocked out power to nearly all of the island territory's residents, and typhoon watches continued the following day. Some word experts believe that typhoon, via the Greek typhon, "whirlwind," derives from a root meaning "monster from the depths."
Meta, the parent company of Facebook, was fined $1.3 billion on May 22 for violating European Union laws that require the protection of users' data. Ireland’s Data Protection Commission said that U.S. policies which allow the interception of electronic information from other countries make European users of Facebook vulnerable to American spying. Commission officials said the data protection rule, established by an EU court in 2020, was disregarded by Meta.

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