This Week In Culture: April 12–18, 2020

Stories about relevant reading, artists and amateurs alike getting creative in quarantine, and some gripping new TV lead off our list of vocabulary from the culture beat.

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definitions & notes only words
  1. concoction
    the act of creating something by compounding or mixing
    But look more closely, and you’ll find another layer of at-home concoctions: scenes reenacting famous paintings and photographs in creative ways.
    As people find ways to express themselves creatively during quarantine, one of the trends to emerge on social media is the recreation of famous works of art. People dress up and arrange various household props, mimicking paintings by Vermeer, Hopper, Kahlo, and many others. Some of them are extraordinarily accurate.
  2. forbear
    refrain from doing
    By July, the City of London enforces new rules – rules now becoming routine in our 2020 shutdown, such as “that all public feasting, and particularly by the companies of this city, and dinners at taverns, ale-houses, and other places of common entertainment, be forborne till further order and allowance…”
    Humanity has survived numerous pandemics, and many were well-documented by writers of the time. This list of recommended quarantine reading includes works from 1664 to the present, and includes some speculative fiction about post-pandemic future societies. Bearing means "enduring," and you can see the for- prefix in words like forswear and forsake, both of which also involve giving something up.
  3. initiative
    readiness to embark on bold new ventures
    The company successfully launched a similar initiative in late March for “Relic,” the Emily Mortimer-starring horror movie that was impacted by the cancellation of the SXSW Film Festival.
    A David Bowie biopic, focusing on his early years, will soon be released online instead of in theaters. Set in 1971, during Bowie's first American tour, the film shows many of the events that would lead him to create his famous alter-egos throughout his career, particularly Ziggy Stardust. Initium means "beginning" in Latin; initiative is the quality of being willing to start something.
  4. juggernaut
    a massive inexorable force
    Not since James’s Miami years has he turned in such a complete season, a juggernaut on offense who also suffocates opponents big and small.
    When the NBA cancelled the rest of the season, the trajectories and momentum of each team and individual player were wiped away. LeBron James, a newly minted Laker, clearly had something to prove and was off to an astonishing start. What happens to him, the Lakers, and the rest of the league after this pause of unknown duration remains to be seen. Jagganatha means "lord of the world" in Sanskrit; in Hinduism it became one of Krishna's many titles.
  5. litany
    any long and tedious address or recital
    On February 21st, the rock band Younger Hunger released “Yung,” a new single that cataloged a litany of horrors — everything from stubbed toes to poisonous salads to vehicular manslaughter — on its way to a chorus that is stirring and alarming in equal measure: “They’re comin’ for my life!”
    Because musicians are also stuck at home, they're using their instruments and gear to continue making music. Whether they have fancy home studios or just laptops, artists of all stripes are recording songs and albums and making videos with the tools they have on hand. And the many different platforms for publishing and streaming music make it easier than ever before to get their new work heard. Litaneia is Greek for "prayer" or "entreaty;" now it refers to a list, usually of grievances.
  6. peruse
    examine or consider with attention and in detail
    If you just want to peruse and get ideas, try commonly used hashtags such as #bookclub, #read, #fridayreads and #booklovers.
    Online book clubs are springing up all over, and this list gives a good array of options for reading as part of a group and joining in discussions while maintaining a safe social distance. Whatever genre you're into, and whether you're an aspiring writer or just love a good read, there are other like-minded people who would love to share the experience of reading with you.
  7. precursor
    something indicating the approach of something or someone
    According to royal experts, the only approximate modern precursor to Megxit—the term that was inevitably coined for the Sussexes’ departure—was the abdication crisis of 1936.
    Because the only thing better than gossip about royals is gossip about former royals, there's a long-form story full of details about the circumstances that precipitated the departure of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex from the British monarchy. It's clear that a lot of things factored into their decision to leave, and that people will be talking about it for decades to come.
  8. puckish
    naughtily or annoyingly playful
    Polls of other drivers invariably named Moss No. 1, but it was his brash, puckish persona that captivated the public.
    Stirling Moss — thought by many to be the greatest race car driver of all time — never won a Grand Prix title. He did win 212 out of 529 races, among them 16 Grand Prix contests, but for a number of reasons never took home the title. Nonetheless, in the 1950s and early 60s he was a hero to fans, especially in the U.K. He was seriously injured in a crash in 1962, and retired a year later at the age of 33. He died this week, aged 90.
  9. timbre
    the distinctive property of a complex sound
    The phone rings, and Ruby answers in the sort of high pitched, sing-song tone of faking it, the timbre a person adopts as she goes through the motions of life.
    HBO's new comedy Run manages to do a lot of different things with a small cast and a limited scope. The show's previews reveal little about what's going to happen, except that the two characters made a promise to each other in the past. Timbre comes from the Greek timpanon, which is also the origin of tympanum, the large kettledrum played in orchestras and also the medical name for your eardrum. The modern word came through French; a timbrel was a small bell.
  10. ubiquitous
    being present everywhere at once
    Judge, 57, is so beady at spotting what’s everywhere, his shows themselves end up becoming ubiquitous, the thing everybody’s talking about.
    Mike Judge is the visionary talent behind Beavis and Butthead, King of the Hill, Office Space, the extraordinarily prescient Idiocracy, and Silicon Valley. His new series, Mike Judge Presents: Tales From the Tour Bus dealt with country music in its first season and is tackling funk in its second. A mix of archival footage and animation, it tells the stories of famous musicians in their own words.
Created on April 15, 2020 (updated April 16, 2020)

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