This Week In Culture, April 26–May 2, 2020

Stories about dancers flocking to TikTok, dogs sniffing out sick people, and the NCAA on the verge of a major change all contributed timely words to this list of vocabulary from the week's entertainment, tech, and sports news.

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definitions & notes only words
  1. antithesis
    exact opposite
    With so many questions around when and how live performance will resume, Ms. Walsh, whose work, formally, is TikTok’s antithesis — long and slow — has been considering whether to use the app for a virtual project.
    More and more dancers are turning to social media, especially TikTok, as a performance venue. Despite the limitations — the size of a phone screen and the short duration of the videos — dance is huge, with amateurs and pros accumulating thousands, even millions of followers. Antithesis is Greek; thesis means "place" or "to put," in the sense of a discussion or argument: that's why the beginning of your essays is called a thesis statement.
  2. caveat
    a warning against certain acts
    There are, of course, caveats to those statements.
    Tesla surprised industry observers by turning a profit in the first quarter of this year, its third profitable quarter in a row. The company also still hopes to deliver half a million cars this year, despite slowdowns in production due to factory closures. Caveat means "let him or her beware" in Latin; you'll often see it in the phrase caveat emptor, meaning "buyer beware." A caveat is a warning, or a qualification to a statement.
  3. conundrum
    a difficult problem
    To love classic Hollywood and live in the world at the same time is hardly the greatest of conundrums, but a conundrum it is.
    Ryan Murphy, co-creator of Glee and American Horror Story, has a new show out on Netflix. Hollywood is the second show he created as part of a five-year deal with the network, and it has received some unfavorable reviews. The origin of conundrum is, well, a conundrum. The best guess appears to be that it was invented jokingly, as a fake Latin word, at Oxford University sometime in the seventeenth century.
  4. ravage
    cause extensive destruction or ruin utterly
    In addition to drugs, explosives and contraband food items, dogs are able to sniff out malaria, cancers and even a bacterium ravaging Florida's citrus groves.
    Dogs are being trained to possibly sniff out the coronavirus. If it turns out that they can, they could be hugely useful as screeners at airports and other public places, detecting people who may not know they carry the virus. In addition to their well-known work sniffing out drugs and explosives, some dogs can actually smell certain cancers and other diseases.
  5. relegate
    assign to a lower position
    For decades, aprons — especially the "full aprons" that tie at the neck and around the waist — were relegated to the professional kitchen.
    With so many people stuck at home, cooking is becoming a serious hobby for a lot of people. A sure sign of that, besides everybody's Instagram feeds, is that apron sales have taken off. All these newly-minted sourdough bakers need to keep flour off their sweatpants, after all. And, of course, aprons are now a way to show off your fashion sense when you accidentally leave it on for your Zoom meeting.
  6. skew
    turn or place at an angle
    It’s an unavoidable gender skew yet what gets pushed to the forefront often hides a wealth of overlooked female talent.
    The British Society of Illustrators has put a group exhibition of work by over 50 women comic book artists online. Covering more than 100 years, the show is divided into two parts: a historical overview, and then a contemporary section covering the 1970s through the present. Eschew is a verb meaning "avoid." It comes from the Old French eschuer, which is also the origin of skew: to turn aside, to swerve. Today something that's skewed is twisted or not in line.
  7. temperamental
    subject to sharply varying moods
    They’re actually two different things, each temperamental in their own ways.
    With everyone in your family using your wifi network all the time — even your pets; have you seen the birds channel? — you may notice that it's sluggish and not performing well. This list of steps to improve speed and connectivity might just make you feel like you upgraded the whole network without spending a penny. Sadly, there are not twelve steps for your cat who is now hopelessly addicted to the bird channel.
  8. tentatively
    in a hesitant manner
    The National Association of Theatre Owners said depending on conditions and guidance from officials, most indoor theatres are “ tentatively aiming” to open in late June or early July – in time for the release of the Christopher Nolan film Tenet.
    Drive-in movie theaters might be making a big comeback in the post-pandemic world. With no clear end in sight for social distancing practices, going to see a movie while staying safe in your car seems like an excellent option. Indoor theaters are hoping to open sometime this summer, but it's unclear how many people will want to go.
  9. toil
    work hard
    That was the news Wednesday, as NCAA leadership announced its adoption of recommendations from a name, image and likeness working group that toiled for a year to start extricating college sports from the corner it had boxed itself into.
    After decades of controversy, the NCAA (National College Athletic Association) is finally going to allow its student athletes to be compensated for their work. Many details still need to be worked out, but this looks to be the new reality beginning in the 2021–22 school year. While the organization is trying to take credit for being progressive, observers note that this change is the result of dozens of lawsuits and proposed state laws that would have created an unworkably complex situation.
  10. variant
    something a little different from others of the same type
    On the same show, the hosts addressed the variant spellings of the name for the white rat-tailed North American marsupial (“opossum” or “possum”?), the pronunciation of “tinnitus” (accent on the first or second syllable?), and the derivation of the term “cabin fever...”
    The radio show A Way With Words is like Car Talk, but for word nerds. The show started 13 years ago, and features conversations and calls from listeners. A recent caller talked at length about her love for animal adjectives right around the time that this very website published a list of those exact words. Coincidence? We can't say for sure. What do you think?
Created on April 29, 2020 (updated April 29, 2020)

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