Glossary for the December 31 Reading Challenge

  • This is a guide to words you may not know in this week’s reading challenge
  • The words and phrases in blue are listed here
Susan Ramsay |

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Here's a guide to the words from this week's reading challenge you may not understand.

weaselly – a weasel is a small animal, related to a ferret which is often kept as a pet in Britain. Wild weasels are thought of as being – to quickly move out of the way of something
set aside one’s differences – stop arguing over something
civility – being polite
wriggle out of – escape. e.g. my sister always manages to wriggle out of doing any household chores.
implicit – suggested rather than being clearly said
position is groundless – there are no facts to defend their ideas
tantamount – the same as or almost the same as
condoning – accepting or approving of something which is morally wrong
elevates – raises
ignorance – (not specifically stupidity) a lack of knowledge about something
old saw – a “saw” is an old saying, so the term “old saw” technically means “old, old saying”
speculation – gambling or “what-iffing”, doing something not based on precise facts. 
indisputable – unable to be argued about. e.g. The fact that the sun rises in the east is indisputable
autism – a range of developmental disorders which makes it difficult for someone to interact socially, among other things
myth – a story not grounded in fact
hoax – [rhymes with oaks] a trick or a lie
a smidgen – an unscientific small amount. e.g. I will have just a smidgen of cream on my scone please

fundamental variability of nature – the basic shifting or change of Nature
outliers – people who have beliefs different from the majority
vest anomalies with exaggerated significance – because the media can’t very well report each day “people were vaccinated, all is well” they are likely to highlight when things go wrong (anomalies); “someone died from a heart attack just after they were given the vaccine” because it’s what they are trained to do. In this case, however, people might think that someone dying after getting the vaccine is hugely important and shows that the vaccine causes heart attacks. But statistics show that x number of people are likely to get heart attacks each day anyway, so the vaccine probably has nothing to do with the heart attack.
intellectual laziness – not wanting to do the research to find the facts
objectivity – not taking feelings and morals into account
neutrality – not choosing one side over another
appraising – working out something’s value
conjectures – an opinion formed without conclusive evidence
unresolved hypotheses – an idea which has not been proven
divergent – going in different directions
immutable – unchangeable
erroneous – mistaken
fallacious orthodoxies – mistaken beliefs
acquired – got/learned
inherited – got from parents
spontaneous generation – the idea that life started from nothing
superseded – replaced as more important
Newtonian – related to Isaac Newton

infinitesimal – extremely small
probabilistic – based on a theory of probability
manifestations – something concrete that shows something abstract
confound – surprise, confuse
refutation – to prove an argument wrong
increasingly threadbare – when something is “threadbare” it is worn out, like a piece of clothing that has a hole in it. 
adherents to – people who believe in something
giving a platform – allow someone public space to 
accrediting ignorance – giving truth to something that is not correct or not based in real knowledge
fallacious [fuh lay shus] – false
the originator – the beginning
Debate as an end in itself – debate for the sake of debating, not for the sake of answers or agreement
bedrock – foundation
denigration – to treat something as if it has little value
innocent undertaking – something which is done without the intention of causing harm
contempt for – scorn
fabricate – make up, like a lie
obfuscation – deliberately making something difficult to understand
firehose of lies – a strong and constant stream of lies
pathological – caused by or causing disease
sinister – evil
sycophants – [sicko fants] someone who flatters someone in power for their favour

quackery – false medical advice given by unqualified people
partisan – to do with political parties
litmus tests – a simple test performed in biology, physics etc, to decide if a substance is an acid or a base. It is swift and has only two possible outcomes
demagogue – someone, usually a political leader – who stirs people emotionally, rather than logically or morally. e.g. Adolph Hitler was a demagogue who turned people’s underlying suspicions about Jews into deadly hatred.
straw enemy* – see straw man
shibboleths [shi buh leths] – words or sayings that identifies certain people as part of a group, but which others would find meaningless. e.g. All Hongkongers know what the term “add oil” means, but very few people outside of the city would understand it. Therefore, “add-oil” is  a Hong Kong shibboleth
poseur – someone who behave in a certain way to impress others. e.g. dressing and speaking as a gangsta but not actually being a gangsta
*straw men – a false argument that takes a distorted view of a statement and attacks that. Example” Person A: The government should get everyone to stay at home for two weeks to stop Covid. Person B: We’ll have people locked inside their homes and armed soldiers patrolling the streets!  
foil – something which prevents someone or something from succeeding
castigated – scolded
indistinguishable – looks the same as
tendency – likely to do something or be some way
rollout – delivery of goods or a service
breathless coverage – the way some media covers news, as if they are constantly saying OMG!!! e.g. OMG someone who took the vaccine got sick! vs normal news media which would say “someone who took the vaccine got sick, but we don’t know if this is in any way linked to the vaccine.”
backfire – when a plan harms those it was meant to help
efforts to debunk misconceptions – the steps taken to show where people are mistaken
murky – unclear
nuanced – having different shades of meaning instead of black and white. Black and white thinking would be “poison will kill you”. Nuanced would be “most poison will kill you, or make you sick, depending on what it is, and how much you take. Some, might even be beneficial if used correctly.”
sound bite – a memorable piece of a quote, e.g. “We came, we saw, we conquered” was Roman Emperor Julius Caesar’s famous sound bite.


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