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March 13, 2005

Learning New Words w the NYT

I admit that since I moved in with mi chavo, I haven't been reading as much of the Sunday NYT as I used to. (He graciously gave me a subscription for Hanukah.) This week is different, primarily because we chose to relax and hang out at home more. So there I was, reading the entire "The Two Faces of Rising China," by Joseph Kahn in the Week in Review section (one of the great sections I skip in my rush to the Weddings column in Sunday Styles b/c I'm a sucker for love stories) and I got through the entire article without learning much (Sino-American relations haven't changed much since I was in poli-sci courses in the late 90s), until the last sentence. Then I felt like a dumb high schooler desperately studying for the SATs (like the obnoxious private school 16 year-old with my old accent offering an editorial on CBS's Sunday morning news program). Right, well, here's the sentence:

The anti-secession bill looks like a victory for the atavists.
I vaguely remember that word, perhaps from those aforementioned poli-sci courses. According to my fav online dictionary, m-w.com, the word is only definable if you pay for access to the unabridged Merriam Webster dictionary. Which sounds ridiculous to me, so I went to dictionary.com and found out that atavist has two meanings. The definition related to the above sentence is:
1. The reappearance of a characteristic in an organism after several generations of absence, usually caused by the chance recombination of genes.
2. An individual or a part that exhibits atavism. Also called throwback.
3. The return of a trait or recurrence of previous behavior after a period of absence.
At first I thought the corresponding definition was decribing the trait itself, but upon re-reading the sentence I realized the atavists in question are actually the people who are throwbacks to a bygone, machismo-driven era.

Posted by cj at March 13, 2005 3:41 PM

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