Crux

The "crux" is the most important part of a situation

Today's story: Car wash Brazil
Explore more: Lesson #34
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Crux

The word I want to talk to you about today is “crux” – c-r-u-x. It’s a strange little word that has almost no literal meaning, but it’s pretty common. When I first used it, I said that the crux of the Operation Car Wash investigation is corruption. What I mean by that is, the most important part, or the essence, of the investigation is corruption. Such a huge investigation is about a lot of things, both big and small. But the heart of the investigation, the real center of it, the thing that matters most, is corruption in Brazilian society. And for that reason, we say that the crux of the investigation is corruption.

Now, you would usually use this when describing something that is complicated or confusing and you want to tell someone what the most important or central element of it is. You might be aware of another big scandal going on—that Facebook accidentally let a private company gain access to personal data of over 50 million users. This is related to charges that Facebook let Russian government agencies manipulate the results of elections in the US and Europe. And it’s also related to the epidemic of clickbait and so-called fake news. It’s a pretty complicated situation and the founder, Mark Zuckerberg, finds himself in a tough situation trying to deal with it all. But the crux of the situation is that people are using Facebook to manipulate users—and the company isn’t doing much to stop it. That’s the crux of the situation; the most important, central part of it.

Here’s another complicated issue: Britain is leaving the European Union pretty soon. Why did its voters decide to take this dramatic step? There are dozens of reasons and we could talk for an hour about why. But the crux of the matter is they wanted to follow fewer rules from the EU and they wanted greater control over their borders. There are a lot of other more detailed or related issues, but that’s the crux of the matter: Britain wanted more control over its own country.

So next time you find yourself in a confusing discussion, don’t hesitate to ask what the crux of the matter is.


That’s all for Plain English today. Thanks so much for listening and for being part of the program. Don’t forget to click “follow” on Spotify or “subscribe” on Apple Podcasts or your other podcast app. We’ll be back with a new episode on Thursday.

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Story: Car wash Brazil