369: The Grammarian Is In (with Ellen Jovin)

If you’re at a park in New York City, you may see someone at a table offering free grammar advice.

That person is writer Ellen Jovin, and she dispenses wisdom from her Grammar Table. What motivates her to do …

368: Poetry

Poetry isn’t (just) enjoyable, it can be useful.

It can help us with language learning and memorisation, and help us in historical linguistics. And even computers are getting into poetry generation, probably because they want to learn the secret of …

367: Your Inner Prescriptivist (with Alyssa Severin)

Even if we’re trying not to be the grammar police, we all have that internal voice that notices linguistic difference, and categorises people thereby.

How do we deal with that inner prescriptivist? How can we have linguistic discussions with grammar …

366: Oxbows (Live Q&A)

Akimbo. Throes. Tizzy.

Some words only appear in limited contexts. But what do they mean? The fascinating histories of these words can tell us more about how English works — and language in general.

We’re in tatters — or …

365: Difficult Words (with Jane Solomon)

Juxtapose. Obfuscate. And of course, absquatulate.

All these words appear in a new dictionary for young people. It’s The Dictionary of Difficult Words, and we’re talking to the author, lexicographer Jane Solomon.

Activate your sesquipedalian …

364: Mailbag of R-R-R-R

The questions never stop, and neither do we.

  • What’s the past tense of yeet, and why is English past tense so strange?
  • Can etymology help you spell rhythm?
  • Should French teachers have to speak with a Parisian accent?

363: Talking Race (with Jessi Grieser)

What happens to language when newcomers move in?

Language isn’t just for communication — it also signals membership in a group, and this is especially clear in a gentrifying community in Washington DC. Black residents are using African-American English to stake …

362: Gesture in Mind

Gesture. We all do it. But what are our brains doing while it’s going on?

What does gesture contribute to our interpretation? Can we work out complex meanings when words are replaced by gestures? And when a gesture like the …

361: Helping My Language Live – Language Activism (with Margaret Florey)

Imagine watching your language erode away.

How would you help it to stay alive? What can one person do in the face of language loss? There’s good news: lots of people are taking up the challenge and becoming language activists. …

360: Familiolects (Live Q&A)

Which words, phrases, and pronunciations are unique to your family?

We often talk about languages, dialects, and even our own personal ideolects, but for most of us, home is where language starts. So what it’s doing at your place?

Our …

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