372: Because Internet (with Gretchen McCulloch)

The rules are changing. Here’s the manual.

Gretchen McCulloch’s book Because Internet is a look at how people use language on the net to communicate and to show identity. How do people laugh online? How is emoji like gesture?

It’s …

371: -nado, -holic, -pocalypse: Combining Forms (Live Q&A)

Take a tornado. Add some sharks. You’ve got a sharknado.

But it’s not just sharks that can leap out of their normal context. It looks like –nado is jumping free and becoming a combining form — a part …

370: Named Wrong (Live Q&A)

Names are what they are, and as long as they work, they work.

But sometimes in the history of naming, people name things in a manner inapt to their nature or origin. So what’s the story behind words like atom

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 …

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