Allusionist 69. How the Dickens Stole Christmas

Charles Dickens wrote about the plight of the impoverished and destitute members of British society. So how come his name is a synonym for rosy-cheeked, full-stomached, fattened-goose, hearty merry "God bless us every one" Christmas?

Avery Trufelman and Katie Mingle of 99% Invisible report from the streets of Victorian London at the annual Dickens Christmas Fair in Daly City, California, while historian Greg Jenner explains the origins of the festive traditions for which Dickens gets the credit, without even wanting the credit - in fact, his motivation for writing A Christmas Carol was far from a cash-in on Christmas.

Read More

Allusionist 66. Open Me part I

From Me To You’s Alison Hitchcock and Brian Greenley didn’t know each other well. But when Brian was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, Alison offered to write him letters. 100 letters later, their lives were changed.

 

One of the newest members of Radiotopia is Ear Hustle, a podcast made inside San Quentin by and about the men incarcerated there, in collaboration with Nigel Poor. In prison, a letter is a precious thing.

Read More

Allusionist 62: In Crypt, Decrypt

Crossword-solving is often a solitary activity - over breakfast; on the train; on the loo... But a few times a year, crossword puzzle enthusiasts gather in their hundreds to compete to be the fastest, most accurate crossword-solver.

This episode comes to you from a church basement on the Upper East Side of New York City, wherein takes place America's second largest crossword puzzle tournament: Lollapuzzoola.

Read More

Allusionist 61: In Your Hand

"It's sort of frozen body language; that's what handwriting analysis is about."

Since it caught on a couple of hundred years ago, graphology - analysing handwriting to deduce characteristics of the writer - has struggled to be taken seriously as a practice. But undoubtedly, there are things about ourselves that we can't help but reveal in our handwriting.

Read More

Allusionist 60: Zillions

They look like numbers. They sound like numbers. You kinda know they are numbers. But they're not actually numbers. Linguistic anthropologist Stephen Chrisomalis explains what's going on with indefinite hyperbolic numerals like 'zillion', 'squillion' and 'kajillion'.

Read More