To accompany the current Allusionist miniseries Survival, about minority languages facing suppression and extinction, we're revisiting this double bill of The Key episodes about why languages die and how they can be resuscitated.
The Rosetta Stone and its modern equivalent the Rosetta Disk preserve writing systems to be read by future generations. But how do those generations decipher text that wasn't written with the expectation of requiring decipherment?
Features mild scenes of linguistic apocalypse. Read More
There are two main places in the world where the Welsh language is spoken: Wales, and the Chubut Province in Patagonia. How did this ancient language take root in rural Argentina, 12,000 miles away from its home base? Read More
Pavement/sidewalk; football/soccer; bum bag/fanny pack: we know that the English language is different in the UK and the USA. But why? Linguist Lynne Murphy points out the geographical, cultural and social influences that separate the common language. Read More
Roll down your window, grab yourself some zoom zooms and wham whams, because today we're going inside to open up the unofficial dictionary of San Quentin state prison, compiled by Earlonne Woods of Ear Hustle podcast. Read More
CONTENT WARNING: there is swearing in this episode. But the happy news is: swearing is good for you! Read More
Up in the sky: look! It's an adjective! It's a noun! It's...Adjectivenoun!
Your friendly neighbourhood superheroes might have thrilling and varied powers and spandex garments, but the way their names are concocted have followed only a handful of formulae in the past 80 years, since Superman sent superheroes soaring.
(Yes, alliteration is one such naming formula.)
Glen Weldon of Pop Culture Happy Hour traces the supername's development from Adjective+Gender through Colour+Noun to Normal Name and Lone Noun. Read More
It's a year since Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. And in that year, he's caused a lot of changes in the job of constitutional law professor Elizabeth Joh of What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law podcast - in particular, one verb is now off limits.
Plus, Paul Anthony Jones, aka etymologist extraordinaire Haggard Hawks, describes how politicians' names work their way into our vocabularies.
CONTENT NOTE: this episode contains references to the 45th president of the USA. I know a lot of you listen to The Allusionist for a little escape from politics and current affairs, so let me reassure you that there is not much modern politics in the episode; it’s mostly about history and interesting word facts. Read More
The history of roller skates, zazzification, giant origami, the heat death of the universe and more. Read More
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