The term 'sanctuary cities' has been in the news a lot in the past few weeks, as places in the USA declare themselves to be havens for undocumented immigrants. Though 'sanctuary' has a history of meaning safety for the persecuted, it has an even longer history of meaning something quite different: refuge for criminals.Read More
Does the available vocabulary for sex leave something to be desired? Namely desire? (And also the ability to use it wthout laughing/dying of embarrassment?) Aiding in the search for a better sex lexicon - sexicon - are Kaitlin Prest of fellow Radiotopia podcast The Heart, and romance novelist Mhairi McFarlane.Read More
Escape into the loving embrace of a romance novel - although don't think you'll be able to escape gender politics while you're in there. Bea and Leah Koch, proprietors of the romance-only bookstore The Ripped Bodice, consider the genre; and publisher Lisa Milton scrolls through the 109-year history of the imprint that epitomises romance novels, Mills & Boon.Read More
Why is gaslighting 'gaslighting'? What do bodily fluids have to do with personality traits? Why does 'cataract' mean a waterfall and an eye condition? And do doctors really say 'Stat!' or is that just in ER?
It's the end-of-2016 bonus edition of the Allusionist, containing some of your etymological requests and extra chat from some of this year's guestsRead More
There's a word that has become shorthand for 'the war on Christmas' with a side of 'political correctness gone mad': Winterval.
It began in November 1998. Newspapers furiously accused Birmingham City Council of renaming Christmas when it ran festive events under the name 'Winterval'. The council's then-head of events Mike Chubb explains the true meaning of Winterval.Read More
Each of the 50 states in the USA has its own motto. The motto might be found on the state seal, or the state flag; more often than not, it might be in Latin, or Spanish, or Chinook; it might be a phrase or a single word. And if you think you know what yours is, check that it is not in fact an advertising slogan.Read More
If you love eponyms like Roman Mars loves eponyms, I'm afraid physician Isaac Siemens is here to deliver some bad news: medics are ditching them, in favour of terms that a) contain information about what the ailment actually is, and/or b) don't honour Nazi war criminals. Eponyms are controversial things.Read More
What is your beautiful brain up to as you comprehend language?Read More