Allusionist 98. Alter Ego

Today: three pieces about alter egos, when your name - the words by which the world knows you - is replaced by another for particular purposes.

  • How did John Doe come to be the name for a man, alive or dead, identity unknown or concealed in a legal matter? Strap in for a whirlwind ride into some frankly batshit centuries-old English law.

  • At their first bout of the 2019 season, the London Roller Girls talk about how they chose their roller derby names - or why they chose to get rid of one.

  • The 1930s and 40s were a golden age for detective fiction, which was also very popular and lucrative. Yet writing it was disreputable enough for authors to hide behind pseudonyms.

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Allusionist 97. The Future Is Now?

“There are two ways to say ‘The future is now’: you can say it optimistically, like, ‘The future is now! Isn't that cool?’ Or you could be like, ‘The future is now, and we're totally screwed.’” Rose Eveleth, of the future-envisioning podcast Flash Forward, tracks the past and present of one of her favourite phrases.

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Allusionist 96. Trust

“Trust isn't a brand that you should use. It's a social glue that, when it breaks down, has really huge consequences to our lives.” Trust expert and author Rachel Botsman explains why we need to protect this word that has remained steadfast throughout its existence, but may now be too popular for its own good.

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Allusionist 95. Verisimilitude

When you’re watching a fantasy or science fiction show, and the characters are speaking a language that does not exist in this world but sounds like it could - that doesn’t happen by accident, or improvisation. A lot - a LOT! - of work goes into inventing new languages that sound real. Conlanger David Peterson talks about how he created languages for HBO’s Game of Thrones.

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Allusionist 94. Harsh Realm

On 15 November 1992, the New York Times printed a ‘ Lexicon of Grunge’, a list of slang terms from the Seattle music scene. ‘Harsh realm’ = bummer. ‘Wack slacks’ = old ripped jeans. ‘Swingin’ on the flippity-flop’ = hanging out.

Not familiar with any of these? It’s OK, it’s not because you’re a cob nobbler (= loser). They were all made up. By Megan Jasper. Now the CEO of Sub Pop records, she explains why she pranked an unsuspecting journalist.

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Allusionist 91. Bonus 2018

Throughout the year, the people who appear on the Allusionist tell me a lot of interesting stuff. Not all of which is relevant to the episode they initially appeared in, so I stash it away in preparation for this moment: the annual bonus episode! Get ready for gory 19th century London slang, the rise and fall of superhero capes, the post-WW1 trend for nudism, and more.

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Allusionist 90. Dear Santa

Jim Glaub and Dylan Parker didn’t think too much of it when, every year, a a few letters were delivered to their New York apartment addressed to Santa.

But then one year, 400 letters arrived. And they decided they had to answer them.

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