When there were no safe spaces to be gay, Polari allowed gay men to identify and communicate with each other, and to keep things secret from outsiders.
Professor Paul Baker, author of the Polari dictionary and the upcoming book Fabulosa! The Story of Polari, Britain’s Secret Gay Language, explains how Polari emerged from criminal cant and London’s theatres and docks to be used a code language for gay men in the oppressive 1950s - and then, not long after, it entered the slang lexicons of the general public, via popular sketch comedy and the mouth of an annoyed princess.Read More
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.Read More
You are born and raised in a household speaking a language. Then you start going to school, and that language is banned. If you speak it, you'll be punished physically or psychologically. Across your country, there are people like you who associate their first language with shame, or not even being a language at all.
This is the predicament of the Scots language.
Scots language campaigners Ishbel McFarlane and Michael Dempster recount how Scots was sent into the shadows, and how it is at long last returning to public.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
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
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Hrishikesh Hirway of Song Exploder wants people to stop saying 'namaste' after a yoga session.Read More
"Recognizing someone's humanity is crucial. Calling someone a migrant, calling someone an asylum seeker, calling them a refugee: these are official categories. But in many ways, depending on how they use them, they can change and become more negative."
So says propaganda and migration specialist Emma Briant, explaining the dangers of conflating and misusing the terms that apply to humans on the move. And British-Asian-but-kinda-not author Nikesh Shukla wonders where he's from - where he is really from.Read More
iTUNES • RSS • SOUNDCLOUD • MP3
There's an ocean between Britain and the USA, but an even wider division between each country's use of a particular word: 'please'.
Linguists Lynne Murphy and Rachele De Felice explain how one nation's obsequiousness is another nation's obnoxiousness.
PLEASE, READ MORE ABOUT IT:
- Lynne Murphy’s blog is Separated By A Common Language. She has written about ‘please’ and ‘please’ in restaurants.
- Anthropologist David Graeber considers the reciprocity in using these niceties.
- “We should use "please" and "thank you" selectively so we don't confuse each other about the difference between favors and obligations”.
- Why do the British say ‘sorry’ so much?
- This claims to be a history of etiquette, but is mainly about forks. Get the forks right, and the rest follows (or so the fork tyrants would have you believe).
- Emily Post may have died in 1960, but she’s still looking out for your manners. Keeping the Post flag politely flying, her great-great-grandchildren host the Awesome Etiquette podcast.
- There's a transcript of this episode at theallusionist.org/transcripts/please.
TREAT YOURSELF FROM BRAIN TO FEET WITH TODAY'S SPONSORS:
BOMBAS. Go to bombas.com/allusionist and use the offer code allusionist at checkout for 20% off Bombas's expertly engineered socks. They're available in several colours; I went straight for the neon yellow. My feet look like highlighter pens. (This is good.)
THE GREAT COURSES PLUS. Visit thegreatcoursesplus.com/Allusion to stream any of their video lectures for free for 30 days. There are thousands to choose from, so what does your brain want to learn? Latin? Forensic science? Public speaking? Or you can master chess along with me.
1. ...at the theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles on 4th May 2016 for our first ever live extravaganza. Most of the shows will be there, performing new stories. It'll be excellent! I'm going, are you? Get your tickets at radiotopia.fm/ace
2. ...as a member of the collective. We're looking for our next podcast. If you have an idea for a podcast - something intriguing, original, striking, that you can see yourself working on for years - submit it to Podquest by 17th April.
MAILCHIMP'S RANDOMLY SELECTED WORD FROM THE DICTIONARY:
- Lynne Murphy's blog is separatedbyacommonlanguage.blogspot.com and she is @lynneguist on Twitter. Rachele De Felice is @racagain on Twitter. If you're interested in linguistics, follow them!
- This episode was produced by me, Helen Zaltzman, with music by Martin Austwick.
- Please find me at facebook.com/allusionistshow, twitter.com/allusionistshow and twitter.com/helenzaltzman.
Please come back for another episode in two weeks.