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 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.

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Allusionist 10: Election Lexicon


On the eve of the 2015 General Election in the UK, join me for a jaunt through the etymology of election-related words.

Find out why casting a vote should be more like basketball, how debating could descend into fisticuffs, and why polling is hairy.


  • Producer Matt and I went out in a high wind with a megaphone to record at the place for shouting about politics through a megaphone: Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park. Here's a brief history of Speakers' Corner, where people have been blowing high wind through megaphones for more than a century.
  • For those who insist upon continuing to do their campaigning indoors, here's a potted history of lobbying in the US.
  • I only briefly mentioned the origins of the Tories' name: it has a very knotty history. Read more about that here.
  • Swingometer fans! Thanks to the BBC, here're some archive videos and pictures of swingometers through history.
  • Here is the transcript of this episode.


This episode is sponsored by Tasting Room. To order the Tasting Room starter pack of wine samples for the special price of $6.95, visit Unfortunately this offer is only open to listeners in the USA, so we Brits will have to find some other booze to get us through the election.

You've got until 15th May to voice your opinions about podcasts (and be in with a chance to win posh Tivoli headphones) in the Radiotopia listener survey. Fill it out at; thanks very much if you've already done so.

See you in a fortnight, unless etymologocracy wins the day and I'm too drunk on power to make this show.

- HZ


So goddamn windy that day. The campaign trail is more challenging than I had expected.

The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX.