To mark the 100th episode of the Allusionist, here’s a celebratory parade of language-related facts.Read More
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.
If you wince when you hear someone say “a whole nother level”, “hone in on” or “right from the gecko”, here’s some bad news: you might have to get used to it. The English language is full of words and expressions that were mistakes that stuck around. Countdown’s Susie Dent holds our hands and takes us on a tour of misspellings, mishearings, scrambled letters, and bear cubs.Read More
What is the expression 'beyond the pale' on about? How do you express the absence of feeling? Does 'testify' have anything to do with testicles? Do avocados have anything to do with testicles? How does the phrase "It's all Greek to me" relate to food styling? Can you have a caper with capers? Are sharks misunderstood, etymologically and morally? And finally: where do allusions come from?Read More
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
"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
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