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
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
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