Allusionist 107. Apples

Late 2019 will see the biggest apple launch of our lifetimes. 22 years in the making, ripening on millions of trees into picture-perfect redness, here comes the WA38, more snazzily known as the Cosmic Crisp. The name was the result of a year of focus groups, taste tests and word associations - a far cry from when apples were named after whichever end of a cat they resembled.

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Allusionist 105. F'ood

When is cheese not cheese, or crab not crab? When it’s spelled cheez or krab or even ch’eese or cra’b… Novelty spellings for foods-that-aren’t-made-out-of-the-thing-they-sound-like-they’re-made-out-of go back a pretty long way - ‘cheez’ was THE cheese-like substance of the 1920s - but right now, with plant-based foods on the rise, we’re seeing more of them.

Branding consultant and name developer Nancy Friedman casts her expert glance over the apostrophes and deliberate misspellings on foodstuffs; and vegan restaurant owner Melanie Boudens recounts how, this summer, the words ‘cheddar cheese’ on her menu landed her in trouble.

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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 45: Eponyms II - Name That Disease

If you love eponyms like Roman Mars loves eponyms, I'm afraid physician Isaac Siemens is here to deliver some bad news: medics are ditching them, in favour of terms that a) contain information about what the ailment actually is, and/or b) don't honour Nazi war criminals. Eponyms are controversial things.

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Allusionist 22: Vocables

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La la la, dum di di dum, a wop bop a loo bop a wop bom bom - why are songs riddled with non-words masquerading as words?

Hrishikesh Hirway from Radiotopisibling Song Exploder and songwriter Tony Hazzard explain.


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Ella Fitzgerald - ‘One Note Samba’
The Spice Girls - ‘Spice Up Your Life’
Theme from The Old Grey Whistle Test - ‘Stone Fox Chase’
Little Richard - 'Tutti Frutti'
The Crystals - ‘Da Do Ron Ron’
Black Lace - ‘Agadoo’
JLS - 'She Make Me Wanna'
Betty Wright - ‘Shoorah Shoorah’
Brokeback - ‘In the Reeds’

Come back in a week's time for the next Radiotopial special edition of the Allusionist. I promise not to sing.

- HZ

The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX, which is supported by Mailchimp, the Knight Foundation, and listeners like you.

Allusionist 21: Eponyms I: The Ballad of Bic and Biro


Naming something after yourself: a grand display of egomania, or the humble willingness to be overshadowed by your own product?

Stationery expert James Ward tells the tale of the people who begat the eponymous ballpoint pens Bic and Biro, because, according to 99% Invisible's Roman Mars, "When it comes to word origins, an eponym is the shortest bet you’re going to get a good story out of it."


If you were creating an eponymous product, what would it be? Mine would be something which doesn't work until the very last minute, just before you throw it away in frustration.

For the next month, there will be new Allusionists every week, each featuring another Radiotopian. If you love Radiotopia's shows and want to help the collective be great, STAY TUNED. Radiotopia needs you. Visit on 19th October to find out how you can be involved.



Come back in a week's time for the next Radiotopial special edition of the Allusionist. If you don't, I'll borrow your pen and not return it.

- HZ

The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX.