On 15 November 1992, the New York Times printed a ‘ Lexicon of Grunge’, a list of slang terms from the Seattle music scene. ‘Harsh realm’ = bummer. ‘Wack slacks’ = old ripped jeans. ‘Swingin’ on the flippity-flop’ = hanging out.
Not familiar with any of these? It’s OK, it’s not because you’re a cob nobbler (= loser). They were all made up. By Megan Jasper. Now the CEO of Sub Pop records, she explains why she pranked an unsuspecting journalist.Read More
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
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
When you're feeling unwell, what's the book you read to make yourself feel better? And why does it work?
Clinical psychologist Jane Gregory explains why she sometimes prescribes novel-reading to her patients; and academic Guy Cuthbertson tells how post-WW1 Britain was soothed by Agatha Christie's murder mysteries.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
Strange or obtuse; a stinging homophobic slur; a radical political rejection of normativity; a broad term encompassing every and any variation on sexual orientation and gender identity: the word 'queer' has a multifarious past and complicated present. This is just a fraction of it.
Tracing the word's movements are Kathy Tu and Tobin Low from Nancy podcast, Eric Marcus from Making Gay History, and historian and author Amy Sueyoshi, with Jonathan Van Ness from Queer Eye.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
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