Allusionist 101. Two Or More

Oysters, fragrances, canoeing, space stations, God, hats, and of course people - the word ‘bisexual’ has described a great deal of different things, with different meanings, in its fairly short existence. And that whole time, it has had a pretty bumpy ride.

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Allusionist 94. Harsh Realm

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.

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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 22: Vocables

Hey! You! If you enjoy this show, or any of the other shows that are part of Radiotopia, please support the collective by donating at

I'll be extremely grateful to you if you do! Here's why.


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.


Still haven't donated to Radiotopia yet? Here's that link again for you. Slack have offered a further $25,000 provided we get 5,000 donors by Monday 26th October, so don't dawdle.


You wanna be a cool guy like Gavin and have the next randomly selected word from the dictionary dedicated to you? Then you'd better become a Radiotopia supporter at Don't make me tell you again.

Email your donation receipts to for the chance to be the randomly selected Radiotopia donor.


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 18: Fix part II


The messiness of English is the price of its success. It is the most widely spoken language in the world, geographically, being an official language in 88 different countries, and there are countless different versions of it all over the world. With so many speakers in so many places, it would be impossible to establish a single 'correct' form of English; and, as became evident in Fix part I, to try to do so is a losing game.

In Europe, a new strain of English is emerging. It's not spoken very widely, but it is used by some of the most powerful people in the world. Hampton and Michael Catlin, founders of the collaborative online dictionary Wordset, lead us into this linguistic netherworld.

Beware: excessive suffixes.


  • Who WOULDN'T want to read the European Court of Auditors' 66-page 2013 report Misused Words and Expressions in EU Publications? Curl up on the sofa and prepare to discover bold new uses for 'homogenise', 'mission' and 'jury'.
  • The history of musical notation, do re mi - née ut re mi - is interesting; read more about it here.
  • If you're infuriated by someone who muddles up words like 'gamut' and 'gamete', you could direct them to or
  • The transcript of today's show is here.
  • The Guardian interviewed me about the Allusionist and Answer Me This; take a look here (if just for the accompanying photo).


If you're in the market for some new web domains, or want to transfer ones you already possess, sort yourself out at, where you can get 10% off your first purchase by using the code ALLUSIONIST at checkout.
Passion House Coffee Roasters freshly roast their beans then send them off to you for the glugging. You lot can score 20% off the AME Mix box set, featuring coffees in the three Passion House genres, Ambient, Mainstream and Experimental: use the offer code ALLUSIONIST when you visit



The next episode will appear in a fortnight. Thank you for your actorness in listening.

- HZ

The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX.