Today there’ll be a celebratory parade of language-related facts that you’ve learned from the Allusionist and I’ve learned from making the Allusionist, so some old facts, some new facts - well, the new facts aren’t recently invented facts, they are established facts, just making their Allusionist debut.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.
SUSIE DENT: There never has been a golden age when everything was as it should be ever. Even though we tend to think that English is now at its most dumbed down, always; I think every generation has thought that.Read More
I’ve been working on this mini series of episodes about minority languages and the threats they face and how they survive. Last episode, Welsh speakers took the drastic step of migrating to Argentina. But in researching it all, I keep referring back to a pair of Allusionists from a while ago: The Key. Part one, Rosetta, was about how a language survives in a physical form when its humans die, featuring the smash hit archaeological object the Rosetta Stone, and its namesake the Rosetta Disk, the linguistic key to the future. Part two is about how to decipher a dead language and why it might have died.Read More
“Talking about music is like dancing about architecture,” said Elvis Costello. Or Frank Zappa. Or Gore Vidal. Or Laurie Anderson. Or Steve Martin. Or the comedian Martin Mull.
I think this is a problematic statement, not just because nobody can agree on who came up with it. But because dancing about architecture doesn’t seem particularly far-fetched - they’re both visual, in fact each medium could probably elegantly reflect the other. Talking about dance, however, is really difficult.Read More
Most of the questions I get asked about the English language can be boiled down to this: why is English such an idiosyncratic mess? And why has nobody tried to sort it out?
Well, some people did kind of try. For hundreds of years, English had been a swirling concoction full of Latin, German and French thanks to all the invasions of Britain, plus words English had nicked from other languages, all refusing to behave regularly or obey rules consistently, and riddled with silent Gs.
300 or so years ago, some decided they had HAD ENOUGH.
The Allusionist is a show about words, but today’s episode isn’t looking at words themselves, but what’s on either side of them: that is, nothingness.
If it weren’t for the absence of words, the words themselves would be rather incomprehensible - how do you know where one word ends and the next begins without the space between?
Since the spaces serve such a crucial function in language, I was pretty astonished to discover they are a lot younger than language itself.Read More