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’s episode is the annual bonus Allusionist, featuring outtakes from some of this year’s guests saying things that were not necessarily related to the topic of the original episode, or even related to language at all, but I thought, “Hmm! Interesting!” and filed them away until THIS MOMENT.
This is not a typical episode of the Allusionist, so if this is your first time here, welcome! And do try a few different episodes of the show to get a picture. This year there have been episodes about your names, and superhero names; about how swearing can be good for your health, and so can novels; about tattoos, and typing champions; about how the drive to survive sent the Welsh language across an ocean, and the Scots language to hide at home; and many more. Thanks so much for spending time with me over 2018.Read More
When you’re not feeling well, which books do you turn to to make yourself feel better?
I asked this question on the Allusionist Facebook and Twitter, and hundreds of you responded, but a few answers came up again and again:
Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, JRR Tolkien.
Makes sense. Science fiction, fantasy: what’s more escapist?
Jane Austen. PG Wodehouse.
Also escapist, thanks to period setting - and, rich people problems not health problems.
Things you read when you were a child: Moomins, What Katy Did, Anne of Green Gables…
Taking you back to a time in your life that perhaps felt safer, or simpler...
Boarding school shenanigans! Wizard problems not real life problems!
And, Agatha Christie.
Poison! Gunshots! Stabbing! Hang on, why would stories about murder make us feel better?
Well, they’re kind of supposed to make you feel better.Read More
HZ: So why is swearing good for you?
EMMA BYRNE: It's good for us socially, in that it is this really useful telegraph of our emotions; it's a good way of avoiding physical conflict. It's also a really good way of bonding, of saying "I hear you. I feel the strength of your emotions," like saying "Fuck that shit" when someone comes to you with something that's obviously upset them. Sometimes it needs to be something stronger than just putting your arm around their shoulder going, "Oh there, there". It's also really useful individually, both for a cathartic side of things when you do something painful or frustrating, letting it out there.
HZ: Another reason swearing is good for you: it relieves pain.
EMMA BYRNE: That is really potent and surprisingly well documented. When you stick your hands, for example, in freezing cold water, you can stand it for about half as long again if you’re using a single swear word than if you're using a single neutral word. Not only that: when afterwards you're asked about how painful that experience felt, you report that cold water as feeling much milder than the water that you had your hand in while you were using some neutral word. So we know that it's really handy for dealing with pain that's being inflicted on you. We also know that it's quite useful, for example, among people who are suffering from long term conditions - so not pain that's been inflicted in a lab, the pain that is ongoing. So managing particularly the emotional aspects of long term pain, a good swear can be cathartic.Read More
There’s a tricky linguistic balance to strike in crime journalism. At one end, there is a linguistic style which is so dry and technical it makes the story sound, well, boring, and there’s also some danger of making it seem detached from the real damage it caused to people. At the other end of the scale, there’s crime reporting that is as splashy and sensational as fiction.Read More
[baby voice] Wook at your widdle face. Who’s a cutie pie? Who’s a cutie pie? Here comes the aeroplane - [cough] [/baby voice]
When you’re talking to a baby, it’s hard to maintain dignity. In fact even the baby, who can’t talk, thinks jigsaws are for eating, and is probably sitting in its own effluvium, is more dignified than you at that point.
But, good news! All those stupid voices, and banal rhetorical questions, are helping the baby to learn language.Read More
Thanks to your own brain, words have the capacity to become your worst enemy.
JG: it could just be a random word, something attached to something you know, or something that you happened to be thinking at the time you were feeling awful so it became the word that means something bad.
HZ: No words are safe.
JG: No! Because that part of our mind just mashes things together in different ways, and if it mashes two things together at a time when you’re feeling a certain way, that connection sticks, which is where the therapy comes in - unsticking those things.