The Allusionist

The Allusionist

United Kingdom

Linguistic adventures with Helen Zaltzman for Radiotopia from PRX

Episodes

27. Bonus 2015  

For the last episode of 2015, here's a melange of etymologies requested by listeners, and anecdotes there wasn't room for in the show earlier this year. We've got Klingon! Acid trips! The plural of 'octopus'! An unwitting cameo from Cliff Richard! Warning: this episode contains references to drugs, sex and genitals, plus some mild swears (category B/C). Find out more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/bonus2015, and say hello at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The show will return on 27th January 2016. The Allusionist is a proud member of http://Radiotopia.fm for http://PRX.org.

26. Xmas Man  

CONTENT WARNING: Be wary of listening to this episode around young children, as there may be life spoilers. Historian Greg Jenner traces the origins of that mythical beardy man who turns up in December with gifts. Helen Zaltzman also ensures her permanent removal from everybody's Christmas card lists. Read more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/christmas and say hello at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of http://Radiotopia.fm for http://PRX.org.

25. Toki Pona  

There’s a language which is said to be the smallest language in the world. It has around 123 words, five vowels, nine consonants, and apparently you can become fluent in it with around 30 hours’ study. It was invented by linguist Sonja Lang in 2001, and it’s called Toki Pona. And fellow Radiotopian Nate DiMeo, from the Memory Palace, decided we should learn it together. Find the Memory Palace at http://thememorypalace.us/. Read more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/tokipona and say hello at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of http://Radiotopia.fm for http://PRX.org.

24. Spill Your Guts  

It's cathartic; it's a useful historical record; and it might help you behave better on public transport. Neil Katcher and Dave Nadelberg from Mortified discuss the art and practice of keeping a diary. Find the Mortified podcast, stage shows, documentary, TV series and books at http://getmortified.com. Roman Mars also stops by to talk about the Radiotopia fundraiser. To support the collective, become a donor at http://on.prx.org/radiotopia-forever. Read more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/diaries. Say hello at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of http://Radiotopia.fm for http://PRX.org.

23. Criminallusionist  

Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer from the podcast Criminal stop by to talk about the linguistic challenges of crime reporting. They also share their episode 'Pants on Fire', about lying. It's an extremely useful handbook if you fancy becoming either a human polygraph, or an excellent liar. Radiotopia needs your support. Become a donor at http://on.prx.org/radiotopia-forever. Find Criminal at http://thisiscriminal.com. Read more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/criminallusionist. Say hello at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of http://Radiotopia.fm for http://PRX.org.

22. Vocables  

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 Song Exploder and songwriter Tony Hazzard explain. Read more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/vocables. Say hello at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow, and find Song Exploder at http://songexploder.net. The Allusionist is a proud member of http://Radiotopia.fm for http://PRX.org. Radiotopia needs your support. Become a donor at http://on.prx.org/radiotopia-forever.

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." Read more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/ballpoint. Say hello at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of http://Radiotopia.fm for http://PRX.org.

20. Baby Talk  

Why do we all sound like idiots when we talk to babies? Don't be embarrassed, we're helping them acquire language. Child psychologist Ben Jeffes explains. There is more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/baby-talk. Say hello at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of http://Radiotopia.fm for http://PRX.org.

19. Architecting About Dance  

“Talking about music is like dancing about architecture” 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. Talking about dance, however - that's really difficult. How do you put a wordless form of communication into words? Audio describer Alice Sanders and choreographer Steven Hoggett take the issue for a twirl. There is more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/dance. Say hello at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of http://Radiotopia.fm for http://PRX.org.

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. There is more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/fix-ii. Say hello at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of http://Radiotopia.fm for http://PRX.org.

17. Fix part I  

The English language is a mess. And if you don't like it, what are you going to do about it - fix it? Good luck with that. In the early 18th century, a movement of grammarians and authors wanted to set up an official authority to regulate English, like French had in the Academie Francaise. But is trying to fix a language a good move? Linguists Liv Walsh and Thomas Godard weigh up the evidence. There is more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/fix-i. Say hello at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of http://Radiotopia.fm for http://PRX.org.

16. Word Play  

Words are all over the place. So how do you turn them into fun games? Here to show the way is Leslie Scott, founder of Oxford Games and inventor of more than forty games - including word games such as Ex Libris, Anagram and Flummoxed, and the non-word game Jenga. There is more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/word-play. Tell me about the word games you've invented at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of http://Radiotopia.fm for http://PRX.org.

15. Step Away  

'Step-', as in stepparents or stepchildren, originated in grief. Family structures have evolved, but are stepmothers now so tainted by fairytale associations with the word 'wicked' that we need new terminology? Lore's Aaron Mahnke stops by to describe the lovelessness, literary tropes and life expectancy around 'step-'. There is more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/step. There will also be a live discussion about it at http://Spoken.am/allusionist/step-away on 4th August, 8pm UK time, 3pm ET, 12pm PT; do drop by, and/or catch up afterwards. Share your feelings about steprelations at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia.fm for PRX.org.

14. Behave  

Sometimes words can become your worst enemy. Clinical psychologist Jane Gregory tells how to defuse their power. There's more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/behave. This episode concerns mental health, and the discussion nudges some topics which may not be comfortable for everybody. So if you have concerns, please sit this one out, and return in two weeks for the next Allusionist. Stay in touch! Tweet @allusionistshow, and convene at facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia.fm for PRX.org.

13. Mixed Emojions  

Emoji allow communication without words. Could emoji be the universal language of the 21st century? Matt Gray and Tom Scott, founders of the emoji-only messaging platform emoj.li, talk through the pitfalls; and History Today's Dr Kate Wiles finds the 500- and 5,000-year-old precedents for emoji. CONTENT WARNING: this episode contains one category B swear word, plus reference to penises growing on trees. There's more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/emoji, including a fine selection of medieval marginalia. Tweet @allusionistshow, and convene at facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia.fm for PRX.org.

12. Pride  

"The poison is shame. The antidote is pride." It’s June; the President of the USA has officially designated it LGBT Pride Month, and there’ll be Pride events around the world. But how did the word ‘pride’ came to be the banner word for demonstrations and celebrations of LGBT rights and culture? There's more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/pride. Tweet @allusionistshow, and convene at facebook.com/allusionistshow. This episode was produced by me and Eleanor McDowall of Falling Tree, with help from Peregrine Andrews. The music is by Martin Austwick. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia.fm for PRX.org.

11. Brunchtime  

What does brunch have to do with Lewis Carroll? Fall down the rabbit hole of brunch semantics with Dan Pashman of the Sporkful podcast http://sporkful.com. There's more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/brunch. Tweet @allusionistshow, and convene at facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia.fm for PRX.org.

10. Election Lexicon  

On the eve of the 2015 General Election in the UK, take a jaunt through the etymology of election-related words. Find out why casting a vote should be more like basketball, and why polling is hairy. There's more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/electionlexicon. Tweet @allusionistshow, and convene at facebook.com/allusionistshow. Also please air your thoughts about podcasts by filling in the Radiotopia survey at surveynerds.com/allusionist. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia.fm for PRX.org.

9. The Space Between  

I know this is a show about words, but forget the words for a moment; look at the spaces between the words. Without the spaces, the words would be nigh incomprehensible. Dr Kate Wiles explains the history of the space. Visit theallusionist.org/spaces to find out more about this episode. Tweet @allusionistshow, and convene at facebook.com/allusionistshow. Also please give us your thoughts about podcasts at surveynerds.com/allusionist. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia.fm for PRX.org.

8. Crosswords  

Cryptic crosswords: delightful brain exercise, or the infernal taunting of the incomprehensible? Either way, crossword setter John Feetenby explains how they're made and how to solve them. Visit theallusionist.org/crosswords to find out more about this episode. Tweet @allusionistshow, and convene at facebook.com/allusionistshow. Also please give us your thoughts about podcasts at surveynerds.com/allusionist. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia.fm for PRX.org.

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