The Allusionist

The Allusionist

United Kingdom

Linguistic adventures with Helen Zaltzman for Radiotopia from PRX

Episodes

59. One To Another  

Translation, A Love Story: Translator listens to The Allusionist. Translator hears about the podcast The Memory Palace. Translator listens to The Memory Palace. Translator immediately becomes smitten with The Memory Palace. Translator translates The Memory Palace from English to Brazilian Portuguese, and turns it into a book – O Palácio da Memória – which will … Continue reading 59. One To Another

58. Eclipse  

It’s August 2007. Lauren Marks is a 27-year-old actor and a PhD student, spending the month directing a play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She’s in a bar, standing onstage, performing a karaoke duet of ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’…and then a blood vessel in her brain bursts. When she wakes up in hospital, days … Continue reading 58. Eclipse

57. AD/BC  

There’s a small matter I trip over regularly in the Allusionist: Dates. Not the fruit. Specicially, the terms BC and AD, Before Christ and Anno Domini (‘the year of the Lord’ (‘the Lord’ also being Christ)). How did Jesus Christ get to be all up in our system of counting the years? There’s more about … Continue reading 57. AD/BC

56. Joins  

As discussed in episode 51, Under the Covers part II, the vocabulary for sex and associated body parts is tricky to navigate in many ways – but even more so if you are trans or gender non-binary. CONTENT NOTE: this episode contains strong language and frank discussions of sex and bodies. There’s more about the … Continue reading 56. Joins

55. Namaste  

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Hrishikesh Hirway of Song Exploder wants people to stop saying ‘namaste’ after a yoga session. There’s more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/namaste. Stay in touch at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia.fm for PRX.org. … Continue reading 55. Namaste

54. The Authority  

“Sometimes you want to make the dictionary sexy but it’s just not a sexy thing,” says Kory Stamper, lexicographer for the Merriam-Webster dictionaries. Sorry if this is disillusioning news for you. The dictionary is not a sexy thing, but as Kory explains, it is a fascinating, complicated, exacting thing. There’s more about this episode at … Continue reading 54. The Authority

53. The Away Team  

“Recognizing someone’s humanity is crucial. Calling someone a migrant, calling someone an asylum seeker, calling them a refugee: these are official categories. But in many ways, depending on how they use them, they can change and become more negative.” So says propaganda and migration specialist Emma Briant, as she explains the dangers of conflating and … Continue reading 53. The Away Team

14 rerun: 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-rerun. The main part of this episode is a rerun, but there’s new material as well – get ready for a thrill-ride into medieval accounting technology. Stay in touch at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and … Continue reading 14 rerun: Behave

52. Sanctuary  

The term ‘sanctuary cities’ has been in the news a lot in the past few weeks, as places in the USA declare themselves to be havens for undocumented immigrants. Though ‘sanctuary’ has a history of meaning safety for the persecuted, it has an even longer history of meaning something quite different: refuge for criminals. Rosalind … Continue reading 52. Sanctuary

51. Under the Covers – part II  

Does the available vocabulary for sex leave something to be desired? Namely desire? (And also the ability to use it wthout laughing/dying of embarrassment?) Aiding in the search for a better sex lexicon – sexicon – are Kaitlin Prest of fellow Radiotopia podcast The Heart, and romance novelist Mhairi McFarlane. CONTENT NOTE: this episode contains … Continue reading 51. Under the Covers – part II

50. Under the Covers – part I  

Escape into the loving embrace of a romance novel – although don’t think you’ll be able to escape gender politics while you’re in there. Bea and Leah Koch, proprietors of America’s sole romance-only bookstore The Ripped Bodice, consider the genre; and publisher Lisa Milton scrolls through the 109-year history of the imprint that epitomises romance … Continue reading 50. Under the Covers – part I

49. Bonus 2016  

Why is gaslighting ‘gaslighting’? What do bodily fluids have to do with personality traits? Why does ‘cataract’ mean a waterfall and an eye condition? And do doctors really say ‘Stat!’ or is that just in ER? To round off 2016, here’s the bonus edition of The Allusionist, featuring listeners’ etymology requests and extra material from … Continue reading 49. Bonus 2016

48. Winterval  

There’s a word that has become shorthand for ‘the war on Christmas’ with a side of ‘political correctness gone mad’: Winterval. It began in November 1998. Newspapers furiously accused Birmingham City Council of renaming Christmas when it ran festive events under the name ‘Winterval’. The council’s then-head of events Mike Chubb explains the true meaning … Continue reading 48. Winterval

47. The Year Without a Summer  

Today: a tale of darkness, gathering storms, and a terrifying creature that resembles a human man… No, nothing topical: it’s The Year Without A Summer, the story of how Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. This piece first appeared on Eric Molinsky’s excellent podcast Imaginary Worlds. Hear all the episodes at http://imaginaryworldspodcast.org. For more information, visit http://theallusionist.org/frankenstein. … Continue reading 47. The Year Without a Summer

46. The State Of It  

Each of the 50 states in the USA has its own motto. The motto might be found on the state seal, or the state flag; more often than not, it might be in Latin, or Spanish, or Chinook; it might be a phrase or a single word. And if you think you know what yours … Continue reading 46. The State Of It

45. Eponyms II: Name That Disease  

If you love eponyms like Roman Mars loves eponyms, I’m afraid physician Isaac Siemens is here to deliver some bad news: medics are ditching them, in favour of terms that a) contain information about what the ailment actually is, and/or b) don’t honour Nazi war criminals. Eponyms are controversial things. The Allusionist is a proud … Continue reading 45. Eponyms II: Name That Disease

44: This Is Your Brain On Language  

What is your beautiful brain up to as you comprehend language? Cognitive psychologist Jenni Rodd takes a peek. Visit http://theallusionist.org/brain for more information about this topic. Find me at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia.fm from PRX.org.

43. The Key part II: Vestiges  

If you don’t have a Rosetta Stone to hand, deciphering extinct languages can be a real puzzle, even though they didn’t intend to be. They didn’t intend to become extinct, either, but such is the life (and death) of languages. NB: there is a CATEGORY B swear word towards the end of this episode. But … Continue reading 43. The Key part II: Vestiges

42. The Key part I: Rosetta  

Languages die. But if they’re lucky, a thousand-odd years later, someone unearths an artefact that brings them back to life. Laura Welcher of the Rosetta Project shows us the Rosetta Disk, a slice of electroplated nickel three inches in diameter that bears text in 1500 languages for future linguists to decipher. Ilona Regulski of the … Continue reading 42. The Key part I: Rosetta

41. Getting Toasty  

When you choose to spend the winter in Antarctica, you’ll be prepared for it to be cold. You know that nobody will be leaving or arriving until springtime. And you’re braced for months of darkness. But a few weeks after the last sunset, you might find you can’t even string a sentence together. And even … Continue reading 41. Getting Toasty

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