language

What Will Be The Word Of The Year?

Dec 12, 2013
Flickr Photo/Chris Blakeley

Ross Reynolds talks with language guru Ben Zimmer about the language trends of 2013.

The sign language interpreter widely criticized as a "fake" for his performance at Nelson Mandela's memorial service in South Africa says he suffered a schizophrenic episode while on stage, a South African newspaper reported Thursday.

Michael Erard's book "Babel No More."

It might seem that tools like Google Translate make the ability to speak different languages less valuable to employers. But Michael Erard, author of “Babel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners,” says that being bilingual or multilingual is still important.

All kinds of organizations from Starbucks to the World Health Organization seek out people who are proficient in multiple languages.  Erard calls them the "staff hyperpolyglot." Marcie Sillman talks with Erard about multilingualism in the workplace.

Ben Zimmer On Having And Eating Cake

Sep 6, 2013
Flickr Photo/Jeff Anderson

You can’t have your cake and eat it too, but how are you supposed to eat cake you don’t have? Language guru Ben Zimmer is back today and he explains the whole having, eating and not having cake thing. And what that has to do with how the Unabomber was captured. Really.

Flickr Photo/Jesus V

Did you know that the phrase "the whole 9 yards" used to be "the whole 6 yards?" It’s true. And cloud nine, that fantastic place to be, used to be cloud seven, then cloud eight. So how did we get to nine yards and cloud nine? Ben Zimmer is back today to talk about phrase inflation as we consider our series on strange language.

Ben Zimmer: The Roots Of "Pipe Dreams"

Sep 4, 2013
Flickr Photo/Andre Lucero

Yesterday we heard some history on the term "doping" in sports and today, language columnist Ben Zimmer explains where the term "pipe dream" comes from. 

Flickr Photo/NCinDC

We’ve seen lots of sports scandals in the news over the years that have to do with performance-enhancing drugs, commonly referred to as doping. Dope, from the Dutch word doop, is actually a gravy or a sauce, so how did we go from gravy to drugs? Lexicographer Ben Zimmer gives KUOW's Ross Reynolds the straight dope on dope.

When Do You Code-Switch?

Jun 25, 2013
Flickr Photo/Dan Tentler

  Most of us adjust the way we speak for the person or people we’re speaking to. It could be as subtle as speaking a little more slowly and happily when talking to a small child. Or it could be as obvious as changing to another language. There’s a term for this shift - it’s called code-switching. Jeannie Yandel talked with listeners about when they code-switch and why they do it.

Lean Back And LOL: Texting Is Not Ruining Language

Apr 29, 2013
Flickr Photo/Maryland GovPics

Texting has become an incredibly common way of communicating in the 21st century. Back in 2011, the Pew Research Center reported that young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 sent around 110 text messages per day. The texting craze has also given rise to an entirely new vocabulary — texters of all ages abbreviate, punctuate and accentuate in ways that are totally unique to the cell phone age.

So one question arises: Is texting killing our language? Ross Reynolds LOLs with professor John McWhorter and discusses the possible impact of txting and the feared f8 of language.

Weekday Archive: Taj Mahal And Steven Pinker

Apr 10, 2013
Jay Blakesberg

Our spring membership drive rolls along with two of our favorite interviews: two-time Grammy winning musician Taj Mahal joined us late last year to celebrate 40 years in music and a new retrospective album, "Maestro." Plus, we listen back to a conversation with Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker about his book, "The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window Into Human Nature."

Words We Love And Words We Hate

Apr 8, 2013
Flickr Photo/Ryan Basilio

What's so funny about peace, love and understanding? Nothing, but other words are hilarious! Ross Reynolds talks with language columnist Ben Zimmer about words we love, words we hate and words that simply make us laugh. 

Call The Grammar Police!

Feb 12, 2013
Grammar Police
Flickr photo/Seven Morris

When it comes to proper usage, the Grammar Police work overtime. Have you ever corrected another person’s grammar? How did that go over? Linguist Geoffrey Pullum has written widely on language and usage, from technical syntactic theory to a study called “The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax." He joins us for a conversation about the constant struggle for grammatical excellence (or even just improvement) and the right and wrong way to encourage better sentence structure.

Washington state is in the process of changing the language in state law to make it more gender neutral. Policemen are now police officers, for instance, and freshmen will become first-year students. Supporters say the change is needed because language matters. Critics say the changes are a waste of money. Ross Reynolds interviews University of Washington Sociolinguist Crispin Thurlow, and we take your phone calls.

Sam Easterby-Smith / Flickr

Bring us your tired metaphors, overused phrases and words that summon an unpleasant visceral reaction. Ben Zimmer, language columnist for the Boston Globe, explains why these words and phrases bother us so much. Sometimes a word variant sounds odd to our ear, even if it’s correct, such as “pleaded” rather than “plead.” Other problems arise when words reveal disparities, such as a lack of an equivalent term for the opposite gender. And jargon can become offensive when it migrates from its original community to more common use in mainstream media or by different age groups.

Conlangs: The Art Of Fake Languages

Nov 26, 2012

Constructed languages, or "conlangs," are the made-up tongues that bring the worlds of "Avatar,"  "Lord of the Rings" and "Star Trek" to life. We talk with linguist David J. Peterson, creator of the Dothraki language for HBO's "Game of Thrones," about what goes into creating a language from scratch.

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