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Presidential candidate Donald Trump, pictured here 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference.
Flickr Photo/Gage Skidmore (CC BY SA 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/e41ELr

Bill Radke speaks with University of Washington historian Margaret O'Mara about mud slinging and crudeness in American politics.

After Donald Trump defended the size of his penis during a Republican primary debate, some people asked, have we hit a new low? According to O'Mara, the answer is no. Things like this have been happening for centuries.

And often, the vulgarity is a smoke screen that distracts from the real issues, O'Mara said. 

The French have gotten themselves into one of their recurrent linguistic lathers, this one over the changes in their spelling that will be taking effect in the fall. The changes were originally proposed more than 25 years ago. But nothing much came of them until the government recently announced that they'd be incorporated in the new textbooks, at which point traditionalists took to the barricades.

Tony Johnson of the Chinook Tribe is fluent in Chinook Wawa. He stands at Chinook Point near the mouth of the Columbia, a key spot for the fur trade 200 years ago where strangers met and needed a common language.
KUOW Photo/Dwight Caswell

Chinook Jargon was a trade language that once ruled the Northwest. But when was it used, and how many people spoke it? Listener Michelle LeSourd of Seattle asked KUOW's Local Wonder. 

Flickr Photo/Indra Galbo (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/3GLm42

Among a long list of achievements, University of Washington professor Ralina Joseph co-founded the group WIRED (Women Investigating Race, Ethnicity, and Difference.)

The meaning and importance of the term "difference" is the focus of her recent lecture “What’s The Difference With ‘Difference?’”

There is a metaphor so embedded in the discussion of refugees and migrants that everyone from Donald Trump to Barack Obama uses it. The New York Times has put it in headlines, and Rush Limbaugh has wielded it like a hammer in his full-throated style.

Do You Have A Case Of Affluenza?

Jan 4, 2016

Bill Radke speaks with author and filmmaker John de Graaf about the term "affluenza" and its use in society after Ethan Couch was found violating his probation in Mexico. Couch used affluenza as a defense in his trial for four counts of manslaughter after a intoxicated driving incident in 2013.

English bursts with consonants. We have words that string one after another, like angst, diphthong and catchphrase. But other languages keep more vowels and open sounds. And that variability might be because they evolved in different habitats.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TESS VIGELAND, HOST:

Journalist Jessica Grose is no stranger to criticism of her voice. When she was co-hosting the Slate podcast, the DoubleX Gabfest, she would receive emails complaining about her "upspeak" — a tendency to raise her voice at the end of sentences. Once an older man she was interviewing for an article in Businessweek told her that she sounded like his granddaughter.

"That was the first moment I felt [my voice] was hurting my career beyond just irritating a couple listeners," Grose tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

Kacper Pempel/Reuters

Nigel Richards has been winning Scrabble championships for decades. He’s been lauded as the best Scrabble player on Earth. And now he’s won another championship — in a language he doesn’t speak.

Two minutes into Present Tense, a short film made by three high school students in a fishing village in the East African island of Zanzibar, a set of subtitles lay out their mission:

Voices of Youth Keep Lushootseed Language Alive

Jun 24, 2015
Maria Martin teaches Lushootseed to preschoolers at the Tulalip Montessori School.
KUOW Photo/Ben Gauld

In Maria Martin's preschool classroom at the Tulalip Montessori School, the children were learning to count to 10. 

"Two!" they shouted.

But this lesson wasn't in English. "In Lushootseed!" Martin instructed her class.

"Saliʔ!" their tiny voices rang out.

In his Tucson, Ariz., backyard, 10-year-old Linken Kay throws a ball for his dog, Harley.

The dog speaks only English. But Linken was raised speaking another language.

"Li ŝatas salti en la naĝejo por preni la pilkon," Linken says.

What's that, now?

First-graders Daniel, left, and Josiah, are first-grade language buddies at White Center Heights Elementary in West Seattle. Their classroom instruction is in Spanish and English.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Americans get a bad rap for speaking only English.

But increasingly, public schools are immersing students in a second language, usually Spanish or Chinese. The Highline school district, south of Seattle, has even set an ambitious goal for the class of 2026 to graduate fully bilingual and biliterate.

In American English, some slang words come and go. And some stay and stay.

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