The World in Words

by PRI · · · · 15 subscribers

The World in Words is a podcast about languages and the people who speak them. What happens to the brain on bilingualism? Does it matter that so many languages are dying out? Should we fear the rise of global English? Is the United States losing its linguistic cohesion? Why are Chinese tech words so inventive? Why does Icelandic have so many cool swearwords? Patrick Cox and Nina Porzucki bring you stories from the world’s linguistic frontlines. Also at pri.org/language

When American Lynne Murphy says 'sure' to her British husband, he thinks she means 'not really.' After 18 years together, they still disagree-- and not just on 'sure.'

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Tags: language, society & culture, global, pri, foreign, radio, words, news, international, patrick cox, public, npr

Older Episodes

Poetry thieves Sept. 5, 2018
Some people see British poet Ira Lightman as a champion of poets whose verses he valiantly defends. Others view him as a blowhard who delights in ruining other people's reputations. Either way, the story of his poetry sleuthing might make you think differently about what exactly plagiarism is.
Some people believe technology will render Braille obsolete, that blind people will choose talking apps and audiobooks over embossed dots. Maybe, but Braille has been written off many times before. Each time, it has come back stronger. We trace Braille from its beginnings, in Napoleon's France, through the "War of ...
Professional soccer used to export its English-language terminology, giving other languages words like 'penalty' and 'goal.' But now, the roles are reversed. English-speakers use expressions loaned from other languages to describe skill moves: 'rabona,' 'panenka,' 'gegenpress.'
Basque is a language isolate. Spoken in a region that spans northern Spain across the border into southern France, it is not part of the Indo-European language family. It’s not related to Spanish or French or German or Greek or any known language. The origins of the language are a ...
Your brain on improv May 24, 2018
Ever wondered about people who can improvise on stage? How the words seem to come so easily? Neuroscientist Charles Limb and comedian Anthony Veneziale did. First came the bromance, then Veneziale found himself improvising inside an fMRI machine.
My language is my home May 17, 2018
Lea is a teenager born and raised in Japan. Her mother is Chinese, her father American. She speaks English, Mandarin and Japanese but isn’t sure which of them is her mother tongue. Karolina lives in Boston but grew up in several countries and speaks a bunch of languages. Her English ...
Alina Simone was born in the Soviet Union to Russian-speaking parents and now lives in New York. She initially raised her daughter to speak both English and Russian. So why did she give up on Russian and send her daughter to a Chinese immersion school?
Do you talk to your dog? Does your dog talk back to you? Dr. Doolittle’s dream of talking to the animals is one many of us can share. But what do all of those howls and growls mean and is it really language? This week on the podcast NOVA’s Ari ...
The Story of 'X' April 3, 2018
From X-rated to Gen X to Latinx, the meaning of 'X' has shifted while retaining an edgy, transgressive quality. We trace the meandering semantic route of 'X' through the 20th and 21st centuries, with help from Afro-Latinx writer Jack Qu'emi, retired linguistics professor Ron Smyth and film historian Adrian Smith.
In 2012, a little known Swedish press published a children’s book that sparked a nationwide debate. The debate wasn’t about the plot of the book, nor the pictures, but concerned a three-letter word used by the main character of the story. That word was the relatively new, gender neutral pronoun ...
A British Mx Tape March 19, 2018
The UK is obsessed with honorifics. Remember, this is the land of Barons and Earls and Ladies and Sirs and the ultimate HRH, "Her Royal Highness." But even if you can't claim HRH, selecting "Mr." or "Mrs." or "Miss" is a standard part of filling out many forms and documents. ...
In 1984, the professional wrestler “Dr. D" David Schultz smacked the TV journalist John Stoessel to the ground backstage at Madison Square Garden. Why? One word, kayfabe. If you’ve never heard of the word “kayfabe,” don’t worry. This week on podcast we throw on some tights and get into the ...
Could Neanderthals talk? Feb. 21, 2018
Humans are the only creatures on Earth that can choke on their own food. Yes, that’s right. Because we have funky plumbing. There’s a crucial split in our throats – one path that leads to the esophagus and the stomach, and another that leads to our larynx, or voice box. ...
He wrote to her mainly in Swedish, and she replied in Finnish. The correspondence of "Finlandia" composer Jean Sibelius and his wife Aino is funny and touching. And their letters are a goldmine for the study of code- switching.
Ivanka, meet Stalin Jan. 30, 2018
In which we hear from another Ivanka, another Stalin and another Lenin. Ivanka's brush with fame came thanks to Donald Trump's carelessness on Twitter. But Stalin and Lenin were purposely given their names, by parents in the Indian state of Kerala. Do they have a date with destiny?
Losing your accent Jan. 12, 2018
English is spoken with countless accents by both native and non-native speakers. But a hierarchy persists: there are 'good accents and 'bad' ones. So whether you're from Thailand or Tennessee, you may want to get rid of your accent. We hear from a few such people, and from someone who ...
The words of 2017 Dec. 20, 2017
What are the words and images that best describe this past year? And why do some people think "whom" is obsolete? We talk with Buzzfeed's copy chief Emmy Favilla and Cartoon Queen Carol Hills who monitors political cartoons from around the world.
Remember the 1990’s flick Sneakers with Robert Redford? Robert Redford’s character leads a group of hackers on a mission to steal a decoder from the NSA. And there’s a part in the film when Redford needs to bypass security to sneak into a building. Only problem, the security is a ...
Remember the 1990’s flick Sneakers with Robert Redford? Robert Redford’s character leads a group of hackers on a mission to steal a decoder from the NSA. And there’s a part in the film when Redford needs to bypass security to sneak into a building. Only problem, the security is a ...