The Allusionist

by allusionistshow@gmail.com (Helen Zaltzman for Radiotopia) · · ·

Linguistic adventures with Helen Zaltzman, TheAllusionist.org.

A proud member of Radiotopia from PRX. Learn more at radiotopia.fm.

It’s a year since Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. And in that year, he’s caused a lot of changes in the job of constitutional law professor Elizabeth Joh of TrumpConLaw podcast – in particular, one verb is now off limits. Plus: Paul Anthony Jones, aka etymologist extraordinaire Haggard … Continue reading 71. Triumph/Trumpet/Top/Fart

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Tags: language, etymology, words, prx, english, radiotopia, zaltzman, helen

Older Episodes

70 70\. Bonus 2017 Dec. 23, 2017
It’s the annual bonus episode. Throughout the year, the people who appear on the show tell me a lot of interesting stuff, not all of which is relevant to the episode they initially appeared in, so I stash it away in preparation for this moment.
Charles Dickens wrote about the plight of the impoverished and destitute members of British society. So how come his name is a synonym for rosy- cheeked, full-stomached, fattened-goose, hearty merry “God bless us every one” Christmas?
68 68\. Curse Soup Nov. 25, 2017
Somebody has really ticked you off. You’re all steamed up inside and you want to vent that rage using words, but you don’t want to confront them directly because you’re either too polite or too cowardly. So do you: A. Subtweet them. B.
67 67\. Open Me part II Nov. 10, 2017
You’re holding a letter. What’s inside? A weather report from 5,000 miles away? Some devastating family history? A single word? A heartfelt dispatch from your past self that’s about to change the course of your life?
66 66\. Open Me part I Oct. 27, 2017
From Me To You’s Alison Hitchcock and Brian Greenley didn’t know each other well. But when Brian was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, Alison offered to write him letters. 100 letters later, their lives were changed.
Roman Mars returns for our annual dose of eponyms – words that derive from people’s names. This year: explosive revelations about the origins of the word ‘guy’. Find out more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/guy.
64 64\. Technobabble Sept. 30, 2017
You’ve encountered technobabble when Doc Brown is shouting about flux capacitors in Back To The Future, or when Isaac Asimov writes about positronic brains. Astrophysicist Katie Mack and NASA JPL technologist Manan Arya discuss how science fact relates...
63 63\. Evolution of Accents Sept. 15, 2017
“Accent is identity. It’s a way of encoding and signaling – almost completely at an unconscious level for most people – who they feel like they are, who they want to be seen as, what group they feel like they belong to.
62 62\. In Crypt, Decrypt Sept. 2, 2017
Crossword-solving is often a solitary activity – over breakfast; on the train; on the loo… But a few times a year, crossword puzzle enthusiasts gather in their hundreds to compete to be the fastest, most accurate crossword-solver.
61 61\. In Your Hand Aug. 19, 2017
“It’s sort of frozen body language; that’s what handwriting analysis is about.” Since it caught on a couple of hundred years ago, graphology – analysing handwriting to deduce characteristics of the writer – has struggled to be taken seriously as a prac...
60 60\. Zillions Aug. 5, 2017
They look like numbers. They sound like numbers. You kinda know they are numbers. But they’re not actually numbers. Linguistic anthropologist Stephen Chrisomalis explains what’s going on with indefinite hyperbolic numerals like ‘zillion’,
59 59\. One To Another June 30, 2017
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.
58 58\. Eclipse June 16, 2017
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 ...
57 57\. AD/BC June 2, 2017
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)).
56 56\. Joins May 19, 2017
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 ...
55 55\. Namaste May 5, 2017
“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.
54 54\. The Authority April 14, 2017
“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,
53 53\. The Away Team April 1, 2017
“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.
14 14 rerun: Behave March 17, 2017
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,