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Spectacular Vernacular

Education • Society-and-culture

Linguist Nicole Holliday and Wall Street Journal language columnist Ben Zimmer discuss the ways language is changing, talk to scholars and writers, and set and solve word puzzles.

Popular episodes

Cracking the Omicron Code

Dec 7 • 34:47

On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, Nicole and Ben discuss the pronunciation of the name of the latest COVID variant. They also interview Alex Bellos, puzzle columnist for The Guardian and author of The Language Lover’s Puzzle Book. And finally, Amanda Ripley, host of Slate’s podcast How To! joins us for some wordplay. We hope you’re ready to take your investigat...

Taylor Swift’s “F— the Patriarchy”

Nov 23 • 35:17

On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, Nicole and Ben discuss Ben’s case against an accusation of anachronistic language use in the new version of her song “All Too Well.” They also interview Michael Adams, Provost Professor and Chair of the English Department at Indiana University about the late Madeline Kripke. And finally, Stefan Fatsis, co-host of Slate’s sports...

Interrupting to Show We Care

Nov 9 • 39:52

On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, hosts Nicole Holliday and Ben Zimmer recap the recent New Ways of Analyzing Variation conference for sociolinguistics. They also interview Deborah Tannen, a professor of linguistics at Georgetown University and best-selling author about conversational style. And finally, Barry Lam, host of Slate’s philosophy podcast Hi-Phi Nati...

The Millennial Language Cheat Code

Oct 26 • 40:44

On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, hosts Nicole Holliday and Ben Zimmer talk about Anthony Fauci’s old-school Brooklyn accent. They also interview Sylvia Sierra about her new book Millennials Talking Media: Creating Intertextual Identities in Everyday Conversation.And finally, Rachelle Hampton and Madison Malone Kircher, the hosts of ICYMI, Slate’s podcast on in...

Squid Game in Translation

Oct 12 • 46:22

On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, hosts Nicole Holliday and Ben Zimmer chat about Netflix’s latest hit, Squid Game. They also interview award-winning staff writer at The New Yorker, John Colapinto, about his book This is the Voice. And finally, we bring on chart analyst, pop critic, and host of the Slate podcast “Hit Parade,” Chris Molanphy for a fun music quiz...

The Wide World of Language Diversity

Sep 28 • 28:43

Nicole Holliday and Ben Zimmer discuss a regional grammatical construction that is most common in the Philadelphia area, though it’s also found in Canada and Vermont. Then they talk with journalist Allyson Waller about Black American Sign Language. Waller won the Linguistics Journalism award from the Linguistic Society of America for her New York Times piece “Black, Deaf, ...

Double Dutch

Sep 14 • 39:56

On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, Ben Zimmer tells Nicole Holliday how he’s been brushing up his Dutch. They also interview Cindy Blanco, senior learning specialist for the online language-learning app, Duolingo. And finally, we invite a listener to play a quiz that looks at the Dutch roots of some English words. We hope you’re ready!! You could win a year’s me...

Double Dutch

Sep 14 • 39:56

On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, Ben Zimmer tells Nicole Holliday how he’s been brushing up his Dutch. They also interview Cindy Blanco, senior learning specialist for the online language-learning app, Duolingo. And finally, we invite a listener to play a quiz that looks at the Dutch roots of some English words. We hope you’re ready!! You could win a year’s me...

How the Grid Kid Became King of the Online Spelling Bee

Aug 31 • 33:34

On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, Nicole Holliday and Ben Zimmer share their thoughts on Pfizer’s official name for its COVID vaccine. They also interview Sam Ezersky, digital puzzles editor for the New York Times, about the popular online game the Spelling Bee. And finally, we invite a listener to play our inspired version of the Spelling Bee. We hope you’ve b...

Sponsored: How Can We Improve Our Communication Skills to Strengthen Our Relationships?

Aug 25 • 30:31

This episode of The Relentless is all about how to be a good communicator in an evolving, digital world. Host Kristen Meinzer talks to three guests who have valuable insights and perspectives about communication dynamics, both on and offline: Erica Dhawan, communication expert and author of Digital Body Language and Get Big Things Done, and Michael and Matthew Atwood, co-o...

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