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The Allusionist

Arts • Society-and-culture

Adventures in language with Helen Zaltzman.

Popular episodes

146. Survival: Today, Tomorrow part 1

Nov 24 • 33:12

The Icelandic language has remained so stable over the centuries, speakers can read manuscripts from 900 years ago without too much trouble. And when they need a new word for more recent concepts, there are committees to coin one, so that the modern Icelandic lexicon includes such things as the internet, helicopters and mansplaining. Defending the language from the encroac...

Allusionist 145. Parents

Nov 7 • 44:19

When you're trans and pregnant, some of the vocabulary of pregnancy, birth and parenting might not fit you. In face, some of it might not even work for people of ANY gender. Trans parents Freddy McConnell and CJ talk about gender-additive language, inclusive for women and other genders, and about how in English law, the word 'mother' becomes semantically very complicated i...

Allusionist 144. Aro Ace

Oct 26 • 27:22

The word 'asexual' has been used by humans describing themselves for several decades; 'aromantic' is newer. Both words enable people to voice identities that were unacknowledged for centuries, to find each other and build communities together, and to provide counternarratives to what the allosexuals are pushing....

143. Hedge Rider

Oct 13 • 26:32

Today it's the etymologies you requested! And a few you didn't! We've got witches, wizards, warlocks; conjurers and cloves; wood shavings, nice gone nasty, and a whole lot more. Plus, a bold method of scaring away a ghost, if you must....

142. Zero

Sep 25 • 24:31

Did any number cause as much trouble as zero? It stranded ships; it scrambles the brains of mathematicians, calendar users and computers; it even got itself banned in Florence. Math(s) communicator and drag queen Kyne explains the Terminator of numbers....

141. Food Quiz

Sep 10 • 28:48

Quiz time! Samin Nosrat and Hrishikesh Hirway of Home Cooking podcast join to deliver questions about food etymology, as well as what are the two words that make a dance track, and whether 'za' is an acceptable abbreviation for 'pizza'....

Allusionist 140. Num8er5

Aug 30 • 33:17

We use verbal numbers and we use numerals - why do we need both? Why do we have the ones we have? What happened to Roman numerals? And what's loserish about the fiftieth Super Bowl? Stephen Chrisomalis, professor of anthropology and linguistics and author of the book Reckonings: Numerals, Cognition and History, returns to the Allusionist to explain our current numbers, and...

Tranquillusionist: 282 Salads

Aug 14 • 34:18

This is the Tranquillusionist, in which I, Helen Zaltzman, read all the salads from the 1950 recipe book 282 Ways of Making a Salad, with Favourite Recipes by British and American Personalities and Stars by Bebe Daniels and Jill Algood, with the purpose of giving your internal monologue a break by replacing it with some absolutely inconsequential words. Note: this is NOT ...

139 Ladybird Ladybug

Jul 12 • 21:36

They're not ladies and they're not birds; they're not even technically bugs! But that's not the most surprising thing about ladybirds/ladybugs and their brilliant variety of names. Tamsin Majerus AKA Dr Ladybird explains why ladybirds are so great; and Johanna Mayer and Elah Feder of the podcast Science Diction, about words and the science stories behind them, consider wha...

138. Mind My Mind

Jun 27 • 31:11

Crazy, insane, nuts, mad, bonkers, psycho, schizo, OCD - casual vocabulary is strewn with mental health terms, but perhaps shouldn't be? Psychotherapist and podcaster Lily Sloane talks about what we're really saying when we use such words....

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