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The Allusionist

Adventures in language with Helen Zaltzman. TheAllusionist.org

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110. Engraving part 1: Epitaph

When Dave Nadelberg of Mortified used to visit his mother’s grave, he would look around at the nearby gravestones and see similar - or even the exact same - epitaphs for lots of different people. And it made him curious: who were these people, really? What were their personalities, what happened in their lives? And didn’t they deserve something more meaningful, more personal, than these bland and repetitive epitaphs? So when Dave’s father died a few years later, Dave was determined to choose better words to represent him in perpetuity. Go to theallusionist.org/epitaph to read more about this episode and find a transcript. Dave Nadelberg is the founder of Mortified: find the podcast, live events, books, TV series and documentary at getmortified.com. The Allusionist's online home is theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at twitter.com/allusionistshow, facebook.com/allusionistshow and instagram.com/allusionistshow.Support the show: http://patreon.com/allusionistSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

27mins

26 Nov 2019

Rank #1

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76. Across the Pond

Pavement/sidewalk; football/soccer; bum bag/fanny pack: we know that the English language is different in the UK and the USA. But why? Linguist Lynne Murphy points out the geographical, cultural and social influences that separate the common language. Find out more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/across-the-pond. The Allusionist’s online home is http://theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow.Support the show: http://patreon.com/allusionistSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

22mins

7 Apr 2018

Rank #2

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92. To Err Is Human

If you wince when you hear someone say “a whole nother level”, “hone in on” or “right from the gecko”, here’s some bad news: you might have to get used to it. The English language is full of words and expressions that were mistakes that stuck around. Countdown’s Susie Dent holds our hands and takes us on a tour of misspellings, mishearings, scrambled letters and bear cubs. In the new Minillusionist at the end of the episode, we’re back on your favourite subject: swearing! And why the blazes are there all these fake acronym etymologies for swears? Find out more about this episode at theallusionist.org/err. Follow Susie Dent on Twitter @susie_dent for regular doses of etymology, and to keep up with her writing and tour dates. The Allusionist's online home is theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at twitter.com/allusionistshow and facebook.com/allusionistshow.Support the show: http://patreon.com/allusionistSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

18mins

24 Jan 2019

Rank #3

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107. Apples

Late 2019 will see the biggest apple launch of our lifetimes. 22 years in the making, ripening on millions of trees into picture-perfect redness, here comes the WA38, more snazzily known as the Cosmic Crisp. The name was the result of a year of focus groups, taste tests and word associations - a far cry from when apples were named after whichever end of a cat they resembled. This episode is a collaboration with The Sporkful podcast, where we have released companion episodes about apples: hear us talking about the naming of apples on this episode of the Allusionist, and on their episode ‘A New Apple Is Born’ we get into the particulars of how new apples are begotten. Find The Sporkful on your podcatchers and at thesporkful.com. Find out more about this episode at theallusionist.org/apples. The Allusionist's online home is theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at twitter.com/allusionistshow, facebook.com/allusionistshow and instagram.com/allusionistshow.Support the show: http://patreon.com/allusionistSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

27mins

9 Oct 2019

Rank #4

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111. Engraving part 2: Precious

Words engraved into metal are intended to last, though you don’t know who in the future is going to be reading them - your grandchildren wearing your wedding ring, the stranger who found your long-lost multitool, yourself at a time of need. Steven Yardley of Milne & Yardley talks about the disappearing craft of hand engraving. Max Ullmann of the antique jewellery shop A.R. Ullmann Ltd shows the objects engraved in centuries past. Wearing their grandmothers’ rings, Lisa Hack connects to family she doesn’t know, and **Freddy McConnell **to the family he does. When Eeva Sarlin’s ex-boyfriend lost her Leatherman multitool, she thought she’d never see it again - and were it not for an engraving, she wouldn’t have. And Arlie Adlington, who reports this episode, had words engraved into his ring to remind him of his reality when others threaten to ruin it. Go to theallusionist.org/precious to read more about this episode and find a transcript. Hear the first part of the pair of episodes about engraving at theallusionist.org/epitaph. The Allusionist's online home is theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at twitter.com/allusionistshow, facebook.com/allusionistshow and instagram.com/allusionistshow. Support the show: http://patreon.com/allusionist See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

35mins

16 Dec 2019

Rank #5

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4. Detonating the C-Bomb

WARNING: this episode contains lots of swearing and words which some of you may find offensive. If, however, you love offensive words, you will enjoy this episode, which is all about how the C-word doesn’t deserve to be the pariah of cusses. Visit http://theallusionist.org/c-bomb to find out more about this episode. Tweet @allusionistshow, and convene at facebook.com/allusionistshow. Subscribe on iTunes http://tinyurl.com/iTunesAllusionist.Support the show: http://patreon.com/allusionistSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

16mins

11 Feb 2015

Rank #6

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3. Going Viral

Remember when ‘viral’ used to only mean something bad, eg. something that would make you ill or destroy your computer? How things have changed. Tom Phillips from Buzzfeed UK explains the language they choose to make content go viral. Visit http://theallusionist.org/viral to find out more about this episode. Tweet @allusionistshow, and convene at facebook.com/allusionistshow.Support the show: http://patreon.com/allusionistSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

14mins

28 Jan 2015

Rank #7

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82. A Novel Remedy

When you’re feeling unwell, what’s the book you read to make yourself feel better? And why does it work? Clinical psychologist Jane Gregory explains why she sometimes prescribes novel-reading to her patients; and academic Guy Cuthbertson tells how post-WW1 Britain was soothed by Agatha Christie. Find out more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/convalescence. The Allusionist’s online home is http://theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow.Support the show: http://patreon.com/allusionistSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

20mins

13 Aug 2018

Rank #8

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63. Evolution of Accents

“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.” The podcast Twenty Thousand Hertz investigates how accents have evolved in the UK and USA. Hear Twenty Thousand Hertz at http://20k.org and find out more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/evolution-of-accents. Stay in touch at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow.Support the show: http://patreon.com/allusionistSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

24mins

14 Sep 2017

Rank #9

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84. Trammels

Why would you write books or poems or plays with only one vowel? Or in palindromes? Or only using the example sentences in dictionaries? Sometimes you need to force yourself to jump a few hurdles (and perhaps the rest of the obstacle course) before your creativity will be unleashed. Find more about this episode at theallusionist.org/trammels. Jez Burrows is the author of the book Dictionary Stories, which is out now; find his work at jezburrows.com. Ross Sutherland makes the podcast Imaginary Advice; find him at rosssutherland.co.uk. The Allusionist’s online home is http://theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow.Support the show: http://patreon.com/allusionistSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

19mins

8 Sep 2018

Rank #10

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106. Typo Demom

Ever misspelled a word or committed a typo? It wasn’t your fault; you were demonically possessed. Ian Chillag from Everything is Alive podcast introduces us to Titivillus, the typo demon. Find out more about this episode at theallusionist.org/typo-demon. The Allusionist's online home is theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at twitter.com/allusionistshow, facebook.com/allusionistshow and instagram.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist live show No Title is heading off on a tour of North America from October. For all event listings, visit theallusionist.org/events.Support the show: http://patreon.com/allusionistSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

20mins

15 Sep 2019

Rank #11

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72. Hey

“Hey.”“Going to the supermarket, want me to get you anything?”“Puppies or ice cream?”“What’s your glasses prescription?”“I wanna ***** your *********.” If you’ve used a dating app, maybe you’ve received one of the above messages from a stranger, or sent them. Striking up an interaction with someone is a tricky business. Why Oh Why and Longest Shortest Time host Andrea Silenzi opens up her phone to analyse the kinds of opening messages people send on dating apps, and how easily they can land badly. Find out more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/hey, and hear Andrea hosting The Longest Shortest Time podcast on your podblasters of choice. Content note: this episode contains a couple of instances of Adult Language and references to Adult Behaviours. The show’s online home is http://theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. Support the show: http://patreon.com/allusionist See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

20mins

9 Feb 2018

Rank #12

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Imaginary Advice: S.E.I.N.F.E.L.D.

Hello! I’m currently in hospital so am having to take a little time off work. Therefore, instead of a new Allusionist episode today, here’s my favourite audio piece I’ve heard this year: ‘S.E.I.N.F.E.L.D.’ from Ross Sutherland’s podcast Imaginary Advice. NB: the episode contains a couple of Strong Terms. Hear more Imaginary Advice episodes – some of my favourites are ‘Six House Parties’ and ‘Me Versus The Spar (parts 1-7)’ – and find the show’s live dates and Patreon, at imaginaryadvice.com.  The Allusionist will be recuperating for a bit, but should be back at the end of July. In the meantime, catch up on all the previous episodes and goad all your beloved friends and acquaintances to do likewise.Support the show: http://patreon.com/allusionistSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

26mins

28 Jun 2018

Rank #13

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95. Verisimilitude

When you’re watching a fantasy or science fiction show, and the characters are speaking a language that does not exist in this world but sounds like it could - that doesn’t happen by accident, or improvisation. A lot - a LOT! - of work goes into inventing new languages that sound real. Conlanger David Peterson talks about how he created languages for HBO’s Game of Thrones. Find out more about this episode at theallusionist.org/verisimilitude. The Allusionist's online home is theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at twitter.com/allusionistshow and facebook.com/allusionistshow.Support the show: http://patreon.com/allusionistSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

28mins

11 Mar 2019

Rank #14

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38. Small Talk

“How are you?”“Oh, fine – and you?”“Yeah, not bad. Nice day today, isn’t it?”“Yes, it was a bit chilly this morning, but now the sun’s come out…” [Continue until the lift arrives, or until the end of time.] Small talk is usually not conveying much vital information, nor is it especially interesting. But beneath that comfort blanket of tedium lies a valuable social function. There’s more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/smalltalk. Chitchat with me at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow.Support the show: http://patreon.com/allusionistSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

12mins

25 Jun 2016

Rank #15

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33. Please

There’s an ocean between Britain and the USA, but an even wider division between each country’s use of a particular word: ‘please’. Linguists Lynne Murphy and Rachele De Felice explain how one nation’s obsequiousness is another nation’s obnoxiousness. There’s more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/please. Please greet me at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow.Support the show: http://patreon.com/allusionistSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

14mins

1 Apr 2016

Rank #16

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55. Namaste

“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. Stay in touch at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow.Support the show: http://patreon.com/allusionistSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

17mins

5 May 2017

Rank #17

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79. Queer

Strange or obtuse; a stinging homophobic slur; a radical political rejection of normativity; a broad term encompassing every and any variation on sexual orientation and gender identity: the word ‘queer’ has a multifarious past and complicated present. Tracing its movements are Kathy Tu and Tobin Low from Nancy podcast, Eric Marcus from Making Gay History, historian and author Amy Sueyoshi, and Jonathan Van Ness from Queer Eye.  Find out more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/queer. Content note: this episodes contains discussions of sexuality and sexual acts, as well as some problematic terms. See the Allusionist live in Australia and New Zealand in the next month: show listings are at http://theallusionist.org/events The Allusionist’s online home is http://theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow.Support the show: http://patreon.com/allusionistSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

25mins

3 Jun 2018

Rank #18

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105. F'ood

When is cheese not cheese, or crab not crab? When it’s spelled cheez or krab or even ch’eese or cra’b… Novelty spellings for foods-that-aren’t-made-out-of-the-thing-they-sound-like-they’re-made-out-of go back a pretty long way - ‘cheez’ was THE cheese-like substance of the 1920s - but right now, with plant-based foods on the rise, we’re seeing more of them. Branding consultant and name developer Nancy Friedman casts her expert glance over the apostrophes and deliberate misspellings on foodstuffs; and vegan restaurant owner Melanie Boudens recounts how, this summer, the words ‘cheddar cheese’ on her menu landed her in trouble. Find out more about this episode at theallusionist.org/foood. The Allusionist's online home is theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at twitter.com/allusionistshow, facebook.com/allusionistshow and instagram.com/allusionistshow.Support the show: http://patreon.com/allusionistSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

31mins

3 Sep 2019

Rank #19

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74. Take A Swear Pill

CONTENT WARNING: there is swearing in this episode. But the happy news is: swearing is good for you! Dr Emma Byrne, author of Swearing Is Good For You, explains how swearing can be beneficial to your physical health and emotional wellbeing, while Matt Fidler of Very Bad Words podcast gives some tips to ensure you swear properly to optimise the positive effects. Find out more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/swear-pill. The show’s online home is http://theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow.Support the show: http://patreon.com/allusionistSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

25mins

9 Mar 2018

Rank #20