Spectacular Vernacular

Spectacular Vernacular

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.

Episodes

March 29, 2022 32 min
On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, Nicole and Ben take a trip down memory lane and put their knowledge of past guests to the test. They also interview the founder and CEO of Planet Word, Ann Friedman. And finally, we’re taking our final virtual trip, this time to Northern Ireland, for some cinematic wordplay. Thanks for listening and playing along with us!  Produced by Jasmine Ellis.  Here are some notes and references f...
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On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, Nicole and Ben talk about the difference between a dialect and a language as they revisit a prior conversation about Ukraine. They also interview Will Shortz, crossword puzzle editor at the New York Times, about how he got into the world of puzzles. And finally, our hosts are in the hot seat for a wordplay quiz set by the puzzle master himself. You don’t want to miss this! You could win...
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March 1, 2022 37 min
On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, Nicole and Ben talk about the new Siri voices. They also interview Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne, hosts of Lingthusiasm, a podcast that's enthusiastic about linguistics. And finally, they put a listener’s anagram skills to the test. You don’t want to miss this! You could win a year’s membership to Slate Plus. Do you have any language questions or fun facts to share? Email us a...
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February 15, 2022 36 min
On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, Nicole and Ben talk about the connection between football chants and language. They also interview Everdeen Mason, editorial director for games at the New York Times about her exciting role. And finally, our hosts are in the hot seat for this week’s wordplay. You don’t want to miss this! You could win a year’s membership to Slate Plus. Do you have any language questions or fun facts to ...
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On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, Nicole and Ben talk about how the capital of Ukraine has become a linguistic hot take. They also interview Jessi Grieser, a professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville about her new book, The Black Side of the River: Race, Language, and Belonging in Washington D.C. And finally, we bring on a listener for some wordplay. We hope you’re good at figuring out analogies. You could win...
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January 18, 2022 38 min
On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, Nicole and Ben interview Brooklyn-based software engineer Josh Wardle, the creator of the viral online word game Wordle. They also recap their participation in the American Dialect Society’s annual Word of the Year vote, over which Ben presided. And Nicole’s shares some on-the-ground interviews from the Linguistic Society of America conference, at which she presented some of her own res...
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January 4, 2022 34 min
On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, Nicole and Ben pay tribute to the late pioneer in linguistics and cognitive science, Lila Gleitman. They also interview Peter Sokolowski of Merriam-Webster and Fiona McPherson of the Oxford English Dictionary about the keywords of 2021. And finally, we bring on a listener for some wordplay. We hope you’re familiar with the diversity of English dialects. You could win a year’s membership...
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December 21, 2021 36 min
On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, Nicole and Ben discuss Creole languages. They also interview Rupal Patel, professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders and Computer Science at Northeastern University and the founder of VocaliD. And finally, Josh Levin and Joel Anderson, co-hosts of Slate’s sports podcast Hang Up and Listen join us for some wordplay. We hope you’re good at playing the basketball game of Horse. You ...
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December 7, 2021 34 min
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 investigation skills to the next level. You could win a year’s members...
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November 23, 2021 35 min
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 podcast Hang Up and Listen joins us for some wordplay. We h...
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November 9, 2021 39 min
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 Nation stops by for some wordplay. We hope you paid attention in...
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October 26, 2021 40 min
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 internet culture, stop by for some world wide web wordplay. W...
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October 12, 2021 46 min
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. We hope you’re ready! You could win a year’s membership to...
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September 28, 2021 28 min
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, and Extremely Online.” Finally, we invite listener Ben Snitk...
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September 14, 2021 39 min
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 membership to Slate Plus. Do you have any language questions o...
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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 been practicing! You could win a year’s membership to Slate P...
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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-owners of Atwood Management and hosts of the Realty Brothers ...
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August 17, 2021 31 min
On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, Nicole Holliday shows Ben Zimmer an entertaining TikTok video that does some fascinating things with language. They also interview Norma Mendoza-Denton, professor of anthropology at UCLA, about her recently published article “ ‘Sticking It to the Man’: r/wallstreetbets, Generational Masculinity and Revenge in Narratives of our Dystopian Capitalist Age.” And finally, a listener joins us ...
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August 3, 2021 29 min
On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, hosts Ben Zimmer and Nicole Holliday chat about language at the Olympics in Tokyo. They also chat with linguist Arika Okrent about her new book, Highly Irregular: Why Tough, Through, and Dough Don't Rhyme―And Other Oddities of the English Language. (Check out an essay Okrent wrote about the English spelling system.) And finally, we have our first guest joining us for a fun quiz segm...
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July 20, 2021 31 min
Welcome to Spectacular Vernacular, Slate’s new podcast about language! In our inaugural episode, hosts Ben Zimmer and Nicole Holliday marvel at Zaila Avant-garde’s historic win at Scripps National Spelling Bee. They also chat with They Might Be Giants’, John Linnell, about creating his new pandemic project in Latin. And finally, they do some fun language puzzles, and you can play along at home.  Do you have any language questions o...
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