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Vocabbett - Fun Vocabulary & History Stories
7 minutes | 3 months ago
Season 2 Finale (And a Peek Behind the Scenes!)
After around 20 episodes, season 2 of the Vocabbett podcast is coming to a close! I’d gladly continue it forever, but I was recently accepted to UCSD’s college counseling program. Since they operate on a quarterly system, I’m able to start my first class in March! I honestly don’t know exactly how the college counseling certificate will play into the future of Vocabbett, but as I discuss in the podcast, I do want to turn Vocabbett into a profitable, sustainable business, and while I’m having a blast with what I’m currently doing, it’s not exactly self-sustaining. In episode 76, I dive into various ways I could grow Vocabbett moving forward. You can listen below or on your favorite podcast player. And if you have any ideas or thoughts about all this, please, let me know! Seriously, just shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
8 minutes | 3 months ago
Margo Durrell - Quite the Character
If you’ve seen The Durrells in Corfu, you’ll undoubtedly remember the slightly dotty daughter in the series, Margo. When I finished the show (a slightly heartbreaking moment – I hope they release a new season in the future!), I was exceptionally curious about what happened next for the family. Though the show offers a fictionalized account of the Durrells’ lives, the characters were based on real people. To think of them in the clutches of World War II… For episode 75 of the Vocabbett podcast, I share more about the remarkable life of Margo Durrell. You can listen below or on your favorite podcast player! Referenced In This Episode: https://www.express.co.uk/showbiz/tv-radio/933123/The-Durrells-ITV-Margo-Durrell-Gerald-Durrell-Daisy-Waterstone-Keeley-Hawes
11 minutes | 3 months ago
Cleopatra's Little Sister
We've all heard of Cleopatra, but how many people know she had a little sister -- and a pretty remarkable one at that? Arsinoe IV was about ten years younger than Cleopatra, but my guess is that, had their ages been reversed, we'd all know Arsinoe and it would be, "Cleopatra who?" At around 12 years old, she was commanding an army and outwitting Julius Caesar! Listen to episode 74 of the Vocabbett podcast to learn all about her. And as promised, here is the link to the episode of "Drunk History" about her for those who want to watch! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ab4rYDR0yY&t I said it in the podcast, but I'll say it again here: there is a lot of profanity in this video! It's hilarious if you don't mind that sort of thing, but there are about 1,000 swear words in 10 minutes and some PG-13-level vulgarity. Consider yourself warned!
5 minutes | 3 months ago
Endlessly Exiled...But She Still Didn't Quit
When most of us think of suffragettes (a.k.a. women who fought for the right to vote), we think of Susan B. Anthony or Emmeline Pankhurst. We should, however, also be thinking about the extraordinary Nazek al-Abid! In the latest installment in our “forgotten women” mini-series, we explore the story of this remarkable woman. Exiled countless times for voicing (and acting upon) her beliefs, she never stopped fighting. Get the whole story in episode 72 of the Vocabbett podcast! (By the way, because her name is transliterated from Arabic, it’s sometimes spelled “Naziq” or “Nazik.” None are incorrect; I just went with what was on the Syrian stamp!) - Read More: ‘Forgotten Princesses’ article I reference throughout the episode: https://www.rejectedprincesses.com/princesses/naziq-al-abid
13 minutes | 3 months ago
18th Century Heiress-Turned-Pirate? (Vocabulary-Boosting History)
“18th century heiress turned pirate” may sound like the tagline of a cheesy romance novel, but remarkably, it’s a fairly accurate description of the indomitable Anne Bonny. A few episodes into our “Forgotten Women” mini-series -- where I sneakily boost your vocabulary by telling you about some people you probably didn’t learn about in school -- we’re shedding light on one of the most famous female pirates from the so-called “Golden Age” of piracy. It’s a story you won’t want to miss! You can listen for free on your favorite podcast player, or tune in over at Vocabbett. Referenced in this episode: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/if-theres-a-man-among-ye-the-tale-of-pirate-queens-anne-bonny-and-mary-read-45576461/ https://www.gutenberg.org/files/40580/40580-h/40580-h.htm#page-171
6 minutes | 3 months ago
The *Other* British Warrior Queen
If you’re an Anglophile (lover of the English) like me, you’ve probably heard of Boudica, the warrior queen who took on the Romans. But did you know that there’s *another* British warrior queen with an equally fascinating tale? Around the 8th century, Viking raiders were taking over regions of England left and right. Alfred the Great dreamed of not only fighting them off, but uniting England under one king. Sadly, he died before seeing his dream come true. Alfred’s daughter, Aethelflaed, leaped onto my radar in The Last Kingdom (available on Netflix, though very violent, so don’t watch unless you have a parent’s permission). I loved her storyline (from season 2) so much, I couldn’t help but Google what happened to her later! Obviously not everything from the show is true, but later in life, she went on to do extraordinary things. Aethelflaed took on the Vikings, negotiating with them when possible and fighting them when it wasn’t. She was a shrewd tactician, and knew exactly which roads and river passages to attack to make the battle as swift as possible. It got to the point where her enemies (the freaking Vikings) would surrender without a fight! Learn more about this amazing woman in episode 71 of the Vocabbett podcast! Quoted & Referenced in This Episode: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-44069889 https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-gloucestershire-44429911
7 minutes | 3 months ago
The Powerful Woman Behind 'Mary Had a Little Lamb'
“Mary had a little lamb…” Be honest. Did you go, “little lamb” again after you read that? Those five words are so catchy, they were the first words Thomas Edison ever recorded in the phonograph (making them the first words ever recorded on a machine). Not only that, but they were also some of the first words Alexander Graham Bell spoke into the telephone! It’s astonishing to me that a mere century (or so) after her death, Sarah Josepha Hale — the creator of this nursery rhyme — has faded into obscurity. It would be one thing if her accomplishments had also faded, but we’re still hugely impacted by her legacy. And I’m not just talking about ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb.’ In fact, if you’d asked Sarah to list what she was most proud of, “Mary had a little lamb” probably wouldn’t even make the first page! The only reason I know about this woman is that I’m lucky to be (very) loosely related to her. But it got me thinking, how many other stories of remarkable women have been forgotten? In episode 70 of the Vocabbett podcast, I share the (very abbreviated) story of Sarah Josepha Hale in a new “Forgotten Women” mini-series. I’m still boosting your vocabulary throughout; I’m just finding new, fun stories to incorporate while doing it! : ) You can listen to the podcast for free on your favorite player, and I’ve included a sneak peek of the members’-only podcast accompaniment below. Become a Vocabbett member to watch the whole video if you haven’t already!
4 minutes | 4 months ago
Kudos & Magical Glory
I don’t remember the first time I heard the word “kudos,” but I distinctly remember thinking that it was 1970’s slang. How wrong I was! I only found out last week, though, that “kudos” goes all the way back to the days of Homer, meaning “magical glory” in ancient Greek. This means, if someone says, “kudos, you did a great job at the game,” the original meaning was more like, “Magical glory! Man, you’ve been blessed by the gods. Great job.” How cool is that? There’s a fierce battle raging among linguists about this word (something I’d love to see in person). I go into details in episode 69 of the Vocabbett podcast!
3 minutes | 4 months ago
The Beak Where People Speak
Amid the recent inauguration news, I kept hearing the word “rostrum.” “As he approaches the rostrum tomorrow…” “Donald Trump began his term from the same rostrum…” “In his inaugural address Wednesday, delivered from a rostrum…” Obviously this word wasn’t crucial to my understanding of what was happening, but being the inquisitive sort, I needed to know all about it. A rostrum is basically a podium. There are subtle differences, but for all intents and purposes, it’s a podium. That’s not the good bit, though. The good bit is what comes before the definition, the story of how we got the definition. Like so many others, this story goes back to ancient Rome (and their fighting preferences). Learn all about it on episode 68 of the Vocabbett podcast!
7 minutes | 4 months ago
Changes to the SAT - What No One's Talking About
With colleges dropping the SAT left and right — and the recent announcement that they’re dropping the essay and subject tests — it’s normal to feel a reluctant pang of sympathy for a dying rite of passage. Here’s the thing, though: The College Board (the organization that runs the SAT) is stronger than ever. Most people don’t know that the AP program is also managed by The College Board, so while people celebrate the end of a standardized test…we’re unwittingly letting them standardize the entire high school curriculum. I’m not against AP’s. There are some great AP courses! But when one organization has so much power, there are bound to be issues because we don’t all want the same thing. I dive into this issue in greater detail in episode 67 of the Vocabbett podcast. I’d consider it a must-listen for students, parents, and educators!
6 minutes | 4 months ago
'An Era of Schadenfreude'
Imagine not knowing how to say that you're tired. It wouldn't make sense, right? And yet there's an emotion that most of us experience all the time, whether we want to or not...but we awkwardly don't name it. If you don't know the word "schadenfreude," you're not alone. In fact, the very history of this emotion is full of people who didn't want to bring it into the English language! Schadenfreude is when you're happy about, or interested in, the misfortunes of others. In more practical terms, it's when you laugh at a video of someone falling, read all the details of some scandal, watch reality TV, or (let's be honest) read the news. How often do they report "man gets his mail" without some catastrophe attached to it? It's been said that we're currently living in an era of schadenfreude because, when you think about it, many of our forms of entertainment focus on reveling in someone else's misfortunes. It's created some new moral conundrums that I find fascinating! Get all the information in episode 66 of the Vocabbett podcast.
5 minutes | 4 months ago
Why We Call It Soccer (When Everyone Else Calls It Football!)
You may already know that what we in the U.S. call “soccer,” most of the rest of the world refers to as “football.” But do you know why we call it soccer when almost no one else does? Is it just some cowboy American thing? A refusal to go with the flow? The story behind the soccer vs. football debate is fascinating, and I share it in episode 65 of the Vocabbett podcast! Take a listen below or on your favorite podcast player. Until next time! - Referenced in this episode: 'The English Game' on Netflix https://www.dictionary.com/e/soccer-or-football/
8 minutes | 4 months ago
Don't Be a Blatherskite
Blatherskite - “A person who talks at great length without saying much of sense.” Basically, a blatherer. What a great word. Definitely my favorite word du jour. Do you know what makes this word even better? The amazing route it took to reach our fair shores. Originally a pseudo-Scottish insult, the word became popular through a song, Maggie Lauder, that was popular with American troops during the Revolutionary War! You’ve GOT to listen to episode 64 of the Vocabbett podcast, which features a popular modern rendition of the song. And if you’re not yet a Vocabbett member, sign up to get access to the accompanying video! https://vocabbett.com/signup! - *Listen to the whole 'Maggie Lauder' song!* https://music.youtube.com/watch?v=Yiq... (It's live, and starts around 30 seconds in) - Referenced in This Episode: The Dictionary of Difficult Words by Jane Solomon and Louise Lockhart (https://amzn.to/3q8TcR7 - Amazon Associate link, which means I may earn a small commission at no added cost to you)
10 minutes | 4 months ago
Theseus THE Pig + Helen of Troy
If you're a fan of Greek history, you're probably familiar with the story of Theseus and the minotaur. But did you know that the word "academy" traces its roots all the way back to that story? To be more specific, "academies" are etymologically named in honor of the man who saved Helen of Troy from having to become Theseus' wife! We think of Theseus as this great Greek hero, but if you've ever been in any of my history classes, you know he's a total pig. From abandoning Ariadne on an island to kidnapping Helen of Troy (from the temple where she was praying, no less)...he's no good, folks. Tune into episode 63 of the Vocabbett podcast for the ins and outs of this fascinating story!
6 minutes | 4 months ago
The Juicy Tell-All Novel That Changed the WORD
The WORD, get it? Haha, wordplay. You tend to hear the word "anecdote" in two contexts these days. Either it's a fancy stand-in for "story," or it's a disparaging adjective, as in, "you only have anecdotal evidence." But did you know the root of the word anecdote is far more salacious? It goes back to the juiciest tell-all novel of the Byzantine empire, when a respected historian basically published the "Gossip Girl" of Justinian's court after his death. While he was alive, he secretly documented all the scandals: whom the generals' wives were secretly seeing, the pious empress's threats to have people executed, the emperor's fondness for lying and wasting money, that sort of thing. After his death, he released the story under the title "Anekdota," which roughly translates as "not to publish." It's sort of the equivalent of "Confidential" or "Top Secret," a title sure to pique a person's interest! Over time, the word "Anekdota," and later "anecdote," came to be more associated with these personal stories of Justinian's court than the original meaning ("not to publish"). For more details on this story, be sure to tune into episode 62 of the Vocabbett podcast!
4 minutes | 5 months ago
''Crazy' Moon Words + A Writing Tip
We're all probably familiar with the legends of werewolves and madmen emerging from the dark on a full moon...but did you know that this legend is so pervasive, it actually made an impact on the English language? Yes, my friends. The word "lunatic," among others, is directly pulled by the Latin root luna, for moon! In episode 63 of the Vocabbett podcast, I dive into some of the theories as to why this occurred, and I also share a brilliant writing tip from Neil Gaiman's Masterclass. Referenced in this episode: https://www.discovermagazine.com/mind/why-do-we-still-believe-in-lunacy-during-a-full-moon
11 minutes | 5 months ago
Why the Months Make No Sense
Have you ever looked at the calendar and thought, “Well, that makes no sense”? October starts with “oct,” but it’s not the 8th month. November starts with “nov,” but it’s not the 9th month. December starts with “dec,” but it’s not the 10th month. I always encourage people to pay attention to the Greek and Latin roots, but sometimes, they can mislead you! That’s why stories are such a great (and important) part of improving your vocabulary – they explain the inconsistencies. And this story, as with so many others, begins in ancient Rome. You see, when the ancient Romans first implemented a calendar, it had only ten months, plus a bunch of “off” days before the calendar started back up. It makes perfect sense when you think about why they created the calendar in the first place. The calendar was primarily used to plan farming and agricultural activities, and there were two months a year where you couldn’t do much to the soil. The calendar began in March (in honor of Mars, the god of war). So to the ancient Romans, the numbers matched up perfectly! The biggest change wasn’t adding January and February, though. I explain it all in episode 60 of the Vocabbett podcast!
2 minutes | 7 months ago
Season 1 Finale!
After a hot 59 episodes, it’s time to put the Vocabbett podcast on hiatus to write book 2! The podcast WILL be back. I LOVE doing it; I just need all the creative energy focused on one goal at the moment. Thanks for tuning in! You can listen to the entire backlist at vocabbett.com/season-1. See you in a bit!
4 minutes | 7 months ago
*This* Should Never End for Writers (Not What You Think!)
We’ve talked ideas, outlines, writing tips, and more in this writing series. But amid the technical tips, one very important component of writing can get overlooked: love of the craft. If you want to be a writer, you must enjoy writing! I’ve mentioned before that this series is modeled after the writing process of Barbara Mertz a.k.a. Elizabeth Peters. I was able to research her creative process for my Master’s, and do you know what stuck with me more than anything else? How much fun she was having! Of course there were difficult days, but this is a woman who clearly loved her work. Her joy is evident at every stage of the process. In her stream-of -consciousness notes for The Seventh Sinner for instance, she wrote: “The crux of the plot—ha—is the numeral VII, which must come to haunt all the characters, including the heroine, so that when she sees the scrawl in the victim’s blood, it never occurs to her that it could be anything but a number…” I love that little “ha” at the beginning! It’s just so telling. Amelia Peabody, Elizabeth Peters’ primary protagonist, goes so far as to say that paradise would be a continuation of the life she loves with those she loves beside her. A source tells me Mertz felt the same way toward the end of her life. Think about that for a second: that heaven would be a continuation of this life. How many of us can say that? I think it’d be pretty hard to do if you don't love your work! Whether you want to be a writer or something else, that sense of fun and enjoyment is an incredible goal. The ultimate goal? Making your life so amazing that heaven could be a continuation of the life you’re already living.
5 minutes | 7 months ago
Unconventional Editing Advice
The resounding writing advice today tends to be, “Just get the words on paper. You can edit it later. You can’t edit a blank page. All first drafts are garbage anyway…Just get your word count and keep going!” I can virtually guarantee that if you take this approach with essays, you’ll end up with a garbage product or you’ll have to re-do it. For books? Well, my experience is largely the same. The editing process is BRUTAL when you play fast and loose with the first draft. So, contrary to popular opinion today, I would argue that it’s OK to write a more measured first draft and save yourself a headache in edits! This doesn’t mean every word needs to be perfect before you write it down. The big difference is that you work with the sentence/scene a bit longer, moving on when you feel satisfied (for now), rather than just writing the first thing that pops into your head. It definitely makes editing easier, but I think it might make your overall process faster, too! In episode 57 of the Vocabbett podcast, I dive into the drawbacks of this process. Listen below or on your favorite podcast player!
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