Created with Sketch.
25 minutes | Jun 9, 2021
44. Different Words for the Same Thing
Is a simple task "doable," or would you consider it "feasible"? Is it different to "buy" something than it is to "purchase" it? Is this description "readable" or merely "legible"? This week we're looking at what happens when English pulls words from different roots, but uses them in similar ways. Then, we find out how the 'jay' got into 'jaywalking.'
21 minutes | Jun 2, 2021
43. The Words We Mispronounce
Are we language professionals? Certainly. Does that mean we pronounce every word perfectly? Oh, not even close. Today we'll get into the words that we, the lexicographers, still struggle to say, as well as the joy of learning a word from reading it.
18 minutes | May 26, 2021
42. The Language of Spy and Detective Stories
Shadowy spies, brilliant detectives, danger and action. The language of spy and mystery thrillers has always been a source of captivation for readers, sometimes even affecting the world of spycraft itself. This week we'll look at the contributions and popularizations of some of the genre's biggest names.Hosted by Emily Brewster, Neil Serven, Ammon Shea, and Peter Sokolowski.Produced in collaboration with New England Public Media.Transcript available here.
16 minutes | May 19, 2021
41. Is It 'Further' or 'Farther'?
Further and farther. They're one letter apart; how different could they be? Well, we regret to inform you that English is at it again. Also, let's get into another linguistic curiosity: how did we end up with the phrase "raining cats and dogs"?
28 minutes | May 12, 2021
40. A 'Wicked' Good Episode
How did 'wicked' become THE New England signifier? We'll look into that, along with some more questions from readers.
27 minutes | May 5, 2021
39. A Lexical History of 'Jazz'
When it comes to defining an entire musical genre, especially one with as many forms and perspectives as jazz, the work can get pretty tricky. Even the word itself has a long and sometimes controversial history. Today we'll look at the story of jazz, from the language's point of view.Hosted by Emily Brewster, Neil Serven, Ammon Shea, and Peter Sokolowski.Produced in collaboration with New England Public Media.Transcript available here.
23 minutes | Apr 28, 2021
38. What Is a Learner's Dictionary?
Wait, shouldn't every dictionary be a learner's dictionary? Technically, sure. But today we're discussing a specific resource: Merriam-Webster's Advanced Learner's English Dictionary, which was designed and written directly for people coming to English from another language. Here's the story of that book and how it changed how our other definitions were written.
21 minutes | Apr 21, 2021
37. Can You End a Sentence with a Preposition?
It's one of the most notorious grammar peeves in the entire English language: the commandment that one shall not ever end a sentence with a preposition. But is it actually a rule that holds up? Hmm...
20 minutes | Apr 14, 2021
36. On Jane Austen's Use of 'Condescension'
We're going back to our inbox this week to answer some of your most pressing concerns. Such as: what did 'condescension' mean in the work of Jane Austen? Why does 'brilliant' mean "smart"? And what is it about the letter 'S' that strikes fear into a lexicographer's heart?Sponsored by BetterHelp. For 10% off your first month, visit betterhelp.com/matters
27 minutes | Apr 7, 2021
35. 'Fewer' vs. 'Less'
You might've seen the sign at the grocery store: "12 items or less." Depending on what you've been taught, you might also have considered the sign a grave grammatical sin. Today we'll look at one of the most popular "rules" in the English language. Plus, is there a difference between being 'uninterested' and being 'disinterested'?
19 minutes | Mar 31, 2021
34. What Is a 'Retronym'?
You probably encounter them all the time: new words created to describe the older version of a thing. (Like an acoustic guitar. Or skim milk.) Let's talk about them. Then, we'll check in on the English language's former 27th letter: &. No, that's not a typo. We're talking about the ampersand. (And how it got that name.)Hosted by Emily Brewster, Neil Serven, Ammon Shea, and Peter Sokolowski.Produced in collaboration with New England Public Media.Transcript available here.
16 minutes | Mar 24, 2021
33. Tracing the Origins of Famous Phrases
We're catching up on our email! This week, we answer some listener questions about the murky origins of two famous idioms.
13 minutes | Mar 17, 2021
32. The Story of the Backward Index
Strange but true: in the basement of our Springfield office, we have a file of 315,000 words typed in reverse. Why would anyone want (or do) such a thing? We'll explain.
18 minutes | Mar 10, 2021
31. Why Is It Called an 'Adam's Apple'?
The Adam's apple: it's neither an apple nor is it possessed exclusively by people named Adam. We'll talk about why that is, plus another linguistic conundrum: how did 'physician' become a word for "doctor" while 'physicist' stayed in the realm of matter and energy?Hosted by Emily Brewster, Neil Serven, Ammon Shea, and Peter Sokolowski.Produced in collaboration with New England Public Media.Transcript available here.Today's Podcast is brought to you by The Great Courses Plus. Visit TheGreatCoursesPlus.com/mattersto receive a free month of unlimited access.
21 minutes | Mar 3, 2021
30. How We Write a Bilingual Dictionary
We're going deep on dictionary lore this week! Listen in for an interview with editor Peter Sokolowski on how we wrote our French and Spanish bilingual dictionaries.Hosted by Emily Brewster, Neil Serven, Ammon Shea, and Peter Sokolowski.Produced in collaboration with New England Public Media.Transcript available here.
20 minutes | Feb 24, 2021
29. There Is No Such Thing as "The Dictionary"
No, we don't mean that we've been ghosts this whole time. (Or do we?)What we're saying is we are not "the" dictionary. We're just one among many, all with their own aims and procedures and standards. We'll explain.
26 minutes | Feb 17, 2021
28. The Onomatopoeia Episode
O-N-O-M-A-T-O-P-O-E-I-A. The forming of a word in imitation of a sound. First, we'll look at some words that first described a sound (like pop, or buzz) that then went on to describe completely different things (like pop, or buzz). Then, we'll get into the phenomenon known as back-formation, or, the creation of a word by the alteration of an existing word (like burgle from burglar). It leaves some people feeling less than gruntled.
17 minutes | Feb 10, 2021
27. What's the Longest Word in the Dictionary?
This episode is all about dictionary myths and mysteries. Is the longest word the one you think it is? Probably not. Are some words harder to define than others? Undoubtedly. Are there multiple philosophies on how to even write a definition in the first place? You'll find out.
21 minutes | Feb 3, 2021
26. How Do You Pronounce 'Often'?
First, we examine the common word 'often.' Is one way of saying it more correct than the other? And does the English language delight in making us distrust our eyes and ears? Then, we look into the language of getting out of a rut and the difference between getting "on track" vs. "untracked."
33 minutes | Jan 27, 2021
25. New Words in the Dictionary
Language never rests, and neither do we. In January 2021, Merriam-Webster added 520 new words and definitions to the dictionary. In this special episode, editors Emily Brewster and Peter Sokolowski break down the new additions.Hosted by Emily Brewster, Neil Serven, Ammon Shea, and Peter Sokolowski.Produced in collaboration with New England Public Media.Transcript available here.Read more about this new batch of words here.
Terms of Service
Do Not Sell My Personal Information
© Stitcher 2021