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Spectacular Vernacular

Podcast Series 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.

Series Episodes

Taking a Trip Down Language Lane

Taking a Trip Down Language Lane

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 from this week’s show: Planet Word  Information on Planet Word’s new wordplay adventure, Lexicon Lane  Ann Friedman, “From the Founder: Disputes on the Language Front”  Subscribe to Slate Plus. It’s only $1 for the first month. To learn more, go to slate.com/spectacularplus. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

32 mins

29 March Finished

Dialects vs. Languages

Dialects vs. Languages

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 a year’s membership to Slate Plus. Do you have any language questions or fun facts to share? Email us at [email protected]   Produced by Jasmine Ellis.  Here are some notes and references from this week’s show: Cambridge Language Surveys, “The Slavic Languages” (including Russian, Ukrainian, Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian)  Phillip M. Carter, “Long before shots were fired, a linguistic power struggle was playing out in Ukraine” Information on the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (April 1-3)  Register here for the ACPT’s non-competitive virtual event   Ben’s article on how Stephen Sondheim popularized cryptic crosswords in the U.S.  Ben, Nicole, and Will compete in Webster’s War of the Words, a fundraiser for the Noah Webster House Subscribe to Slate Plus. It’s only $1 for the first month. To learn more, go to slate.com/spectacularplus. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

30 mins

15 March Finished

New Siri. Who’s This?

New Siri. Who’s This?

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 at [email protected]   Produced by Jasmine Ellis and June Thomas.  Here are some notes and references from this week’s show: Consumer Reports, “Hey Siri, Is That You? Apple’s New Voices Resonate With Some Black iPhone Users”  Spectacular Vernacular interview with VocalID founder Rupal Patel on “choosing your voice”  Axios, “Apple gives Siri a less gendered voice” Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne’s podcast, Lingthusiasm  Lingthusiasm on Patreon  Subscribe to Slate Plus. It’s only $1 for the first month. To learn more, go to slate.com/spectacularplus. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

37 mins

1 March Finished

“Who Dey” vs. “Who Dat”

“Who Dey” vs. “Who Dat”

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 share? Email us at [email protected]   Produced by Jasmine Ellis and Asha Saluja.  Here are some notes and references from this week’s show: Ben’s Wall Street Journal column, “’Who Dey?’: A Chant With Roots in Black History”  New York Times profile of Everdeen Mason  How to apply to the New York Times Diverse Crossword Constructor Fellowship  Washington Post article on “the latest reckoning over language in the puzzle world”  New York Times article on the acquisition of Wordle  Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crosswords  Subscribe to Slate Plus. It’s only $1 for the first month. To learn more, go to slate.com/spectacularplus. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

36 mins

15 February Finished

Capital Language From Kyiv to Washington, D.C.

Capital Language From Kyiv to Washington, D.C.

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 a year’s membership to Slate Plus. Do you have any language questions or fun facts to share? Email us at [email protected]   Produced by Jasmine Ellis and Asha Saluja Here are some notes and references from this week’s show: New York Times: “How Do You Say Kyiv? It Can Be Hard for English Speakers”  NPR “Kyiv or Kiev? Why people disagree about how to pronounce the Ukrainian capital’s name”  Jessi Grieser: The Black Side of the River: Race, Language, and Belonging in Washington, D.C.  “Bad Analogies” on Twitter Subscribe to Slate Plus. It’s only $1 for the first month. To learn more, go to slate.com/spectacularplus. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

33 mins

1 February Finished

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