Slate Presents Lexicon Valley

Slate Presents Lexicon Valley

Lexicon Valley is a podcast about language, from pet peeves, syntax, and etymology to neurolinguistics and the death of languages. Hosted by linguist John McWhorter.

Start listening to Slate Presents Lexicon Valley

Whence Baby Mama?

Slate Presents Lexicon Valley

John McWhorter answers questions from Lexicon Valley listeners.

34 Min

Oct 17, 2017

Este No Es Parqueo

Slate Presents Lexicon Valley

After parking in front of a garage, John received a note written in Spanish.

33 Min

Oct 3, 2017

From Pidgins to Creoles

Slate Presents Lexicon Valley

John McWhorter discusses the process by which some new languages are born.

34 Min

Sep 19, 2017

Episode
Podcast
Time
Released
28 min
Sep 5, 2017
i

Old English was arguably more complicated than Modern English. Is that true of all languages?

28 min
Aug 22, 2017
i

Languages across the world developed similar words for "mom" and "dad." How is that possible?

34 min
Aug 8, 2017
i

The Language Conservancy's Wil Meya discusses the effort to revive Native American languages.

28 min
Jul 25, 2017
i

The history and evolution of "no" and "not."

32 min
Jul 11, 2017
i

John McWhorter explains why we love shrinkage.

26 min
Jun 27, 2017
i

John McWhorter considers the eccentric irregularity of the verb "to be."

35 min
Jun 13, 2017
i

John McWhorter interrupts the hosts of Unorthodox to discuss hallmarks and stereotypes of Jewish communication style.

28 min
May 30, 2017
i

John McWhorter talks to Ben Zimmer about the Vietnam Graffiti Project and other slangy topics.

27 min
May 16, 2017
i

John McWhorter discusses the near-futile impulse to determine what is, and what is not, a word.

32 min
May 2, 2017
i

John McWhorter discusses communication styles with linguist Deborah Tannen, author of You're the Only One I Can Tell: Inside the Language of Women's Friendships.

27 min
Apr 4, 2017
i

John McWhorter talks to linguist Neal Whitman about the mash-up of "hey" and "yo."

29 min
Mar 21, 2017
i

John McWhorter time travels to 1930 and eavesdrops on American English.

32 min
Feb 7, 2017
i

John McWhorter talks to sociolinguist Alexandra D'Arcy about the spike in our use of like.

30 min
Jan 24, 2017
i

John McWhorter discusses the subject of his new book, Talking Back, Talking Black: Truths About America's Lingua Franca.

29 min
Jan 10, 2017
i

Mark Seidenberg, author of Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can’t, and What Can Be Done About It, discusses the fallout from the so-called reading wars.

25 min
Dec 27, 2016
i

When "hath" gave way to "has," the original meaning of "merry," and other insights from popular Christmas carols.

27 min
Dec 13, 2016
i

In "Arrival," Amy Adams plays a linguist who discovers that language can radically alter one's perception of reality. But is that true?

30 min
Nov 29, 2016
i

Are the slang, sounds, and syntax of Black English a kind of lingua franca for America's youth?

29 min
Nov 15, 2016
i

What can we learn about English from Bill Clinton, the two Bushes, and other leaders of the free world?

33 min
Nov 1, 2016
i

How our rich and complex system of second person pronouns got whittled down to just "you."

31 min
Oct 18, 2016
i

What Bette Davis, FDR, and Ralph Kramden have in common when it comes to speech.

24 min
Oct 4, 2016
i

John McWhorter on what the intricacies of the future tense tell us about the unwritten rules of pronouns.

22 min
Sep 20, 2016
i

John Simpson, former editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, talks about life as a lexicographer.

22 min
Sep 6, 2016
i

What does "Hickory Dickory Dock" really mean? John McWhorter makes linguistic sense of seemingly arbitrary children's verse.

34 min
Aug 23, 2016
i

How Words Hook Up and Make New Ones

43 min
Aug 8, 2016
i

John McWhorter talks with author Jack Lynch about the sacrilege of modified Shakespeare.

37 min
Jul 26, 2016
i

Gretchen McCulloch talks to John McWhorter about the big meaning behind our favorite little pictograms.

25 min
Jul 12, 2016
i

Ann Patty, author of "Living With a Dead Language: My Romance With Latin," talks about her transformative experience of learning Latin.

28 min
Jun 29, 2016
i

Rules Are Made to Be Spoken

25 min
Jun 14, 2016
i

Etymologist and poet Anatoly Liberman says that English is one of the most difficult languages to spell. But we can change that.

31 min
May 31, 2016
i

Benjamin K. Bergen, author of the upcoming What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves, discusses the science of cursing.

25 min
May 17, 2016
i

How an American Revolutionary War figure spawned a new name for a very old game.

26 min
May 3, 2016
i

Linguist John McWhorter argues that it makes perfect sense for the speech of black and white Americans to have subtle differences.

22 min
Apr 19, 2016
i

How did Clupea harengus come to signify a diversionary tactic?

27 min
Apr 4, 2016
i

The earliest known citation for “shit show” is from an English-language translation of a 1970s criminal trial in Germany. But what was the word or phrase being translated?

29 min
Mar 8, 2016
i

A phrase with roots in Ancient Rome has confounded English speakers for centuries.

28 min
Feb 22, 2016
i

Donald Trump calls people (and publications) he doesn’t like sad. When did that word become an insult?

32 min
Feb 8, 2016
i

A peculiar insult from the north of England has the Oxford English Dictionary stumped.

35 min
Jan 27, 2016
i

A pronoun that English borrowed from its Scandinavian neighbors gets new life as a gender neutral alternative to he and she.

36 min
Jan 11, 2016
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo talk about a mystery word or phrase with lexicographer Ben Zimmer.

32 min
Dec 28, 2015
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo talk to editors at Oxford, Merriam-Webster, and Dictionary.com about their picks for Word of the Year.

29 min
Dec 14, 2015
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss the early 20th-century origins of a bizarre food-industry code with lexicographer Ben Zimmer.

28 min
Nov 30, 2015
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss the energetic history of the word sleep.

27 min
Nov 16, 2015
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss a word that was popularized during the 1940s folk movement with lexicographer Ben Zimmer.

32 min
Nov 2, 2015
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss the etymological quirkiness of the word "pussy."

28 min
Oct 19, 2015
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss a piece of old American slang with lexicographer Ben Zimmer.

31 min
Oct 5, 2015
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo talk to Jesse Sheidlower, author of The F-Word, about a recent discovery in the history of one our most enduring expletives.

30 min
Sep 21, 2015
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss a mystery word or phrase with lexicographer Ben Zimmer.

22 min
Sep 7, 2015
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss the true story behind the most famous municipal nickname.

33 min
Aug 24, 2015
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss the origin of a Spanish-language pejorative with lexicographer Ben Zimmer.

29 min
Aug 10, 2015
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss "A literary history of the strange expression 'what is it like?'"—an article by lexicographer Anne Seaton.

37 min
Jul 27, 2015
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss a mystery word or phrase with lexicographer Ben Zimmer.

41 min
Jul 13, 2015
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo talk to journalist Jennifer Keishin Armstrong about the classic American sitcom Seinfeld and why it falls flat in other cultures and languages.

24 min
Jun 29, 2015
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss a mystery word or phrase with lexicographer Ben Zimmer.

46 min
Jun 17, 2015
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss what it means that language has a "positivity bias."

37 min
Jun 1, 2015
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss a mystery word or phrase with lexicographer Ben Zimmer.

41 min
May 18, 2015
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo talk to conlanger David J. Peterson about the art and craft of creating languages for Game of Thrones.

32 min
May 4, 2015
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss the origin of the word "seersucker" with lexicographer Ben Zimmer.

37 min
Apr 20, 2015
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo don't know nuthin' about the double negative.

35 min
Apr 6, 2015
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss the origin of the word "pumpernickel" with lexicographer Ben Zimmer.

36 min
Mar 23, 2015
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss whether "try and" is an acceptable substitute for "try to."

26 min
Mar 9, 2015
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss the origin of the word "carnival" with lexicographer Ben Zimmer.

32 min
Feb 23, 2015
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss the authoress, the usherette, and the editrix with Anne Curzan, the lady professor.

24 min
Feb 9, 2015
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss a mystery word or phrase with lexicographer Ben Zimmer.

36 min
Jan 26, 2015
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo talk to journalist and author Masha Gessen about translating Tolstoy.

31 min
Jan 12, 2015
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss a mystery word or phrase with lexicographer Ben Zimmer.

48 min
Dec 29, 2014
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo are joined by Peter Sokolowski of Merriam-Webster, Katherine Martin of Oxford University Press, Jane Solomon of Dictionary.com, and Erin McKean of Wordnik.com to discuss their respective Words of the Year.

25 min
Dec 15, 2014
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss a mystery word or phrase with lexicographer Ben Zimmer.

36 min
Dec 1, 2014
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo talk to speech scientist Benjamin Munson about the "gay voice."

33 min
Nov 17, 2014
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss a mystery word or phrase with lexicographer Ben Zimmer.

27 min
Nov 3, 2014
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo ask the question: How did we go from "four and twenty" to "twenty four"?

41 min
Oct 20, 2014
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss a mystery word or phrase with lexicographer Ben Zimmer.

38 min
Oct 6, 2014
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo talk to Jonathon Green, author of The Vulgar Tongue and Green's Dictionary of Slang, a 6,000-page, three-volume reference more than 20 years in the making.

28 min
Sep 22, 2014
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss a mystery word or phrase with lexicographer Ben Zimmer.

30 min
Sep 8, 2014
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss Sarah Palin's use of demonstrative pronouns.

23 min
Aug 25, 2014
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss a mystery word or phrase with lexicographer Ben Zimmer.

30 min
Aug 11, 2014
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo talk to arts critic Nathan Rabin and journalist Christopher John Farley about the phrases they coined to identify two of Hollywood's most pernicious tropes.

18 min
Jul 28, 2014
i

Mike Vuolo and Bob Garfield discuss a mystery word or phrase with Vocabulary.com executive producer Ben Zimmer.

34 min
Jul 14, 2014
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo talk to Columbia University professor John McWhorter about his new book, The Language Hoax.

31 min
Mar 10, 2014
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss four legal cases in which the dictionary played a crucial part.

35 min
Jan 27, 2014
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss the early history of the word "dude."

25 min
Dec 23, 2013
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss the many meanings of a child's "no."

29 min
Dec 16, 2013
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss JFK's Inaugural Address with Richard Tofel, author of Sounding the Trumpet.

24 min
Dec 9, 2013
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo talk to linguist Arika Okrent about the most logical language ever invented.

0 min
Dec 4, 2013
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo announce the return of Lexicon Valley. Yay!

34 min
Aug 5, 2013
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss the irresistible pull of language pedantry.

27 min
Jul 15, 2013
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss the relationship between tonal languages and musical acuity.

19 min
Jul 1, 2013
i

Mike Vuolo talks with an anthropological linguist about the influence geography might have on speech.

28 min
Jun 24, 2013
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss the importance of talking to your child.

24 min
Jun 17, 2013
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss curse words old and new with author Melissa Mohr.

25 min
Jun 10, 2013
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss the seemingly paradoxical phrase "yeah-no."

0 min
Jun 1, 2013
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo announce a new run of Lexicon Valley episodes.

1 min
Feb 13, 2013
i

Lexicon Valley will be back with a run of all-new episodes in the spring.

29 min
Jan 28, 2013
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss R-dropping and the New York accent.

22 min
Jan 14, 2013
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss a defining feature of the classic New York accent.

26 min
Dec 31, 2012
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss creaky voice.

27 min
Dec 17, 2012
i

Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo discuss metaphor and the "fiscal cliff."

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