There are nearly 7,000 languages in the world today, and by some estimates, they’re dying off at the rate of one every week. What’s lost when a language dies? Martha and Grant discuss that question and efforts to record some endangered languages before they die out completely.
This episode originally aired February 16, 2008.
Download the MP3 here (23.4MB).
A caller named Holly confesses that there’s a word that practically makes her break out in hives every time she hears it. Grant assures her she’s not alone in her aversion to the word—Holly, cover your eyes—moist. Grant and Martha discuss the psychological aversion some people have to certain common terms. Is there a word that makes you shudder in disgust? Unload in our discussion forum.
An Indianapolis woman calls to say she a great first date with a doctor, but was horrified to hear him suggest they meet at an expresso shop. She asks for dating advice: Should she correct the guy, keep quiet about this mispronunciation, or just hope he never orders espresso again? Would you go out on a second date with someone who orders a cup of EX-presso?
A California man says that he thinks he is increasingly hearing locutions like “50 is the new 30″ and “pink is the new black” and “blogs are the new resumé.” He’s curious about the origin of this X is the new Y formula.
You may recall earnestly singing “Kumbaya” around a campfire. But a caller observes that the title of this folk song has taken on a new, more negative meaning. Grant and Martha discuss the new connotations of “Kumbaya,” especially as used in politically conservative circles.
Puzzle Guy Greg Pliska presents a puzzle about William Snakespeare—you know, the great playwright whose works are just one letter different from those of his better-known fellow writer, William Shakespeare. It was Snakespeare, for example, who wrote that gripping prison drama, “Romeo and Joliet.”
Grant talks about a Jack Hitt article on dying languages in the New York Times, which points out that sometimes “the last living speaker” of a language…isn’t.
A caller named Brian wonders whether a co-worker was right to correct him for saying that something minor was “of tertiary concern.” Does tertiary literally mean third, or can it be used to mean more generally peripheral or not so important?
A Milwaukee man is mystified about the use of the word neé in his grandmother’s obituary.
A “Slang This!” contestant guesses at the meaning of the slang terms faux po and pole tax.
A caller is curious about the colloquial expression it has a catch in its getalong. She used it to describe the family’s faulty car. Her husband complained the phrase was too imprecise. Grant and Martha discuss this and similar expressions, like hitch in its getalong and hitch in its giddyup.
A California caller is puzzling over the expression have your cake and eat it, too. Shouldn’t it be “eat your cake and have it, too”?
Grant tells the story of Eliezer Ben Yehuda, who revived the use of Hebrew outside of religious contexts. In 1850, no one spoke Hebrew as an everyday household language; now it’s spoken by more than 5 million people.
That’s all until next week! May your getalong keep getting along.