What does it mean to have an albatross around your neck? A political pundit, referring to a current candidate, mentioned “an alcatraz around his neck.” The proper version, with an albatross, originates from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, wherein a sailor shoots an albatross, bringing down a curse on the boat, and his shipmates force him to wear an albatross around his neck as a symbol of shame. Grant notes that the name “albatross” likely derives from the Portuguese or Spanish “alcatraz,” meaning “pelican” or “sea bird.” So perhaps an alcatraz around the neck isn’t so far off after all. This is part of a complete episode.
- Had the Radish (episode #1527) 06/21/2019: Your first name is very personal, but what if you don't like it? For some people, changing their name works out great but for others... [more]
- Abso-Bloomin-Lutely (episode #1526) 06/03/2019: The autocomplete function on your phone comes in handy, of course. But is it changing the way we write and how linguists study language? Also,... [more]
- Niblings and Nieflings (episode #1525) 05/14/2019: How do actors bring Shakespeare's lines to life so that modern audiences immediately understand the text? One way is to emphasize the names of people... [more]
- Kite in a Phone Booth (episode #1524) 04/29/2019: Stunt performers in movies have their own jargon for talking about their dangerous work. In New York City, the slang term brick means "cold," and... [more]
- Kids Are Asking (episode #1523) 04/11/2019: Questions from young listeners and conversations about everything from shifting slang to a bizarre cooking technique. Kids ask about how to talk about finding information... [more]