A Woodbridge, Connecticut, caller tells the story of coming across the following definition for jungftak in Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary (1943): “n. A Persian bird, the male of which had only one wing, on the right side, and the female only one wing, on the left side; instead of the missing wings, the male had a hook of bone, and the female an eyelet of bone, and it was by uniting hook and eye that they were enable[d] to fly,—each, when alone, had to remain on the ground.” For years, he wondered whether such a bird actually exists. Grant explains that this type of dictionary entry is what lexicographers call a mountweazel—a fake definition used to catch copyright infringers who would take a dictionary’s content and publish it as their own. This is part of a complete episode.
- 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. They refer to a stunt, for example, as a gag. Across... [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]
- Strawberry Moon (episode #1522) 04/08/2019: We asked for your thoughts about whether cursive writing should be taught in schools — and many of you replied with a resounding "Yes!" You... [more]