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There’s another brand-new episode for you to catch up on, in which we talk about “sonker” (a kind of fruit cobbler), suss (is it British?), roly-polies (a bug which by any other name would still look like a tiny armadillo), and a big anniversary for “The Phantom Tollbooth.”


What is like to be closed off from new language for almost three decades? At the Virtual Linguist blog, Susan Purcell remarks on the experience of Monica Baldwin, who spent 27 years in a convent. When she re-entered the world, she found the language she heard remarkable, challenging, and sometimes incomprehensible.

Read Purcell’s summary here:


Baldwin’s 1949 book “I Leap Over the Wall” is fascinating and is itself a time capsule of the 1940s.


Baldwin writes of her feelings and confusion about strange-sounding language:

“Reading the papers always made me feel particularly idiotic, especially the Observer and the Sunday Times. The writers of the book reviews and leading articles used cliches and allusions which were incomprehensible to me. I had never heard of The Unknown Soldier, Jazz, Isolationism, Lounge lizards, Lease-Lend…”

“As for their actual conversation, it was to me almost like a foreign language. Unfamiliar cliches. Amusing — and sometimes rather startling — comparisons. Lots of slang — American and otherwise. …”

“On the whole, I think their most breath-taking effects were achieved by the curious choice of adjectives and adverbs. I sat spell-bound. It was like nothing I had ever listened to before. Perhaps what startled me most was the constant recurrence of words which not even a man would have used before girls when I left school. ‘Lousy,” for instance, and ‘mucky’; ‘guts,’ ‘blasted,’ ‘bloody’ and ‘what-the-hell.'”


Legendary lexicographer Hugh Rawson tracks the names of revolutions and uprisings at the Cambridge University press dictionary blog.


Can “till” make a comeback, despite the centuries long rise of “until”? Jonathon Owen at the blog Arrant Pedantry investigates.


Battling linguistic beasts: The Linguist Llama and the Linguist Lion. Very wonky.



The power of intonation, Arnold Zwicky’s commentary on a one-panel comic:


Behind the Scenes

The show now has its own Google+ page, just one more place you can meet other listeners. Jump in:


Thanks for listening and reading!

Martha and Grant

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