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Episode 1553

Play It by Ear

How does social context shape our perception of language? When hiking the Appalachian Trail, a young woman from Wyoming found that fellow hikers assumed she was from another country, not only because of how she spoke, but also how she looked...

Spur of the Moment

A caller with a 25-year-old parrot wonders: How much language do birds really understand? Plus, Knock-knock. Who’s there? Boo. Well… you can guess the rest. But there was a time when these goofy jokes were a brand-new craze sweeping the nation...

As Deep as the Sea

A native New Yorker who lived as a boy with his grandmother in South Carolina recalls coming home late one day and offering a long-winded excuse, prompting his grandmother to declare, “Boy, you’re as deep as the sea!” She probably...

There Once Was a Gal

Ever try to write a well-known passage in limerick form? It’s harder than you think. How about this one: “There once was a lady who’s sure / All that glitters is golden and pure/ There’s a stairway that heads up to heaven...

The Dreaded Diaeresis

What do readers of The New Yorker complain about most when they write letters to the editor? Those two dots above vowels in words like cooperate and reelect. The diaeresis, as those marks are known, has remained in use at the magazine ever since the...