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You Want Vocal Fry With That?

Hellooooo, nurse!

We have two recent brand-new episodes to share, plus some language news, along with a bit about what’s going on with us.

First, on the show this past weekend we talked about eponyms, jo-jo potatoes, dog breed mashups, the pronunciation of “colonel,” and more. Listen here

The weekend before that, we took a chance on trying to explain why “thongs” means underwear to some people and flip-flops to others. Give it a listen. You’ll also hear a discussion of “out of pocket,” “long in the tooth,” “illegal alien,” and more.

Bit o’ News

• Everybody’s talking about vocal fry, a certain way of lowering the voice when speaking. Mark Liberman at Language Log has a really wonky detailed look at the phenomenon and the “80 Beats” blog at Discover has a very digestible summary of the chatter.

• Is it “handwritten” or “hand-written”? Steve Elliot knows.

• Great language stylist Bryan Garner has started to keep his blog up-to-date. In one post, he’s looking into redundancy. He writes,

Samuel Johnson once advised writers to “avoid ponderous ponderosity.” His repetition of word roots, of course, was purposeful. But many writers engage in such repetitions with no sense of irony, as in the phrases “build a building,” “refer to a reference,” “point out points,” “an individualistic individual.

Words of the Year Wants Braaaains

It’s that time of the year, when a zillion people pick their top words for 2011. It’s all-consuming. Here’s a thimble-full of WOTY for now, but listen to the show next week for a few of Grant’s picks.

• American Dialect Society new words chairman Ben Zimmer talks about his choices on WNYC.

• Naming expert Nancy Friedman shares hers on her blog.

• Joe Clark has nominations for the Canadian word of the year.

Behind the Scenes

As we write, we’re in a campaign to raise $25,000 by the end of the year. That’s a lot of dosh, we know, but it’s just a fraction of the cost of making a national radio show. Read the explanation and then help out if you can.


Martha and Grant

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Further reading

Walkie Talkie (episode #1541)

One of the most powerful words you’ll ever hear — and one of the most poignant — isn’t in dictionaries yet. But it probably will be one day. The word is endling, and it means “the last surviving member of a species.” The...

Tiger Tail (episode #1540)

You may have a favorite word in English, but what about your favorite in another language? The Spanish term ojalá is especially handy for expressing hopefulness and derives from Arabic for “God willing.” In Trinidad, if you want to ask...