English, Languages, 1 seasons, 61 episodes, 1 day 1 minute
English, Languages, 1 seasons, 61 episodes, 1 day 1 minute
Language unites and divides us. It mystifies and delights us. Patrick Cox and Kavita Pillay tell the stories of people with all kinds of linguistic passions: comedians, writers, researchers; speakers of endangered languages; speakers of multiple languages; and just speakers—people like you and me.
Is Mx here to stay?
When a word first enters the language, it sounds weird to some, radical to others and comforting to just a few. Only later does it seem 'natural.' So it was with the honorific Ms in the 20th century. So it may be with the non-binary Mx. Today, British banks and utilities routinely give customers the option to use Mx. Will American companies follow suit? And what might Shakespeare have thought? His gender-neutral 'master-mistress,' is arguably more poetic than Mx, but it might be a bit of a mouthful for our times.
This episode was reported by Leo Hornak and Nina Porzucki. Music by Stationary Sign, The Freeharmonic Orchestra, Podington Bear, Josef Falkensköld and Silver Maple. The photo of performer Justin Vivian Bond, who uses Mx, is by Rhododendrites via Creative Commons. Read a transcript of the episode <a href="https://subtitlepod-62956.medium.com/many-british-companies-now-permit-the-honorific-mx-will-american-b
29/11/2023 • 29 minutes 2 seconds
Americans, Brits and the foreignness of English
American English and British English aren't different languages. But they're not the same either, even if they're getting closer. There are all those different words for things: diaper/nappy, faucet/tap and so on. More challenging are common words used in subtly different ways: sure, reckon, middle class. Who better to ask about these and other terms than UK-based American linguist Lynne Murphy and her British husband and daughter? Spoiler alert: They don't always agree.
Lynne Murphy is the author of The Prodigal Tongue: The Love-Hate Relationship Between American and British English. Music in this episode by Josef Falkensköld, Stationary Sign, Rebecca Mardal and Luella Gren. Photo courtesy of Wellcome Images/Creative Commons. Read a transcript of this episode <a href="https://subti
15/11/2023 • 24 minutes 32 seconds
A German-speaking outpost in the American Midwest
German used to be one of the most widely-spoken languages in the United States, A survey in 1900 listed 613 US-based German-language newspapers. Today, only a handful survive, and German is barely spoken at all. One exception is Cole Camp, Missouri, where Suzanne Hogan is our guide. She hosts public radio station KCUR's podcast, A People's History of Kansas City.
Thanks to Suzanne Hogan for the photo of German language activists Neil and Marilyn Heimsoth. More photos and info on Camp Cole's German-Americans are here. Find out more about A People's History of Kansas City here, and you can email the producers here. The reporting for this episode was supported by
01/11/2023 • 28 minutes
Season 4 is coming
In our upcoming season, we have stories about voice clones, tongue twisters and small languages fighting back. We'll hear from comedians, bilingual lovers and badly-behaved grandmothers. Look out for the first episode on November 1.
Music by Harry Edvino and The Freeharmonic Orchestra. Photo by Patrick Cox.
Subtitle is a production of Quiet Juice and the Linguistic Society of America. Sign up for Subtitle’s newsletter here.
18/10/2023 • 2 minutes 57 seconds
The precious secrets of Udi
Never heard of the Udi language? Get ready to be beguiled by this poster child for endangered languages. The history of the Udi people and their language includes an ancient kingdom, an exodus to escape persecution, and the creation of a bespoke alphabet. Udi also has a unique grammatical feature, a form of linguistic behavior that scholars previously thought was impossible. No wonder the small Udi-speaking community of Zinobiani in the Republic of Georgia attracts visitors from around the world , including Subtitle's Patrick Cox.
Music in this episode by Howard Harper-Barnes, Christian Andersen, Rand Aldo, Farrell Wooten, Leimoti, and Stonekeepers.
The photo shows linguist Thomas Wier and Udi activist Alexander Kavtaradze at a memorial of Kavtaradze's great great uncle, Zinobi Silikashvili, founder of Zinobiani. For more photos and a transcript of the episode, go <a href=
16/11/2022 • 24 minutes 47 seconds
The future sound of Black English
If you want to know where African American English is headed, listen to Shondel Nero. Shondel was born in the Caribbean nation of Guyana where she code-switched between Guyana Creolese and colonial British English. As a young adult she moved to North America, eventually settling in New York City where she became a professor of language education at NYU. Shondel tells guest host Ciku Theuri that the various versions of English spoken by Black immigrants are rubbing off on Black American speech. Aided by the likes of TikTok, African American English is now going through a period of rapid change.
Music in this episode by HATAMITSUNAMI, Matt Large, Rocket Jr., and Osoku. More about Shondel Nero here. The photo of Shondel was taken at Kaieteur Falls, the world’s largest single drop waterfall located deep in the rainfo
02/11/2022 • 18 minutes 34 seconds
How music has shaped African American speech
Guest host Ciku Theuri speaks with music writer Jordannah Elizabeth about the intimate relationship between music and Black American speech. That connection was never closer than in the 1930s and 40s when Cab Calloway's Hepster Dictionary and Sister Rosetta Tharpe's groundbreaking rock 'n' roll established new artistic and linguistic pathways. This is the second of our three-part series on African American English.
Jordannah Elizabeth is the founder of the Feminist Jazz Review and author of the upcoming A Child’s Introduction to Hip Hop.
Music excerpts in this episode by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Cab Calloway and His Orchestra, The Ink
19/10/2022 • 17 minutes 17 seconds
Where did African American English come from?
Are the roots of African American English mainly African? Or English? Or something else? Linguists—and others—don't agree. Ciku Theuri guides us through the theories. Opinions from Nicole Holliday, John McWhorter, John Rickford and Sunn m'Cheaux, who we also profiled in a previous Subtitle episode.
Music in this episode by A P O L L O, Jobii, and Tilden Parc. Photo of Michelle Obama by Pete Souza via Wikimedia Commons. Read a transcript of the episode here.
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05/10/2022 • 23 minutes 37 seconds
A brief history of death threats
Until recently, issuing a death threat required some effort. Today, anyone with a phone or computer can make a threat—or receive one. The result is a “golden age” for the dark realm of personal threats.
Forensic linguist Tanya Karoli Christensen and forensic psychologist Lisa Warren help us trace the history of death threats from eloquently penned letters to casually written social media posts. As the platforms for making threats are changing, so too are the methods for assessing their potency.
Music in this episode by Magnus Ringblom, 91nova, Fabien Tell, BLUE STEEL, Peter Sandberg, Amaranth Cove and Andreas Boldt. Illustration by James Gillray (1756-1815) via Wikimedia Commons.
Read a transcript of
21/09/2022 • 24 minutes 50 seconds
Latin, the undead language
If Latin is dead, why is it easy to find meetups of people speaking it? Why is a group of scholars and lexicographers working on what has become a century-spanning Latin dictionary project? Former Latin student Cristina Quinn challenges Patrick Cox to seek answers to these and more questions about the supposedly dead language that is still all around us.
Photo by Patrick Cox. Music by Marc Torch, Arthur Benson, Frank Jonsson, Farrell Wooten, and Andreas Boldt. Read a transcript of this episode and see more photos here. Subscribe to Subtitle’s newsletter here.
07/09/2022 • 24 minutes 12 seconds
Learning to love apostrophes
Ellen Jovin belongs to that rare breed of human with a passion for grammar. You will too if you spend a few minutes with her, your grammar anxiety melting away in minutes. That's what happens when apostrophe-challenged Patrick meets Ellen at her Grammar Table in New York's Central Park. There, Ellen fields questions from passers-by about commas, semicolons, ellipses and weird-sounding neologisms. Ellen tells Patrick about her word-obsessed childhood, her love of hyphens, and why a Jehovah's Witness who approached the Grammar Table, "was not fully there for the apostrophes."
Ellen Jovin's new book about her Grammar Table adventures in 47 states is Rebel with a Clause.
Photo by Patrick Cox. Music by Greatfool, Frank Jonsson, Arthur Benson, Jules Gaia. Read a transcript of this episode <a href="https://subtitlepod-62956.medium.
06/07/2022 • 26 minutes 47 seconds
Steve Jobs' last words were: "Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow." Oscar Wilde went with: "Either that wallpaper goes, or I do." (At least, that's how the story goes.) But the way most of us part company with language at the end of our lives is more halting and gradual. Even when a dying loved one is unable to speak clearly, other forms of communication often take over: noises, gestures, touch and eye contact.
We have stories in this episode from a hospice nurse, from journalists covering mental health and internet culture, and from language writer Michael Erard who is writing a book about last words and their relationship to first words.
Photo by Duncan C via Flickr/Creative Commons. Music by Dream Cave, Nylonia, Alexandra Woodward, Cobby Costa, August Wilhelmsson, David Celeste, Martin Landstrom, Gavin Luke, Rand Also, Airae, Alan Ellis, J
22/06/2022 • 35 minutes 59 seconds
How the Ojibwe language survived the pandemic
How do you keep your language alive while also protecting the health of elders? That's been the quandary facing Ojibwe educators during the pandemic. As native speakers, Ojibwe elders were the primary teachers of the language, but they were also the most vulnerable to COVID. Leah Lemm of Minnesota's Mille Lacs Ojibwe band tells us how she and others figured out how to continue learning while also ensuring the wellbeing of teaching elders like her own father.
Music in this episode by Airae, Gridded, Megan Woffard, Headlund, Joseph Beg, Jules Gaia, Rymdklang Soundtracks, Molecular Machine. Read a transcript of the episode here.
Some Ojibwe language resources recommended by Leah: James Vukelich's<a href="https://www.youtube.com/user/kizhenaabeg" target="_blank
08/06/2022 • 26 minutes 8 seconds
Ukraine’s linguistic patriotism
For centuries, Russians have dismissed the Ukrainian language as "Little Russian," its speakers as simple-minded peasants. The Kremlin has sporadically and unsuccessfully tried to suppress the language. Now Russia's invasion of Ukraine has driven even some Russian-speaking Ukrainians to switch to Ukrainian. We trace the defiant rise of this language with the University of Washington's Laada Bilaniuk, American-born daughter of Ukrainian parents.
Photo of Andriy Khlyvnyuk via YouTube screengrab. Music in this epsiode performed by Andriy Khlyvnyuk, Mad Heads XL, Jay Varton, Farrell Wooten, Lucention, Frank Jonsson, Felix Salt. Read a transcript of this episode with more photos here.
25/05/2022 • 25 minutes 24 seconds
The rare joys of learning Finnish
Kavita Pillay recently moved to Helsinki with her Finnish husband and half-Finnish daughter. While husband and daughter effortlessly embraced their new linguistic surroundings, Kavita...didn't. In this episode, she seeks guidance from other immigrants with varying degrees of Finnish mastery. Among them, an opera singer who finds melody in verb conjugations, and an Iraqi-born linguistics major whose fluent Finnish is sometimes questioned by locals.
Photo by Sauli Pillay. Music by Greatfool; Farrell Wooten; Jharee; Aoroa; Vanity Street; Raymond Grouse; Matt Large; At The End of Times, Nothing; Dye O. Read a transcript of this episode here.
11/05/2022 • 29 minutes 12 seconds
Presenting More Than a Feeling
We can't always find words to describe our emotions—not in English, at least. In this episode, Saleem Reshamwala asks friends who speak other languages to share their favorite emotion words and phrases. He also seeks guidance from psychologist Ashley Ruba, and Tim Lomas, author of Happiness Found in Translation: A Glossary of Joy from Around the World.
This is a guest episode from the new Ten Percent Happier podcast, More Than a Feeling: more info and show notes here. Photo by allyaubry via Wikimedia Commons.
27/04/2022 • 36 minutes 4 seconds
Will climate change wipe out French in Louisiana?
For hundreds of years, people living in Louisiana's bayou country have spoken French. But rising sea levels are submerging entire communities, forcing people to abandon their homes. As native French speakers move away, will the language survive in this most French of American states? We hitch a ride to the bayou with linguist Nathalie Dajko.
Music in this episode by Alces Adams, View Points, Amos Noah, Earle Belo, Finn Danniell, Sture Zetterberg and Lindsey Abraham. Photo by Julia Kumari Drapkin. More photos and a transcript are here.
13/04/2022 • 27 minutes 21 seconds
When did comedians start saying ‘punching up’ and ‘punching down’?
They're not in American dictionaries yet, but the terms, 'punching up' and 'punching down' are on the lips of many comedians. With the help of linguist and journalist Ben Zimmer and British comedian Richard Herring, we trace the migration of these words from sports to cable news to comedy. Along the way, we catch up with the history of performers and writers targeting the rich and powerful (punching up) or mocking the oppressed and vulnerable (punching down).
In reporting this episode, we owe a debt of gratitude to this piece in The Baffler and this episode of WTF with Marc Maron.
Music in this episode by: Zorro; Sarah, The Illstrumentalist; peerles
30/03/2022 • 32 minutes
The language of the outside people
In this episode, we tell the inspiring, heartbreaking story of Radio Haiti. For several decades, the station broadcast not just in French, spoken by Haiti's elite, but also in Kreyòl, spoken by rich and poor alike. The Kreyòl-language programs communicated directly with the rural poor—the 'outside people'—popularizing issues of inequity and corruption. Helping us tell Radio Haiti's story are Michèle Montas, widow of the station's assassinated owner Jean Dominique, and archivist Laura Wagner.
Music in this episode by Samba Zao, Sosyete Grandra, Tèt Kole Ti Peyizan Ayisyen (Jean-Rabel), MIUT, Nico Rengifo, and Timothy Infinite. The photo is of a painting by Maxan Jean-Louis, courtesy of Radio Haiti Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
Read a transcript with some great photos <a href="https://subtitlepod-62956.medium.co
16/03/2022 • 38 minutes 44 seconds
The speechways of the folk
Does your grandmother call a chest of drawers a dresser? Or a bureau? Or perhaps a chiffonier? Over the years and across regions, Americans have favored many different words for furniture—and much else. Since 1929, the Linguistic Atlas Project has been documenting these lexical changes. We tell the story of the Project, from its early days of interviewing retired male farmers, through its initially clumsy attempts to engage Black Americans, to today's scientific, demographically diverse approach.
Music in this episode by View Points, The Undertowns, Farrell Wooten, Arthur Benson, Mica Emory. Photo courtesy of the Linguistic Atlas Project. Read a transcript here.
02/03/2022 • 18 minutes 55 seconds
‘Manifesting’ the language of self-help
If you’ve ever set boundaries, taken up a gratitude practice or manifested, you’re already well-versed in the language of self-help. Over its long history, self-help has acquired its own lexicon, often repurposing words along the way. Nowadays, the flavor is American but that wasn't always the case. We delve into the past and present of self-help language with Kristen Meinzer, co-host of the podcast, By the Book.
Music in this episode by Frank Jonsson, Christoffer Moe Ditlevsen, Airae, Howard Hopper-Barnes, Amaranth Cove, Jones Meadow, Trevor Kowalski, and The Fly Guy Five. Photo by Tanya Im via Creative Commons. Read a transcript here.
16/02/2022 • 23 minutes 14 seconds
Why some words are just funny
Why do so many of us laugh at a word like 'poop' but not at, say, 'treadmill'? Is it all down to their meaning? Or are we also responding to the sound of these words? Psycholinguist Chris Westbury set out to discover the answer. Assisted by an inventive computer, Westbury and colleagues dreamed up a bunch of non-words (like "snunkoople"), and tested their funniness on the public. We discuss the results, as well as our favorite funny words—and we get some authentically amusing help from comedians Joanna Hausmann and Filip Jeremic.
Music in this episode by The Fly Guy Five, Little Island Leap, Arthur Benson, Josef Falkenskold, V.V. Campos, Birdies, Chasing Madison and Mike Franklyn. Photo by Nola Cox. Read a transcript <a href="https://subtitlepod-62956.medium.com/why-some-words-make-us-laugh
02/02/2022 • 27 minutes 11 seconds
A mother tongue reclaimed
When Julie Sedivy was four, her Czech family emigrated to Canada. In this episode we hear how Julie became estranged from her native Czech, only to rediscover it after the death of her father. Julie Sedivy's linguistic memoir is Memory Speaks: On Losing and Reclaiming Language and Self.
Photo (courtesy Julie Sedivy) shows Julie, center, and two siblings on their arrival at Montreal's airport. Music in this episode by Gavin Luke, Arthur Benson, Esme Cruz, Aerian, Jon Bjork, Spectacles Wallet and Watch. Go here to read a transcript and see photos of Julie's family in the Czech Republic.
19/01/2022 • 36 minutes 15 seconds
Teach me your song
Is it easier to sing than speak in another language? Artist Wen-hao Tien is putting that idea to the test. She has invited friends from around the world to teach her a song in their mother tongue. Patrick listens in on a few of the lessons and also teaches Wen-hao one of his favorite (punky) songs.
Music in this episode by Leimoti, Ofelia Moore, and Honeycutts. Photo, courtesy Wen-hao Tien, shows Suzi Hamill teaching Wen-hao Tien a Mozart aria.
Sign up to teach Wen-hao your song here. For a transcript and photos of some of other singers/teachers, go here.
05/01/2022 • 21 minutes 31 seconds
Once upon a hyphen…
Some people have origin stories. Pardis Mahdavi has a hyphenation story. Her Iranian family was the target of a hate crime in Minnesota. She was stripped of her citizenship in Iran. Eventually she embraced the hyphen between the words 'Iranian' and 'American' as her identity: two cultures within one person.
But what exactly is the function of a hyphen? Does it unite two ideas, or divide them? Together with Pardis Mahdavi, we trace the many disputes surrounding this seemingly humble horizontal line, from Romans and Celts, then via Hollywood to politicians and lexicographers.
Photo of Pardis Mahdavi (center) and her family courtesy of Pardis Mahdavi. More info about her here.
Music by Damma Beatz, Nylonia, Walt Adams, Amaranth Cove, Marc Torch, Pulsed, and Saira Ridley. Read a transcript of th
15/12/2021 • 26 minutes 41 seconds
Season 3 is coming
In our upcoming season, we'll have stories on people who have "lost" their mother tongue, the language of self help, why certain sounds make us laugh, and much more. The first episode drops December 15. Subtitle is a production of Quiet Juice and the Linguistic Society of America. Music by Organized Chaos. Photo by Nola Cox.
02/12/2021 • 1 minute 53 seconds
A language that survived the boarding schools
Gwich’in is among Alaska’s most threatened languages. but Princess Daazhraii Johnson is determined to change that. Her mother, she says, was of "that boarding school generation that was hit for speaking Gwich’in.” Today, more Gwich’in people are learning their language, and kids are exposed to it by shows like PBS’ Molly of Denali. In this episode, Princess Daazhraii talks about the past, present and future of her people’s native tongue. This episode is reported by Kavita Pillay and comes to us via the Seedcast podcast.
Music by Podington Bear, Reveille, Dream Themes, Mark Himley, Four Trees, and Grant Borland and Blue Dot Sessions. Photo by Adam Jones. Read a transcript here.
29/09/2021 • 23 minutes 56 seconds
A tale of edible intrigue
Who writes the fortunes in fortune cookies? Why are so many of them not really fortunes at all? Why did some fortunes turn ominous for a while? (“After today, you shall have a deeper understanding of both good and evil.”) And who was behind the theft of countless fortunes? Lidia Jean Kott has the answers to these questions, and to one more: Where do fortune cookies come from? Hint: It's not China. Music in this episode by Lisa Germano, Podington Bear and Blue Dot Sessions. Photo by Megan Swan/Museum of Food and Drink. Read a transcript of the episode here.
28/07/2021 • 27 minutes 38 seconds
The pleasure and pain of spelling
With the Scripps National Spelling Bee back after a Covid-enforced year off, we conduct our very own spelling quiz. Also, Kavita Pillay offers her take on why Indian American kids perform so well in spelling bees. And author and self-described “crummy" speller David Wolman tells us why he wrote a history of English spelling and the many attempts to reform it.
Photo of a spelling bee in Fulton, MD, by Howard County Library System via Flickr/Creative Commons. Music in this episode by Cloudline, Podington Bear and Alexander Boyes. Read a transcript of the episode here.
23/06/2021 • 33 minutes 32 seconds
We are the people
The German word "Volk" usually translates as "people," but it means a whole lot more than that. In 1989 as Germans tore down the Berlin Wall, they chanted, "Wir sind das Volk!" ("We are the people!") Today, though, "Volk" no longer unites Germans. Some understand it to mean everyone living in Germany. Others define it along ethnic lines, thereby excluding immigrants. Now with parliamentary elections looming as they did in 2017 when Patrick Cox first reported this, voters are again wondering: Who are the "Volk" of Germany? Who belongs, and who doesn't?
Photo by Patrick Cox of German publisher and far-right activist Götz Kubitschek with his wife Ellen Kositza at their home in Schnellroda, Germany. Music in this episode by Podington Bear and Blue Dot Sessions. Read a transcript <a href="https://subtitlepod-62956.medium.com/we-are-the-people-d26e3962c9f" data-type="URL" data-id="https://subtitlepod-62956.medium.com/we-
09/06/2021 • 33 minutes 3 seconds
The little pronoun that could
In 2012, a children’s book in Sweden sparked a nationwide debate— not about the book’s content but a three-letter word used by the main character. Hen was a relatively new, gender-neutral pronoun which challenged Swedish grammar norms. The use of hen tapped into a conversation the country was already having about gender and equality. Can the introduction of one word make a difference in changing societal views? Nina Porzucki goes to Sweden to find out.
Photo by Nina Porzucki. Music by Blue Dot Sessions and Podington Bear. Read a transcript of this episode here.
26/05/2021 • 31 minutes 28 seconds
How the alphabet won our hearts
If you're under the impression that encyclopedias and dictionaries in the West were always organized from A to Z, think again. We have chosen to classify knowledge in many ways, each reflecting the values of the age. Patrick Cox speaks with Judith Flanders, author of A Place for Everything: The Curious History of Alphabetical Order about the centuries-long resistance to alphabetization, and why A to Z may now be here to stay.
Photo of a dictionary in the Boston Public Library by Trevor Pritchard via Creative Commons. Music in this episode by Circus Marcus, Jason Leonard, Alexander Boyes, Podington Bear, Die Minimalistin, Yan Terrien and Lobo Loco. Read more about Judith Flanders here. Read a transcript of the episode <a href="https://subtitlepod-62956.medium.com/how-the-alphabet-won-our-hearts-83bdfc2836c2" data-type="URL" data-id="https://subtitlepod-62956
12/05/2021 • 25 minutes 37 seconds
Japan’s mystery language
Japan is an ethnically homogenous nation where everyone speaks Japanese, right? Not exactly. Other groups including the Ainu also have called Japan home, perhaps for longer than the Japanese themselves. Today, the Ainu language is spoken by only a handful of people. One of them, Russian-born linguist Anna Bugaeva, takes Patrick Cox to meet Ainu speakers (and non-speakers) on the island of Hokkaido. Along the way, we learn about the mysteries of Ainu, a "language isolate" unrelated to any other language in the world. Bugaeva says Japanese children aren't taught about the Ainu because their presence—and language—contradict standard Japanese history.
Music in this episode by Tonality Star, Podington Bear, Circus Marcus and Blue Dot Sessions. Photo of Ainu language activists Maki and Kenji Sekine by Patrick Cox. More on Anna Bugaeva's research <a href="https://www.ninjal.ac.jp/english/organization/researcher/anna-bugae
28/04/2021 • 26 minutes 13 seconds
The dots and their future
Will technology make Braille obsolete as the primary reading tool for blind people? Will talking apps and audiobooks win out over embossed dots? Braille has been written off before; each time it has come back stronger. We trace Braille from its beginnings in Napoleon's France, through the "War of the Dots" in the early 20th century to the age of the smart phone, and beyond.
Photo by Brickset. Music in the episode from Marcel, Blue Dot Sessions, Podington Bear, Cuicuitte and gargle. More on contributors Sheri Wells-Jensen here, Joshua Miele here and Chancey Fleet <a href="https://twitter.com/chanceyfleet?lang=en" data-type="URL" data-id="https://twitter.com/chancey
14/04/2021 • 26 minutes 43 seconds
The language closest to English
You may not have heard of Frisian, but it's spoken by about 500,000 people. Once upon a time, an older form of the language was barely distinct from Old English. We take you to the Dutch province of Friesland to hear why people there care so deeply about their mother tongue. Texting, social media, music and theater are all giving Frisian a new lease of life.
Photo of Frisian teacher Anna Marije Bloem and students by Patrick Cox. Music in this episode by Blue Dot Sessions, Podington Bear, Lobo Loco and Frisian metal band Baldrs Draumar. Connect with the Frisian Academy here, Frisian-language theater company Tryater here and author Willem Schoorstra here.
31/03/2021 • 33 minutes 9 seconds
My notorious name
Digital consultant Ivanka Majic was such an early user of Twitter that she was able to snag the handle @Ivanka. Which was great, until the rise of another Ivanka caused confusion. Many Twitter users— including the other Ivanka's father— mistook one for the other. In this archive episode, Ivanka Majic tells the story of her brush with fame, and how the name she was innocently given at birth has affected her. Also, Subtitle host Kavita Pillay discusses her in-the-works documentary about people in southern India who are named after Lenin, Stalin and other political heroes of their parents.
The music in this episode is by Blue Dot Sessions and Podington Bear. The photo on the left is courtesy of Ivanka Majic; on the right from the US Embassy, Berlin, via Flickr. Listen here to Michael and Ivanka's Grand Podcast. Read a transcript of the episode
17/03/2021 • 30 minutes 20 seconds
Season 2 is coming
In our upcoming season, we have stories on notorious names, the future of Braille, a history of alphabetical order and much more. Look out the first episode with Patrick and Kavita on March 17.
Subtitle is produced by Quiet Juice and the Linguistic Society of America. Music by Blue Dot Sessions. Photo by Patrick Cox. Patrick's dog, Louis, is working on coming up with the right words to tell his story.
11/03/2021 • 2 minutes 49 seconds
Subtitle presents A Better Life?
Here's a guest episode from our friends at A Better Life?, a podcast from Feet in 2 Worlds about the immigrant experience in the time of COVID-19. The episode follows two US-based immigrants. Heeja, born in South Korea, and Elsa, born in Mexico, both wrestle with the same question: "Should I stay or should I go?"
Music in this episode by Fareed Sajan. The photo of Heeja and her children Jeff and Mia is courtesy of Mia Warren. Read more about A Better Life? here. More on Subtitle here.
16/09/2020 • 29 minutes 55 seconds
We Speak: Tina
Tina Tobey was born and raised in Texas. She's used to non-Texans expecting her to know all about oil-drilling and ranching. And of course to speak "like a Texan." While she barely meets those expectations, Tina has come to realize that she speaks more Texas English than she thought. Also in this episode: how difficult is it to win an accent bias lawsuit? And to overcome our own accent biases? This is the fourth and final part in our series on speech, identity and bias.
Notes on contributors: Tina Tobey is Subtitle's sound designer. Lars Hinrichs is the director of the Texas English Language Lab at the University of Texas. Erica Brozovsky is also at the University of Texas where she researches the speech of Taiwanese Texans. New York-based attorney Melinda Koster has litigated
19/08/2020 • 30 minutes 51 seconds
We Speak: Ciku
Why doesn't Ciku Theuri sound Black? Her friends wanted to know. Eventually, she wanted to know. Ciku tells the story of how she came to speak the way she does—and how others, from Ohio to Kenya, perceive her speech. (Spoiler alert: she does sound Black.) Also in this episode: why many Americans choose the voices of Black celebrities for their digital assistants. This is the third in our four-part series on speech, identity and bias.
Ciku Theuri is a producer with WBUR/NPR public radio show, Here & Now. Nicole Holliday teaches linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. Much of her research is focused on one question: What does it mean to sound Black?
Music in this episode by Blue Dot Sessions, Jobii, and Podington Bear. The photo of Ciku Theuri (credit: Amanda Pitts) is from her graduation at Oakwood University, Alabama, in 2015. Read a transcript
05/08/2020 • 22 minutes 52 seconds
We Speak: Verónica
Verónica Zaragovia lives in Miami but she was born in Colombia. Although she has a Colombian passport, her Spanish doesn't sound Colombian— at least that's what people tell her. During a recent stay in Bogotá, she decided to change that: she took lessons in Colombian Spanish. Along the way, she gained a new understanding of how language and identity interact. This is the second in our four-part series on speech and bias.
Verónica Zaragovia is a reporter with Miami public radio station, WLRN. Phillip Carter is the author of many articles on Spanish in the United States.
Music in this episode by Podington Bear, BLAEKER, Headlund, and Louie Wuatton. The photo is of Verónica Zaragovia in Ca
22/07/2020 • 20 minutes 6 seconds
We Speak: Patrick and Kavita
We are how we speak, right? Well, it's complicated— enough so to spend Subtitle's next four episodes on this question. We'll tell the stories of a diverse collection of people, tracing how each came to speak the way they do. Along the way, we'll ask: Is speech a good barometer of identity? Does anyone truly speak authentically? Why are we so judgmental about how others speak? And how can we overcome our biases? In this first episode, hosts Patrick Cox and Kavita Pillay tell their stories.
Jane Setter's book about speech and accent bias is Your Voice Speaks Volumes. Colleen Cotter researches the language of journalism and cultural representation. Dennis Preston is the editor of the Handbook of Perceptual Dialecto
08/07/2020 • 33 minutes
The birth of a language
In 1986, Nicaraguan officials invited American linguist Judy Shepard-Kegl to observe a group of Deaf children. The kids were using an unrecognizable signing system. Over the following years, Shepard-Kegl and other linguists found themselves uniquely placed to observe what they came to realize was the emergence of a new language. Today, Nicaraguan Sign Language has its own complex grammar and a broad vocabulary. What can it tell us about how languages evolve?
Photo of Deaf youth with Deaf outreach workers in rural Nicaragua courtesy of Nicaraguan Sign Language Projects, Inc. Music by Blue Dot Sessions, Podington Bear and Martin Klem.
Read a transcript of this episode here.
24/06/2020 • 22 minutes 53 seconds
‘Sisu’ gets an update
Finland has been named the happiest country in the world. So why is sisu the word that best describes Finns? Associated with war and endurance, sisu means stoic perseverance against almost insurmountable odds. But this small, cold nation is changing, as is the meaning of sisu. In these tumultuous times, this short Finnish word may have something to offer the rest of the world.
Photo by fintuq via Pixabay. Music by Blue Dot Sessions, Isobelle Walton, Trabant 33, Chill Cole, Podington Bear. Read a transcript of this episode here.
10/06/2020 • 23 minutes 50 seconds
A metaphor for our times
In unsettled times, we reach for metaphors. They help us make sense of the nonsensical—or at least that's what we tell ourselves. In this episode, we hear from linguist Elena Semino, editor of a crowd-sourced publication called the Metaphor Menu intended for people with cancer. She assesses the merits of coronavirus metaphors, from battlefield clichés to forest fires to contaminated swimming pools.
Photo by Jo Zimny Photos. Music by Moss Harman, Megan Woffard, Alexandra Woodward, Heath Cantu, Sights of Wonder, Remodal, Sons of Hades, Podington Bear. Read a transcript of this episode here.
27/05/2020 • 20 minutes 20 seconds
In quarantine with Joe Wong
Joe Wong is a brilliant bilingual comedian. In the US, he does standup. In his native China he hosts a popular TV game show. Recently his comedy has become more political: he is confronting US racial tensions head-on. In quarantine, Joe is writing a book, cooking for his son (to his son's dismay), and decrying virus-related anti-Asian hate crimes.
Music in this episode by Podington Bear, Blue Dot Sessions, Particle House and Treadline. Read a transcript of this episode here.
13/05/2020 • 18 minutes 7 seconds
In quarantine with Joanna Hausmann
Bilingual comedian Joanna Hausmann (pictured with her mother Ana Julia Jatar-Hausmann) is sitting out the lockdown at her Venezuelan parents' New England home. She tells us of her love of outdated Venezuelan slang; also about parenting her parents (in both Spanish and English); and how the restrictions of quarantine are unleashing her creative instincts.
Photo by Joanna Hausmann. Music by Podington Bear, Isobelle Walton, Nathan Welch, Flooaw, and Million Eyes. Read a transcript of this episode here.
29/04/2020 • 23 minutes 20 seconds
At war, and not at war
In this episode, we talk with American medical student Esther Kim (pictured). She's trying to overcome her suspicion of people with a particular accent, one that she's come to associate with racist taunts. The COVID-19 wave of anti-Asian harassment has made things worse. Also, Stanford professor Seema Yasmin tells us why pandemics bring out the language of war.
Photo by Esther Kim. Music by Bonnie Grace, David Celeste, Podington Bear, Philip Ayers, Craft Case, Airae, and Joseph Alesci. Read a transcript of this episode here.
15/04/2020 • 20 minutes 14 seconds
One virus, many languages
We can't travel. We can't hug or visit loved ones. But we can talk our way through this pandemic — and we're doing just that, in most of the world's languages. In this episode we hear from Kavita Pillay's mother, who tells a story from her childhood in southern India. And a filmmaker in New York talks about her home quarantine activity, translating Russian video footage full of phrases from the past.
Photos: Nola Cox and Sauli Pillay. Music by Podington Bear and Blue Dot Sessions. Read a transcript of this episode here.
01/04/2020 • 18 minutes 51 seconds
Hassnae Bouazza was born in Morocco. She didn't speak a word of Dutch when she immigrated to the Netherlands, though today it's effectively her mother tongue. The Dutch government now insists that would-be immigrants like Bouazza pass a Dutch language "entrance exam." Are Dutch officials using language to keep "undesirables" out? Or is speaking the local language an essential part of living in the Netherlands?
Photo by Patrick Cox. Music by Blue Dot Sessions, Podington Bear, Atisound, and Gridded. Thanks to Sara Wallace Goodman, Ben Coates, Jeremy Helton, Liesbeth Siers, Tracey Keij-Denton, Jos Beelen, Carol Zall, Clark Boyd, Laura Rumbley, and Rose Stories in Amsterdam. Read a transcript of this episode here.
18/03/2020 • 20 minutes 47 seconds
How to communicate with aliens
If there are extraterrestrials out there, what kind of messages might they be sending us? How might we decipher those messages? And should we hit reply?
Image by Mike Licht via Flickr Creative Commons. Music by Million Eyes, From Now On, Heath Cantu, Christian Andersen, Podington Bear. Read a transcript of this episode here.
04/03/2020 • 24 minutes 41 seconds
Did Katrina kill the New Orleans accent?
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina displaced tens of thousands of New Orleanians. Many never returned to the city. Others have since moved in, bringing with them different languages and dialects. Some locals now wonder if they have lost 'ownership' of New Orleans English. Has the linguistic footprint of one of America’s most historically rich and diverse cities changed forever?
Read a transcript of this episode here.
19/02/2020 • 21 minutes 39 seconds
The talk of the forest
In folklore and fiction there's a rich tradition of trees that talk, from Greek mythology to The Wizard of Oz. But that's make-believe, right? Well, maybe. Many ecologists now believe that trees are in constant communication with their surroundings. Linguists may roll their eyes at claims of ‘talk,’ or ‘language.’ But observing how trees interact helps us understand the limits of language.
Photo by David Baron via Flickr creative commons. Music by Josef Falkenskold, From Now On, Silver Maple, Imprisoned, Josef Bel Habib and Podington Bear. Read a transcript of this episode here.
05/02/2020 • 19 minutes 7 seconds
Is a polyglot’s brain different?
Susanna Zaraysky, speaker of nine languages, is one of those people who seem able to pick up French or Portuguese almost overnight. In reality, it's not so effortless—but is she cognitively predisposed to attaining fluency in so many languages? We follow her to an MIT lab where researchers put her through a series of tests.
Photo by Patrick Cox. Music by Silver Maple, Lucention, Pause For Concern, Podington Bear and Blue Dot Sessions. Read a transcript of this episode here.
22/01/2020 • 22 minutes 56 seconds
Why Mormons are so good at languages
Stereotypes about Mormon missionaries tend to overshadow their great success in foreign language learning. Why is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints so skilled at teaching languages? We hear from missionaries, teachers and scholars, in Utah and Finland.
Photo by Kavita Pillay. Music by Blue Dot Sessions, Booker and the Yeomans and Podington Bear. Read a transcript of this episode here.
08/01/2020 • 22 minutes 57 seconds
Gullah Geechee enters the academy
There's a new language class on offer at Harvard. Gullah Geechee is a creole language developed by enslaved Africans and still spoken today. As far as anyone knows, it's the first time it's been taught anywhere. Sunn M'Cheaux — native speaker turned Harvard instructor — tells his story and the story of Gullah Geechee, a language that is as African as it is American.
Music by Blue Dot Sessions, Podington Bear and Ranky Tanky. Photo courtesy Sunn M'Cheaux. Read a transcript of this episode here.
18/12/2019 • 21 minutes 53 seconds
The language of diamonds
'Real’ or ’synthetic’? 'Authentic' or ‘lab-grown’? 'Bloodstained' or ‘green’? The highly-regulated words that describe diamonds define their narrative — and maybe even their value. We take you to New York’s Diamond District to meet some of its most engaging characters as they struggle to come to terms with the new lexicon of diamonds.
Music in this episode by Podington Bear and Blue Dot Sessions. Photo by Alina Simone. Read a transcript of this episode here.
04/12/2019 • 15 minutes 35 seconds
Words we love to hate
Are you repelled by certain words? Do you get that fingernails-on-chalkboard feeling when someone says 'moist,' 'dollop' or 'fascia'? In this week's episode Kavita Pillay, who has some word aversions of her own, seeks answers from linguists who study this phenomenon.
Music in the podcast by Podington Bear, Kikoru and Blue Dot Sessions. Photo by Sauli Pillay. Read a transcript of this episode here.
20/11/2019 • 20 minutes 22 seconds
Not so anonymous
Want to say or write something anonymously? Or pretend you're someone else? Good luck. Linguists like Robert Leonard of Hofstra University are using evermore sophisticated means to figure out who you really are. In this episode we trace the rise of forensic linguistics, from identifying the Unabomber to the case of the Trump Administration's 'lodestar' insider.
Read more about forensic linguist Robert Leonard here and here.
Music in the podcast by Podington Bear, Blue Dot Sessions and T. Morri. Photo by Marco Verch/Flickr Creative Commons. Read a transcript of this episode here.
06/11/2019 • 19 minutes 37 seconds
Your next favorite podcast
Coming up in the first season of Subtitle with Patrick Cox and Kavita Pillay: Words we love and hate. Words that solve crimes. Words we lose and find. Words that resist translation. Subtitle brings you stories about languages and the people who speak them, starting in November 2019.
25/10/2019 • 55 seconds
Coming soon: Subtitle
Ever wondered why language simultaneously unites and divides us? Mystifies and delights us? Patrick Cox and Kavita Pillay tell the stories of people with all kinds of linguistic passions: comedians, writers, researchers; speakers of endangered languages; speakers of multiple languages; and just speakers—people like you and me.