The World in Words The World in Words is a podcast about languages and the people who speak them. What happens to the brain on bilingualism? Does it matter that so many languages are dying out? Should we fear the rise of global English? Is the United States losing its linguistic cohesion? Why are Chinese tech words so inventive? Why does Icelandic have so many cool swearwords? Patrick Cox and Nina Porzucki bring you stories from the world's linguistic frontlines. Also at pri.org/language
The World in Words

The World in Words

From PRI

The World in Words is a podcast about languages and the people who speak them. What happens to the brain on bilingualism? Does it matter that so many languages are dying out? Should we fear the rise of global English? Is the United States losing its linguistic cohesion? Why are Chinese tech words so inventive? Why does Icelandic have so many cool swearwords? Patrick Cox and Nina Porzucki bring you stories from the world's linguistic frontlines. Also at pri.org/languageMore from The World in Words »

Most Recent Episodes

Dubbing with benefits

Dubbed TV and movies suck, right? Those odd-sounding voices and that lamely-synchronized dialogue? In Germany, it's not like that. Dubbing it a highly evolved craft, with actors who specialize in voiceover and writers who genuinely improve the dialogue. The pod goes to Berlin to find out why Germans are so good at (and so addicted to) dubbing.

How to speak like an aliebn

When Twitter comedian Jonny Sun began to write his book, "everyone's a aliebn when ur a aliebn too," he had to write down the rules of the cutesy grammar of the language he invented.

Who are the People?

Germans do not agree what the word 'Volk' means. Does it denote ethnic Germans or people who live in Germany? The Nazis racialized 'Volk' and its derivatives. Now Germany's New Right are reviving some of these terms.

Deciphering the Lingo of Pro-Trump Trolls

In the run up to the presidential election Cristina López kept coming across language on the internet that she didn't quite understand; words and phrases like "meme magic," and "red-pilled" and "nimble navigator." These expressions kept popping up in Reddit and 4chan on Trump supporter message boards. "It felt like I was looking in to a group and I didn't understand the group joke," said Cristina. But understanding the group joke is Cristina's job. She works for a non-profit called Media Matters For America, a left leaning non-profit that monitors the conservative media for misinformation. Since the election Cristina and her colleagues have spent many hours lurking on these message boards deciphering the words and memes of what she calls the #MAGA troll dialect. This week on the podcast Cristina Lopez explains some of the dialect.

Zappa for Germans

Who was Frank Zappa? Virtuoso guitarist? Modernist composer? Smutty lyricist? Anti-censorship activist? All of the above....and in much more the former East Germany. There his banned records fetched small fortunes among rebellious young men who dreamed of freedom. We spend 30 minutes in the company of one such man who now runs a Zappa-themed festival. We also hear from an American translator who explains Zappa's obscure lyrics to German fans, line by line.

To Catch a Fortune Cookie Thief

This week on the podcast producer Lidia Jean Kott cracks open a case of fortune cookie theft. "Some men dream of fortunes. Others dream of cookies." This is a real fortune cookie fortune. A prescient fortune it would turn out for Yong Sik Lee. Lee invented the fully automatic fortune cookie machine and built a business on his invention. He sold fortune cookie machines and fortunes to companies all over the US. It was a good business, until one day somebody stole it all from him. Lidia Jean gets to the bottom of a theft that forever changed the life of Lee. She also gets explores the eternal question: Why are fortune cookie fortunes never really fortunes? And where do fortune cookies come from anyway? Hint: It's not China.

Grandmothers have the best curse words

This week on The World in Words we talk about swear words from around the world and the bad words our grandmothers teach us. We hear from swearologist Stephen Dodson and author Marilyn Chin. Plus, Nina Porzucki interviews her grandmother about the meaning of a Polish word.

'Dialect' versus 'language,' what's the big deal?!

This week on the podcast we step gingerly into scalding waters to explore the question: What is the difference between a language and dialect? Linguists hate to define it. "As a linguist I will not engage in trying to define language and trying to define dialect and I'm not alone in that," said linguist Bojan Belić. He's certainly not alone. We reached out to linguists and language experts and were met with sigh after sigh. There are many rubrics that people cite as indicators of a dialect versus a language. Take mutual intelligibility. Two varieties of speech that are mutually intelligible surely must be dialects. But what happens when they're not? Then there's the old cliché, coined apparently by a Yiddish scholar, "A language is a dialect with an army and a navy." Is language and dialect purely politics? This week we discuss two places where these labels might make you scratch your head: Scandinavia and the Balkans.

'Dialect' versus 'language,' what's the big deal?!

Vladimir Trump

Many Russians perceive Donald Trump as an American version of Vladimir Putin. It's partly based on Trump's bombastic rhetoric, but also on how his speeches and tweets are translated into Russian.

Straight Outta Siberia

Linguist Edward Vajda went to Siberia with a hunch. He returned with evidence linking a remote Siberian language with Navajo.

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