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Lexicon Valley
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Lexicon Valley

Author: Slate Podcasts

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Lexicon Valley is a show about language, from pet peeves, syntax, and etymology to neurolinguistics and the death of languages. Hosted by linguist John McWhorter.

215 Episodes
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Parting Company

Parting Company

2021-03-0243:441

How did a word meaning "with bread" come to sprout its corporate connotation? Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Wallowing in Negativity

Wallowing in Negativity

2021-02-1644:153

From the evolution of ain't to double negatives, simply saying no is wonderfully complex. Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Our language contains a trove of buried clues, petrified remnants of its past. But you have to know where to dig. Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Lots of languages divide words into categories, like male and female. How does that happen? Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Forgetting Your Roots

Forgetting Your Roots

2021-01-0556:061

Words have a way of rebelling against their etymological parents, acquiring meanings of their own. Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
That language changes is certain. How quickly or slowly is another matter. Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Getting Got

Getting Got

2020-12-0843:222

The story of how one little verb developed a seemingly endless capacity to absorb new meanings. Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
On the Origin of English

On the Origin of English

2020-11-2459:498

A controversial theory holds that English, along with other Germanic languages, was profoundly influenced early on by Phoenician. The evidence is intriguing. Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Mark Twain famously depicted what he called the "Missouri Negro dialect" of Jim. Would that be acceptable today? Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Do Cats Have Language?

Do Cats Have Language?

2020-10-2701:00:394

Animals bark, sing, purr and even gesture, all fascinating but a far cry from human communication. Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Peculiar linguistic tales of America's soldiers. Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
To Reason Why

To Reason Why

2020-09-2936:393

There's more than one way to ask why. How come? What for? Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
From baby talk to formal varieties, languages around the world offer—or even require—different ways of speaking for different situations. Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Enslaved people developed a hybrid language that sailed from Africa to the Caribbean and—unbelievably—back again. Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
A longstanding mystery of Black English may finally be solved. Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Languages of the Ottoman Empire, inspired by historian Alan Mikhail's new book God's Shadow. Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Lots of languages have no dedicated way to indicate later-ness. Somehow life goes on. Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Defund Karen

Defund Karen

2020-07-0740:488

On the insults, acronyms and sloganeering of America's racial reckoning. Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Beyond the Five Ws

Beyond the Five Ws

2020-06-2350:463

The curious grammar of questions in languages around the world. Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Language acquisition is like magic—how do children do it?! Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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Comments (49)

Mark Dallas

Hi, John. I love your podcast. I've been a listener for a couple of years now, but this is the first time I've never commented. I'm quite confused by the pronunciation of upsidedown you were teaching your daughter /ˈʌpˌsaɪˈdaʊn/. I've always understood it to be /ˌʌpsaɪd ˈdaʊn/, and both the Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries confirm this to the case for both British and American English. Could you reference your conflicting source? Many thanks in advance. All the best. Mark Byron Dallas Dialect Coach mark@talklikethat.com

Jan 31st
Reply

marziyeh taheri

how can i get the transcripts??

Jan 13th
Reply

Tom Bayer

Great episode, above John's average.

Dec 8th
Reply (3)

Janet Graham-Russell

The Progressive Insurance lady's accent is driving my crazy. It sounds like she's from the North of England, then Scotland, then the US vthen maybe South East Asia. Weird.

Nov 10th
Reply

Janet Graham-Russell

In the English Lake District, mere is used frequently as part of the lake names, such as Windermere.

Nov 10th
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Mary Martinson

Ever since listening to this episode months ago, my teen boys love mocking everyone they hear saying "processeez," "biaseez" etc. from teachers, politicians, other podcasters etc. It's ubiquitous!

Oct 25th
Reply

Margaret Gardner

ummm...? Miss Marlene is a great song but it's Donald Fagen solo, not Steely Dan.

Aug 4th
Reply

Margaret Gardner

yay! I love steely Dan! unexpected. I have always heard about this podcast, finally checked it out, and wouldn't ("would you not") you know it... My favorite band!

Aug 4th
Reply

Mary Martinson

You are only the second person besides myself Ive known to say we should get rid of apostrophes altogether. I've been saying it for years. My son says we should hang out haha.

Jul 1st
Reply

Arielle Niss

LOVE this show. I always learn so much from it. Feel like i need a pen and paper to keep track of the lessons.

Jun 10th
Reply

Emma Gore-Lloyd

I've never commented on a podcast before but I feel I have to with this one. This is the first ep I've listed to of lexicon Valley, as I love languages and have studied linguistics, and love to get more. I was really excited when I came across this podcast. I'm confused - the details say that McWhorter is a linguist. But this ep is just rambling beliefs and speculation with a very weak argument, and on top of that completely neglects to factor in a key point (maybe he gets there later, I'm afraid I gave up at daffy duck). The formality theory is interesting, but surely the first thing to note is that words ending in - sis, pl. - ses come from Greek (not Latin as Mcwhorter says) ? Process comes from Latin. You can't compare words ending - sis with words ending - vis and mise! Etymology is key to understanding how English works. Secondly, Mcwhorter isn't using the concept of formality in the way that linguists use it. Thirdly, I'm not really sure how the syllable-number theory is relevant. I was hoping for an informative podcast telling me something new but it's sadly lacking in a sound logical approach. 😔 So disappointed. Persaude me it's worth listening to the rest?

Jun 5th
Reply

Becky Leverett

I really enjoyed this episode, thanks John 😊

May 5th
Reply

Russ Gee

But what if someone says it just as it is said in the title of the podcast? I don't think you can say, "I can't just." For example, "Why can't you curl your tongue?" "I just can't!" What then?

Apr 28th
Reply

Mido

Hi I love the show, actually it's my favourite podcast ever. I'm a linguistics student from Saudi Arabia, and I think you made a mistake when you said that Arabic dialects are different languages, because all almost Arabs understand each other with relative ease, except for the Morrocan dialects which can also be understood after a certain period of exposure, similar to colliquial Scottish to an American, I guess. The examples you gave, like zain and kuwayess and khosh that mean "good", are all words that we use in Saudi! the same for "shaf" for "see".

Apr 3rd
Reply

Erin Ross

I'm 3 episodes in and I'm hooked! Perfect blend of information and humor.

Mar 29th
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Erin Ross

Husband: That is the longest conversation about faggot that I have ever heard. lol

Mar 29th
Reply

Mary Gatlin Bell

I'm obsessed with you and lexicon valley. Hopefully Jared and the annoying music were simply a send-up of the increasingly offensive podcast genre. (I'm old and easily fooled). If you were even semi-serious, I would have to drop you like a hot potato. Please say you were pulling the proverbial wool over my rheumy eyes

Mar 22nd
Reply

Phillip Miner

I'd love a discussion about various nations' non-binary identities and their linguistic properties, like the Nadleehi or Ihamana.

Mar 3rd
Reply

Phillip Miner

I'd love a discussion about various nations' non-binary identities and their linguistic properties, like the Nadleehi or Ihamana.

Mar 3rd
Reply

mehran bayat

hello john, thanks for your perfect mental food you giving us :). had a question; Freud had an article, "the antithetical meaning of primal words", in which he claimed in primal languages, words had two opposite meanings; for example, Greek "altus" means high and deep simultaneously, and so many other examples. he gives a psychoanalytic explanation, but through the lens of philology, why is that so?

Feb 20th
Reply
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