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Author: Quiet Juice

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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.
17 Episodes
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 […]
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 […]
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 She tells us of her love of outdated Venezuelan slang; also about parenting her parents (in both Spanish and English); and how the restrictions of quarantine are unleashing her creative instincts.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 […]
At war, and not at war

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 […]
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 […]
Going Dutch

Going Dutch


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 […]
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.
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 […]
The talk of the forest

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 […]
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. […]
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 […]
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 […]
‘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 […]
Words we love to hate

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 […]
Not so anonymous

Not so anonymous


Want to say or write something anonymously? Or pretend you’re someone else? Good luck. Linguists 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. Music in the podcast by […]
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.
Coming soon: Subtitle

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.
Comments (2)



Nov 16th

Clover Artist in training

Cholera jasna means damn it in Polish. I believe.

Aug 1st
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