The Allusionist

88 EpisodesProduced by Helen Zaltzman for Radiotopia

Linguistic adventures with Helen Zaltzman, A proud member of Radiotopia from PRX. Learn more at

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84. Trammels

September 8th, 2018


Why would you write books or poems or plays with only one vowel? Or in palindromes? Or only using the example sentences in dictionaries? Sometimes …

83. Yes, As In

August 26th, 2018


“Really? As in the animal/foodstuff/music genre?”
“Is that a stripper name?”
“What were your parents thinking?”

When your name is a word that is more usually a noun or adjective than a human moniker, you hear the same …

82. A Novel Remedy

August 13th, 2018


When you’re feeling unwell, what’s the book you read to make yourself feel better? And why does it work? Clinical psychologist Jane Gregory explains …

81. Shark Week

July 28th, 2018


Today, we’re dipping into the Allusionist mailbag full of listeners’ linguistic requests, with the help of special guest Hrishikesh Hirway of Song …

Imaginary Advice: S.E.I.N.F.E.L.D.

June 29th, 2018


Hello! I’m currently in hospital so am having to take a little time off work. Therefore, instead of a new Allusionist episode today, here’s my favourite audio piece I’ve heard this year: ‘S.E.I.N.F.E.L.D.’ from Ross …

80. Warm Front

June 17th, 2018


Today will be fine. But wait: fine as in ‘OK’, fine as in ‘really rather good’, or fine as in ‘no precipitation’? When you’re a TV weather …

79. Queer

June 3rd, 2018


Strange or obtuse; a stinging homophobic slur; a radical political rejection of normativity; a broad term encompassing every and any variation on …

78. Oot in the Open

May 21st, 2018


You are born and raised in a household speaking a language. Then you start going to school, and that language is banned. If you speak it, you’ll be …

42+43. Survival: The Key rerun

May 5th, 2018


To accompany the current Allusionist miniseries Survival, about minority languages facing suppression and extinction, we’re revisiting this double bill of The Key episodes about why languages die and how they can be …

77. Survival part 1: Second Home

April 21st, 2018


There are two main places in the world where the Welsh language is spoken: Wales, and the Chubut Province in Patagonia. How did this ancient language take root in rural Argentina, 12,000km away from its home base?

Find …

26. Xmas Man

December 2nd, 2015


CONTENT WARNING: Be wary of listening to this episode around young children, as there may be life spoilers. Historian Greg Jenner traces the origins of that mythical beardy man who turns up in December with gifts. Helen …

20. Baby Talk

October 7th, 2015


Why do we all sound like idiots when we talk to babies? Don’t be embarrassed, we’re helping them acquire language. Child psychologist Ben Jeffes …

5. Latin Lives!

February 25th, 2015


Every week since September 1989, a radio station in Finland has broadcast a weekly news bulletin…in Latin.


Let’s find out!

Visit …

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