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Subtitle

58 EpisodesProduced by Quiet JuiceWebsite

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.

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Presenting Exile

January 11th, 2023

41:06

Subtitle is delighted to share an episode of Exile, a podcast about Jewish lives under the shadow of fascism. In this episode, Florence Mendheim, a young Jewish librarian in New York, risks her life to spy on the …

The precious secrets of Udi

November 16th, 2022

24:47

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 future sound of Black English

November 2nd, 2022

18:34

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 …

How music has shaped African American speech

October 19th, 2022

17:17

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

Where did African American English come from?

October 5th, 2022

23:37

Are the roots of African American English mainly African? Or English? Or something else? Linguists—and others—don't agree. Ciku Theuri guides us …

A brief history of death threats

September 21st, 2022

24:50

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 …

Latin, the undead language

September 7th, 2022

24:12

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 …

Learning to love apostrophes

July 6th, 2022

26:47

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 …

Hello, Goodbye

June 22nd, 2022

35:59

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 …

How the Ojibwe language survived the pandemic

June 8th, 2022

26:08

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 …

Ukraine’s linguistic patriotism

May 25th, 2022

25:24

For centuries, Russians have dismissed the Ukrainian language as "Little Russian," its speakers as simple-minded peasants. The Kremlin has …

The rare joys of learning Finnish

May 11th, 2022

29:12

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 …

Presenting More Than a Feeling

April 27th, 2022

36:04

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 …

Will climate change wipe out French in Louisiana?

April 13th, 2022

27:21

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, …

When did comedians start saying ‘punching up’ and ‘punching down’?

March 30th, 2022

32:00

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 …

The language of the outside people

March 16th, 2022

38:44

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 …

The speechways of the folk

March 2nd, 2022

18:55

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 …

‘Manifesting’ the language of self-help

February 16th, 2022

23:14

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 …

Why some words are just funny

February 2nd, 2022

27:11

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 …

A mother tongue reclaimed

January 19th, 2022

36:15

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 …

Teach me your song

January 5th, 2022

21:31

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 …

Once upon a hyphen…

December 15th, 2021

26:41

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 …

Season 3 is coming

December 2nd, 2021

1:53

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 …

A language that survived the boarding schools

September 29th, 2021

23:56

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 …

A tale of edible intrigue

July 28th, 2021

27:38

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 …

The pleasure and pain of spelling

June 23rd, 2021

33:32

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 …

We are the people

June 9th, 2021

33:03

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 …

The little pronoun that could

May 26th, 2021

31:28

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 …

How the alphabet won our hearts

May 12th, 2021

25:37

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. …

Japan’s mystery language

April 28th, 2021

26:13

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 …

The dots and their future

April 14th, 2021

26:43

Will technology make Braille obsolete as the primary reading tool for blind people? Will talking apps and audiobooks win out over embossed dots? …

The language closest to English

March 31st, 2021

33:09

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 …

My notorious name

March 17th, 2021

30:20

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 …

Season 2 is coming

March 11th, 2021

2:49

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 …

Subtitle presents A Better Life?

September 16th, 2020

29:55

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. …

We Speak: Tina

August 19th, 2020

30:51

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 …

We Speak: Ciku

August 5th, 2020

22:52

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. …

We Speak: Verónica

July 22nd, 2020

20:06

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 …

We Speak: Patrick and Kavita

July 8th, 2020

33:00

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 …

The birth of a language

June 24th, 2020

22:53

In 1986, Nicaraguan officials invited American linguist Judy Shepard-Kegl to observe a group of Deaf children. The kids were using an unrecognizable …

‘Sisu’ gets an update

June 10th, 2020

23:50

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 …

A metaphor for our times

May 27th, 2020

20:20

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 …

In quarantine with Joe Wong

May 13th, 2020

18:07

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 …

In quarantine with Joanna Hausmann

April 29th, 2020

23:20

Bilingual comedian Joanna Hausmann (pictured with her mother Ana Julia Jatar-Hausmann) is sitting out the lockdown at her Venezuelan parents' New …

At war, and not at war

April 15th, 2020

20:14

In this episode, we talk with American medical student Esther Kim (pictured). She's trying to overcome her suspicion of people with a particular …

One virus, many languages

April 1st, 2020

18:51

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 …

Going Dutch

March 18th, 2020

20:47

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 …

How to communicate with aliens

March 4th, 2020

24:41

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 …

Did Katrina kill the New Orleans accent?

February 19th, 2020

21:39

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 …

The talk of the forest

February 5th, 2020

19:07

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, …

Is a polyglot’s brain different?

January 22nd, 2020

22:56

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 …

Why Mormons are so good at languages

January 8th, 2020

22:57

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 …

Gullah Geechee enters the academy

December 18th, 2019

21:53

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 …

The language of diamonds

December 4th, 2019

15:35

'Real’ or ’synthetic’? 'Authentic' or ‘lab-grown’? 'Bloodstained' or ‘green’? The highly-regulated words that describe diamonds define their …

Words we love to hate

November 20th, 2019

20:22

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 …

Not so anonymous

November 6th, 2019

19:37

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 …

Your next favorite podcast

October 25th, 2019

0:55

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 …

Coming soon: Subtitle

October 7th, 2019

1:15

Ever wondered why language simultaneously unites and divides us? Mystifies and delights us? Patrick Cox and Kavita Pillay tell the stories of …

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