Cover art for podcast The World in Words

The World in Words

25 EpisodesProduced by PRXWebsite

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… read more

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The sci-fi of another language

March 13th, 2019

27:50

In the West, we are used to sci-fi written by English-speakers who dream up English-speaking utopias and dystopias. Often in the final reel, …

A family divided by English

October 10th, 2018

21:26

When American Lynne Murphy says 'sure' to her British husband, he thinks she means 'not really.' After 18 years together, they still disagree-- and not just on 'sure.'

Poetry thieves

September 5th, 2018

36:13

Some people see British poet Ira Lightman as a champion of poets whose verses he valiantly defends. Others view him as a blowhard who delights in ruining other people's reputations. Either way, the story of his poetry …

The holes between the dots

August 8th, 2018

26:06

Some people believe technology will render Braille obsolete, that blind people will choose talking apps and audiobooks over embossed dots. Maybe, but …

How soccer became multilingual

June 19th, 2018

15:42

Professional soccer used to export its English-language terminology, giving other languages words like 'penalty' and 'goal.' But now, the roles are …

How has Basque survived?

May 31st, 2018

34:51

Basque is a language isolate. Spoken in a region that spans northern Spain across the border into southern France, it is not part of the …

Your brain on improv

May 24th, 2018

22:39

Ever wondered about people who can improvise on stage? How the words seem to come so easily? Neuroscientist Charles Limb and comedian Anthony Veneziale did. First came the bromance, then Veneziale found himself …

My language is my home

May 17th, 2018

21:45

Lea is a teenager born and raised in Japan. Her mother is Chinese, her father American. She speaks English, Mandarin and Japanese but isn’t sure …

Abandoning your mother tongue

May 9th, 2018

18:04

Alina Simone was born in the Soviet Union to Russian-speaking parents and now lives in New York. She initially raised her daughter to speak both English and Russian. So why did she give up on Russian and send her …

If you could talk to the animals

April 25th, 2018

28:51

Do you talk to your dog? Does your dog talk back to you? Dr. Doolittle’s dream of talking to the animals is one many of us can share. But what do …

The Story of 'X'

April 3rd, 2018

26:10

From X-rated to Gen X to Latinx, the meaning of 'X' has shifted while retaining an edgy, transgressive quality. We trace the meandering semantic route of 'X' through the 20th and 21st centuries, with help from …

The three-letter-word that rocked a nation

March 27th, 2018

29:21

In 2012, a little known Swedish press published a children’s book that sparked a nationwide debate. The debate wasn’t about the plot of the book, nor the pictures, but concerned a three-letter word used by the main …

A British Mx Tape

March 19th, 2018

27:12

The UK is obsessed with honorifics. Remember, this is the land of Barons and Earls and Ladies and Sirs and the ultimate HRH, "Her Royal Highness." …

The secretive language of pro wrestling

March 9th, 2018

32:40

In 1984, the professional wrestler “Dr. D" David Schultz smacked the TV journalist John Stoessel to the ground backstage at Madison Square Garden. …

Could Neanderthals talk?

February 21st, 2018

23:04

Humans are the only creatures on Earth that can choke on their own food. Yes, that’s right. Because we have funky plumbing. There’s a crucial split in our throats – one path that leads to the esophagus and the stomach, …

The rules of bilingual love

February 13th, 2018

23:13

He wrote to her mainly in Swedish, and she replied in Finnish. The correspondence of "Finlandia" composer Jean Sibelius and his wife Aino is funny …

Ivanka, meet Stalin

January 30th, 2018

28:25

In which we hear from another Ivanka, another Stalin and another Lenin. Ivanka's brush with fame came thanks to Donald Trump's carelessness on Twitter. But Stalin and Lenin were purposely given their names, by parents …

Losing your accent

January 12th, 2018

18:30

English is spoken with countless accents by both native and non-native speakers. But a hierarchy persists: there are 'good accents and 'bad' ones. So whether you're from Thailand or Tennessee, you may want to get rid of …

The words of 2017

December 20th, 2017

26:01

What are the words and images that best describe this past year? And why do some people think "whom" is obsolete? We talk with Buzzfeed's copy chief …

My voice is my passport – verify me

December 13th, 2017

26:00

Remember the 1990’s flick Sneakers with Robert Redford? Robert Redford’s character leads a group of hackers on a mission to steal a decoder from the NSA. And there’s a part in the film when Redford needs to bypass …

Welcome to the American family

November 29th, 2017

32:04

US politicians have been using the word, 'assimilation' for more than a century. How has it evolved? What does it mean in Trump's America? And how is …

Speaking Yiddish to the dead

November 8th, 2017

29:05

In 2000, American poet Jennifer Kronovet began taking Yiddish classes for just one reason: to translate Yiddish poetry into English.

Bash the Fash

October 25th, 2017

32:20

"Antifa." The buzzword of the summer, especially after Charlottesville. Reporter Lidia Jean Kott explores how "antifa" came into being in 1930s Germany-- and how it was resurrected in 21st century America. WARNING: this …

Dubbing with benefits

October 11th, 2017

28:31

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 …

How to speak like an aliebn

September 27th, 2017

28:16

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 …

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