A Little Bird Either Learns Its Name Or Dies

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Names are useful. We use them to catch someone's attention, to talk about them. Do animals create names for each other like we do? Yes, turns out. Here's a crazy example, with a dastardly back story.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Bearing Witness: Bill Moyers; Richard Florida; Sandra Tsing Loh

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Urban studies theorist Richard Florida, who popularized the concept of the “creative class”, talks about the return of the tech industry to New York City. Plus: legendary broadcaster Bill Moyers; writer Sandra Tsing Loh on menopause; and after English and Spanish, what’s the language in your state?

The Brian Lehrer Show

After English and Spanish, Your State Speaks...

Thursday, May 15, 2014

What a new set of maps showing each state's most popular language after English can tell us about ourselves.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

A 'Rose By Any Other Name' DOES Smell As Sweet

Thursday, May 01, 2014

John McWhorter, Columbia linguistics professor, New Republic contributing editor, Time columnist and the author of The Language Hoax: Why the World Looks the Same in Any Language (Oxford University Press, USA, 2014) argues against the view that language shapes how we perceive or interact with the world, plus discusses the politics news this week.


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On The Media

Pulling the Trigger Warning

Friday, March 14, 2014

Trigger warnings on the internet have been around for years as a way to prepare for potentially disturbing subjects. Recently a group of students at the University of California, Santa Barbara passed a resolution imploring administrators to include mandatory trigger warnings in potentially offensive syllabi.  Bob speaks to journalist Jenny Jarvie, about the spread of the trigger warning.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

What Comes After "Hello"?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Do you say, "Where are you from?" or "Where do you live?" or "What's your church?" The regional differences in the greetings we give say a lot about us.

Comments [24]

On The Media

Banning The Other N-Word?

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Israeli Knesset has given preliminary approval to a bill that would criminalize use of the word Nazi, and Nazi symbols, except in certain educational or artistic contexts. Violators could face fines as high as twenty-nine thousand dollars, and up to six months in jail. Backers of the bill seek to prevent disrespect of the Holocaust that results when Nazis are invoked casually, whether in political invective or adolescent insults. Brooke talks with linguistic anthropologist Paja Faudree about this legislative attempt to control the use of language.

The Bees - Winter Rose

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The Takeaway

Relearning Language Through Photography

Thursday, January 02, 2014

More than five years ago, photographer Rachael Jablo developed chronic migraines. As a side effect of the medication she took to help treat those migraines, Jablo developed aphasia which caused her to lose her ability to remember language. Slowly, she was able to speak but could no longer remember certain words to identify simple objects or feelings. Eventually, she came up with the idea of using photography as a way to relearn language.

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The Leonard Lopate Show

The Story of English in 100 Words

Friday, December 27, 2013

Linguistics expert David Crystal looks at 100 words that best illustrate the wide variety of sources, influences and events that have shaped the English language. His book The Story of English in 100 Words takes readers on a tour of the winding byways of our language via the rude, the obscure, and the downright surprising.

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Slate Culture Gabfest

The Culture Gabfest: Abstract Noun Edition

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

On this week’s Christmas experiment, Culture Gabfest critics Stephen Metcalf, Dana Stevens and Julia Turner discuss the elements of language: vocabulary, conversation, and voice.


The Brian Lehrer Show

Noam Chomsky’s Life and Times; Growing Up in NY; Foreign Languages

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Linguist and political commentator Noam Chomsky talks about his new book on what he calls “Western terrorism” and remembers his first job at a newsstand on the Upper West Side. Plus: author and designer (and Brian’s brother) Warren Lehrer; growing up in New York City and the links between memory and place; calls if Bloomberg was your only New York City mayor; and a round of foreign language hopscotch with the phrase: “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”


MICROPOLIS: Are Ethnic Enclaves Bad for Immigrants?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Ethnic enclaves are among the jewels of New York — places where the city's immigrants can ease their way into American life. But there's a serious downside: they stifle English proficiency and limit opportunities to climb the economic ladder.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Selfie: 2013's Word of the Year

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Oxford Dictionaries has announced its word of the year… and it's selfie! Katherine Martin, Head of US Dictionaries at Oxford University Press, will talk about the decision and the other words Oxford considered for Word of the Year this year. We'll also take your calls for alternative Word of the Year suggestions.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

New Words for How We Live Now Part 2

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Liesl Schillinger, culture critic, blogger and the author of Wordbirds: An Irreverent Lexicon for the 21st Century (Simon & Schuster, 2013), shares her neologisms for things like a person who overdoes the teeth-bleaching (brightbite) and introduces a new listener suggested word.


Comments [11]

The Brian Lehrer Show

Tech and the Health Exchange; Rockland County; Found in Translation

Friday, October 18, 2013

Ezra Klein of The Washington Post and Andrew Rasiej of Personal Democracy Media, talk about the technological problems that have plagued the launch of the online healthcare exchanges. Then, our 30 Issues in 30 Days election series continues with a look at the Rockland County executive race. Plus: Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Mirta Ojito talks about the 2008 murder of an Ecuadorian immigrant in Patchogue; and a panel translates your phrases into Igbo, French, and Cantonese as part of the Walls and Bridges Festival.

The Brian Lehrer Show

New Words for How We Live Now

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Culture critic, blogger and the author of Wordbirds: An Irreverent Lexicon for the 21st Century (Simon & Schuster, 2013), Liesl Schillinger, shares her neologisms for things like a person who overdoes the teeth-bleaching ("brightbite") or an old boyfriend who won't go away ("polterguy").  

Have you coined a word to fill a 21st century need or have you come across new situations that need a word to describe them?  

Liesl Schillinger will read tomorrow at 7PM at the Powerhouse Arena in DUMBO.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Top Words on Campus

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Merriam-Webster has noted that there's an increase in online searches for certain words at the start of the school year, and they've put together a list of "Top 10 Big Words on Campus". Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster editor at large who was recognized as one of TIME’s Best Twitter Feed’s of 2013, reviews the list of most searched-for terms by college students on Merriam-Webster's site.

Students: what was the last word that you looked up? Professors: which words do you commonly assign? Do they mostly learn toward cultural literacy? Are the words on this list typical? 212-433-WNYC, 212-433-9692.

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The Leonard Lopate Show

Please Explain: Yiddish

Friday, September 13, 2013

Chutzpah, glitch, klutz, schlep, and tchotchke are all Yiddish words that have entered into everyday usage. On this week’s Please Explain, we’ll find out all about the Yiddish language—where it comes from, how it’s influenced our culture, and its resurgence.

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The Takeaway

Neighborhood Watch Members React to Zimmerman Verdict | California Prison System Under Scrutiny | Florida's Stand Your Ground Law & Race Relations

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Neighborhood Watch Members React to Zimmerman Verdict | California Prison System Sees Scrutiny for Overcrowding, Inhumane Conditions | Examining Florida's Stand Your Ground Law & Race Relations | Is Egypt's Interim Government Losing Ground? | Drug King Captured Near Texas Border | New Revelations Come to Light in Boston Strangler Saga 

The Takeaway

How To Swear Like Shakespeare

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Does swearing betray a lack of education and class on the part of its speaker? Anya Saffir doesn’t think so. A Shakespeare director and faculty of the Atlantic Acting School, she says there’s no shortage of class, creativity, and wit in well-used profanity. And we need look no further than the Bard himself for proof of that.

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