Wednesday, May 25, 2016

This Week: More on the language of politics and literature on the podcast + literally

Like “incredible,” “literally” has been so overused as a sort of vague intensifier that it is in danger of losing its literal meaning. It should be used to distinguish between a figurative and a literal meaning of a phrase. It should not be used as a synonym for “actually” or “really.” Don’t say of someone that he “literally blew up” unless he swallowed a stick of dynamite.


This week on the podcast we continue our discussion of political language and literature.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

This Week: The language of politics and literature on the podcast + ambivalent/indifferent

If you feel pulled in two directions about some issue, you’re ambivalent about it; but if you have no particular feelings about it, you’re indifferent.



This week on the podcast we discuss the language of politics and literature.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

This Week: The language of elections on the podcast + new blog post by Paul Brians + electorial college/electoral college

electorial college/electoral college 
It’s “electoral.”

Paul Brians’ most recent blog post follows up on a previous podcast, where we had brought up the word “epicenter.”

This week on the podcast we discuss the language of the election season.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

This Week: A podcast discussion on "theory" and scientific method + satellite

Originally a satellite was a follower. Astronomers applied the term to smaller bodies orbiting about planets, like our moon. Then we began launching artificial satellites. Since few people were familiar with the term in its technical meaning, the adjective “artificial” was quickly dropped in popular usage. So far so bad. Then television began to be broadcast via satellite. Much if not all television now wends its way through a satellite at some point, but in the popular imagination only broadcasts received at the viewing site via a dish antenna aimed at a satellite qualify to be called “satellite television.” Thus we see motel signs boasting:
People say things like, “The fight’s going to be shown on satellite.” The word has become a pathetic fragment of its former self. The technologically literate speaker will avoid these slovenly abbreviations.


This week on the podcast it’s “The Everything of ‘Theory.’

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

This Week: Eggcorns on the podcast (with special guest Geoffrey Pullum) + wail/whale and bonus "eggcorn" cartoons

One informal meaning of “whale” is “to beat.” Huck Finn says of Pap that “He used to always whale me when he was sober.”

Although the vocalist in a band may wail a song, the drummer whales on the drums; and lead guitarists when they thrash their instruments wildly whale on them.

Although this usage dates back to the 18th century and used to be common in Britain and America, it is now confined mostly to the US, and even there people often mistakenly use “wail” for this meaning.


This week on the podcast we have a visit from Geoffrey Pullum and discuss eggcorns.

Bonus "eggcorn" cartoons:


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

This Week: More technology terms worth knowing on the podcast + LISTSERV

“LISTSERV” is the brand name of one kind of electronic mail-handling software for distributing messages to a list of subscribers. Other common brand names are “Majordomo” and “Listproc.” You can subscribe to the poodle-fluffing list, but not the LISTSERV. People at my university, where only Mailman was used, often (and erroneously) referred to themselves as managers of “listservs.” English teachers are frequently tripped up when typing “listserv” as part of a computer command; they naturally want to append an E on the end of the word. According to L-Soft, the manufacturer of LISTSERV, the name of its software should be set in all capital letters. See the LISTSERV Web site for details.

This week on the podcast we talk about more technology terms worth knowing.