Language & Linguistics Podcasts

For reference, a list of podcasts about language: linguistics, etymology, word nerd fun, etc. All are either active or have a significant archive to enjoy. Some are considerably more technical than others. So it goes. I welcome suggestions for more.

Video and other media series:

Stuff:

The Etymology of Grass

While trudging through my steps today, listening to A Way With Words and a caller asked about the etymology of “grassing” in the British sense of informing on someone else. One of those fascinating bits of slang that derives indirectly from a rhyme (something the Brits seem particularly fond of) in this sequence:

  1. To inform on someone was to “shop” them out.
  2. To shop is to be a “shopper.”
  3. The slang rhyme becomes “grasshopper”
  4. Thus we have to “grass” someone out.

Though, in my “research” (aka quick Googling) there is a competing—or possibly collaborative—theory about the rhyme that “grasshopper” arose because of the rhyme with “copper” (who one would grass to).

I love that kind of thing.

Also, if you don’t listen to A Way With Words, you should. That is all.

Depressed, Analytical Valley Girl

WORDS

From Audrey Watters on Twitter a few days ago:

Today a friend sent me a link to James Pennebaker’s Analyze Words, a site that performs textual analysis on Twitter feeds. When I tried it, I realized that this must be the system that Michael Petrilli had used in his “analysis” (it says so in the article, but I didn’t remember the name of the software) because of the strange “Spacy/Valley girl” category. Here are my results (TL;DR I’m a depressed, analytical, personable valley girl):

analyze-words-fncll-twitter

Automated textual analysis is an interesting, but limited technology. I’m all for using it as one tool among many to spark thinking. But what’s with the sexist, dismissive “Spacy/Valley girl” category from someone supposedly interested in words and language? Presumably it’s a category intended to convey informality, use of words such as “like” and perhaps present tense? Pennebaker’s book on which this is based (The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us) doesn’t provide any specifics…the only mentions of the phrase “valley girl” come in the following quotes, which are predictable in their banality and lack of useful information. First, a comparison of two categories:

Pompous instructions: Although your professors gave this topic rather minimal attention, cognitive dissonance is a common psychological phenomenon with which the vast majority of uninformed laymen will be familiar … generating an example should be simple enough once one has become reasonably familiar with this concept.

Valley girl instructions: OK, we might not have talked about cognitive dissonance much. Which I think is totally crazy cause it’s like, everybody should be able to see that cognitive dissonance is majorly relevant. Like, it’s seriously happening ALL the time, you know??… So OK, it’s your turn. I mean, like really try to think of an example of cognitive dissonance and tell me everything about it.

And then the dismissal (I wonder which category this falls into? Arrogant, Sexist, Old White Man?):

In fact, if I, like, started—you know—writing in a Valley girl style for like gobs of paragraphs, and, you know, if, uhhh, your phone rang and like you totally answered it? You would like majorly start talking like this.

I’ll stop now to preserve our respective senses of dignity.

Not exactly deep thinking is it? I guess it sells better to use the Buzzfeed quiz model than to provide and support textual analysis as a point of inquiry…