244 episodes

Linguist Nicole Holliday and Wall Street Journal language columnist Ben Zimmer discuss the ways language is changing, talk to scholars and writers, and set and solve word puzzles.

Spectacular Vernacular Slate Podcasts

    • Education
    • 4.6 • 2.8K Ratings

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Linguist Nicole Holliday and Wall Street Journal language columnist Ben Zimmer discuss the ways language is changing, talk to scholars and writers, and set and solve word puzzles.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Requires subscription and macOS 11.4 or higher

    Taking a Trip Down Language Lane

    Taking a Trip Down Language Lane

    On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, Nicole and Ben take a trip down memory lane and put their knowledge of past guests to the test. They also interview the founder and CEO of Planet Word, Ann Friedman. And finally, we’re taking our final virtual trip, this time to Northern Ireland, for some cinematic wordplay. Thanks for listening and playing along with us! 
    Produced by Jasmine Ellis. 
    Here are some notes and references from this week’s show:
    Planet Word 
    Information on Planet Word’s new wordplay adventure, Lexicon Lane 
    Ann Friedman, “From the Founder: Disputes on the Language Front” 
    Subscribe to Slate Plus. It’s only $1 for the first month. To learn more, go to slate.com/spectacularplus.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 32 min
    Dialects vs. Languages

    Dialects vs. Languages

    On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, Nicole and Ben talk about the difference between a dialect and a language as they revisit a prior conversation about Ukraine. They also interview Will Shortz, crossword puzzle editor at the New York Times, about how he got into the world of puzzles. And finally, our hosts are in the hot seat for a wordplay quiz set by the puzzle master himself. You don’t want to miss this! You could win a year’s membership to Slate Plus.
    Do you have any language questions or fun facts to share? Email us at spectacular@slate.com.  
    Produced by Jasmine Ellis. 
    Here are some notes and references from this week’s show:
    Cambridge Language Surveys, “The Slavic Languages” (including Russian, Ukrainian, Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian) 
    Phillip M. Carter, “Long before shots were fired, a linguistic power struggle was playing out in Ukraine”
    Information on the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (April 1-3) 
    Register here for the ACPT’s non-competitive virtual event  
    Ben’s article on how Stephen Sondheim popularized cryptic crosswords in the U.S. 
    Ben, Nicole, and Will compete in Webster’s War of the Words, a fundraiser for the Noah Webster House
    Subscribe to Slate Plus. It’s only $1 for the first month. To learn more, go to slate.com/spectacularplus.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 30 min
    New Siri. Who’s This?

    New Siri. Who’s This?

    On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, Nicole and Ben talk about the new Siri voices. They also interview Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne, hosts of Lingthusiasm, a podcast that's enthusiastic about linguistics. And finally, they put a listener’s anagram skills to the test. You don’t want to miss this! You could win a year’s membership to Slate Plus.
    Do you have any language questions or fun facts to share? Email us at spectacular@slate.com.  
    Produced by Jasmine Ellis and June Thomas. 
    Here are some notes and references from this week’s show:
    Consumer Reports, “Hey Siri, Is That You? Apple’s New Voices Resonate With Some Black iPhone Users” 
    Spectacular Vernacular interview with VocalID founder Rupal Patel on “choosing your voice” 
    Axios, “Apple gives Siri a less gendered voice”
    Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne’s podcast, Lingthusiasm 
    Lingthusiasm on Patreon 
    Subscribe to Slate Plus. It’s only $1 for the first month. To learn more, go to slate.com/spectacularplus.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 37 min
    “Who Dey” vs. “Who Dat”

    “Who Dey” vs. “Who Dat”

    On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, Nicole and Ben talk about the connection between football chants and language. They also interview Everdeen Mason, editorial director for games at the New York Times about her exciting role. And finally, our hosts are in the hot seat for this week’s wordplay. You don’t want to miss this! You could win a year’s membership to Slate Plus.
    Do you have any language questions or fun facts to share? Email us at spectacular@slate.com.  
    Produced by Jasmine Ellis and Asha Saluja. 

    Here are some notes and references from this week’s show:
    Ben’s Wall Street Journal column, “’Who Dey?’: A Chant With Roots in Black History” 
    New York Times profile of Everdeen Mason 
    How to apply to the New York Times Diverse Crossword Constructor Fellowship 
    Washington Post article on “the latest reckoning over language in the puzzle world” 
    New York Times article on the acquisition of Wordle 
    Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crosswords 
    Subscribe to Slate Plus. It’s only $1 for the first month. To learn more, go to slate.com/spectacularplus.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 36 min
    Capital Language From Kyiv to Washington, D.C.

    Capital Language From Kyiv to Washington, D.C.

    On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, Nicole and Ben talk about how the capital of Ukraine has become a linguistic hot take. They also interview Jessi Grieser, a professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville about her new book, The Black Side of the River: Race, Language, and Belonging in Washington D.C. And finally, we bring on a listener for some wordplay. We hope you’re good at figuring out analogies. You could win a year’s membership to Slate Plus.
    Do you have any language questions or fun facts to share? Email us at spectacular@slate.com.  
    Produced by Jasmine Ellis and Asha Saluja

    Here are some notes and references from this week’s show:
    New York Times: “How Do You Say Kyiv? It Can Be Hard for English Speakers” 
    NPR “Kyiv or Kiev? Why people disagree about how to pronounce the Ukrainian capital’s name” 
    Jessi Grieser: The Black Side of the River: Race, Language, and Belonging in Washington, D.C. 
    “Bad Analogies” on Twitter
    Subscribe to Slate Plus. It’s only $1 for the first month. To learn more, go to slate.com/spectacularplus.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 33 min
    The Making of Wordle

    The Making of Wordle

    On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, Nicole and Ben interview Brooklyn-based software engineer Josh Wardle, the creator of the viral online word game Wordle. They also recap their participation in the American Dialect Society’s annual Word of the Year vote, over which Ben presided. And Nicole’s shares some on-the-ground interviews from the Linguistic Society of America conference, at which she presented some of her own research. And finally, we bring on a listener for some wordplay. Can you solve our final wordplay clue? You could win a year’s membership to Slate Plus.
    Do you have any language questions or fun facts to share? Email us at spectacular@slate.com.  

    Subscribe to Slate Plus. It’s only $1 for the first month. To learn more, go to slate.com/spectacularplus.

    Produced by Jasmine Ellis and Kevin Bendis
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 38 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
2.8K Ratings

2.8K Ratings

mrsbagnet ,

Fun and informative

I’m enjoying the new hosts and format. I’m learning a lot about linguistics and then getting to have a little fun with the games at the end.

brontel_muskel ,

Go straight to the archives!

There are 5+ years of excellent archives of Lexicon Valley from when it was hosted by Bob Garfield/Mike Vuolo and then the brilliant John McWhorter. Go straight to the archives and skip the lackluster “spectacular vernacular” rebrand. The reboot seems to be a result of the talent leaving to make their shows for a different studio. The new version of the show is uninspired, sounds like sponsored content.

HTR4444 ,

The “play” brings it down

The “play” brings it down from 5 to 3 stars. Be confident enough in your first two segments, commentary and interview, to make that the whole show.

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