Info

Words for Granted - An etymology and linguistics podcast

Words for Granted is a podcast that looks at how words change over time. Host Ray Belli uses etymology as a way of examining broader changes in history, culture, religion, and more.
RSS Feed Subscribe in Apple Podcasts
Words for Granted - An etymology and linguistics podcast
2021
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2020
December
November
October
September
August
June
May
April
March
February
January


2019
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2018
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2017
December
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2016
December
November
October
September
August
July
June


All Episodes
Archives
Now displaying: 2021
Sep 19, 2021

The meanings of "parabola" and "parable" have very little to do with one another, yet these words are etymological doublets of a single Greek work, parabole, which meant "a throwing aside". In this episode, we explore how this literal meaning connects to the literary and mathematical developments of this Greek word.



This month's bonus episode explores the syntax of predicate adjectives. Become a member on Patreon.com for to every WFG bonus episode. 

Aug 21, 2021

Before Google was the name of one of the world's biggest tech companies, "googol" was an obscure math term that meant "ten to the one hundredth power". Five decades before the founding of Google, the word "googol" emerged spontaneously out of a conversation between an American mathematician and his nephew.

Click here to listen to this month's FREE bonus episode on Patreon.

Jul 25, 2021

The word "average" has anything but an average etymology. If the leading theory is correct, "average" ultimately derives from an Arabic word meaning "defect". In this episode, we explore how this Arabic word made its way into European languages through sea trade and how, given this unlikely origin, its mathematical sense emerged over time. 

Jul 9, 2021

English may be spoken by a whopping 1.5 billion ESL speakers around the world, but that doesn't mean it's an "easy" language to learn. For native English speakers, it's easy to take for granted just how irregular the English language is. In this interview episode, I chat with Arika Okrent about her new book, Highly Irregular: Why Tough, Through, and Dough Don't Rhyme and Other Oddities of the English Language


Today's episode is brought to you by italki. Go to https://go.italki.com/anniversary-wordsforgranted to claim your $140 of italki credits. 

Jun 27, 2021

In many English works printed before the late 19th century, a letter unfamiliar to us today, ſ, is often used in place of the letter S. However, that unfamiliar f-looking letter is actually just an archaic form of the letter S called "long s". In this episode, we explore the origins and decline of this odd orthographical relic. As a coda to our series on lost letters, we also explore the history of the ampersand (&), which up until the late 19th century was often listed as the 27th letter of the alphabet. 

Examples from the episode:

1. Us'd, Clos'd

2. Always puffs, offset, satisfaction; never puffſ, offſet, satiſfaction

3. 17th century: mask, disbelief; 18th century maſk, diſbelief

4. Confuſ-ed, diſ-appearance 

5. Geneſ.

May 30, 2021

If you've ever encountered the ligatures æ and œ in old texts, you may have wondered: what are they called? Where do they come from? How exactly are they pronounced? Why don't we use them any more? The ligatures ash and ethel are rare in English writing today, but in previous centuries, they were common. (In Old English, the sound we today associate with "short A" was actually not represented by the letter A, but by æ!)

May 16, 2021

F*ck.  Sh*t. C*ck. These are some of the most profane words in the English language, but what exactly makes them profane? Is there something about profanities that makes them different from ordinary vanilla words? In this interview, I speak with John McWhorter, preeminent linguist and author of Nine Nasty Words: English in the Gutter: Then, Now, and Forever. 

Click here to order Nine Nasty Words.

To hear more from John, listen to the Lexicon Valley podcast. 

 

Apr 19, 2021

Before the letter W was invented, the rune wynn was borrowed into the Latin AngloSaxon alphabet as a way of representing the /w/ sound. The letter yogh evolved out of Insular G, an Irish variation of the traditional letter G. The phonetic value of yogh varied. It could represent the /y/ sound, the guttural /x/ sound as in the Scottish "loch," and others. Many Modern English words spelled with GH digraph (laugh, though, night, etc.) were once spelled with the letter yogh. 

Interested in taking part in our virtual Latin 101 course this summer taught by Harvard PhD candidate Rebecca Deitsch? Learn more here: https://www.wordsforgranted.com/latin-course

Mar 14, 2021

In Modern English, we use the TH digraph to represent the voiced and voiceless dental fricative sounds. However, English previously had two unique letters that did this same job: eth and thorn. In this episode, we look at the origin and decline of eth and thorn in English in addition to some places outside of the English alphabet where these ancient letters have survived. Also, check out these links:

Ticket link to Intelligent Speech 2021: https://www.intelligentspeechconference.com/

The International Phonetic Alphabet interactive chart: https://www.internationalphoneticalphabet.org/ipa-sounds/ipa-chart-with-sounds/


Ticket link to Intelligent Speech 2021: https://www.intelligentspeechconference.com/

The International Phonetic Alphabet interactive chart:
https://www.internationalphoneticalphabet.org/ipa-sounds/ipa-chart-with-sounds/

 

Feb 13, 2021

You can't have the English language without the ABC's, right? Wrong. In this overview episode, we look at the history of the alphabet and the many changes it has undergone from its Phoenician origins to today. We also consider the significance of the runic alphabet known as futhorc, the first alphabet used to write English. Two of the lost English letters, thorn and wynn, were directly adapted from this older Germanic script.




Lingthusiasm Episode 52: Writing is a Technology
https://soundcloud.com/lingthusiasm/52-writing-is-a-technology

Runic alphabet (futhorc):
https://omniglot.com/writing/futhorc.htm

Jan 18, 2021

‘Pasta’ is first attested in English during the 1800's, which is later than one might expect. However, in prior centuries, a handful of its closely related cognates such as ‘paste,’ ‘pastry,’ ‘pastel,’ and others were borrowed into English. We consider how these words relate historically and etymologically to the beloved Italian food. We also examine the semantic relationship between the words pasta, macaroni, and noodle.

1