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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.
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Words for Granted - An etymology and linguistics podcast
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Now displaying: Page 2
Oct 25, 2020

In this episode, we explore the etymology of the most culturally ubiquitous fruit, the apple. Etymologically, the ubiquity of the apple is fitting, since it originally used to refer to apples and all fruits in general. We also explore the Latin and Greek words for ‘apple,’ the derivatives of which are hiding in plain sight in a handful of modern English fruit and vegetable words. 

Sep 27, 2020

In the episode, we explore the etymology of ‘cheese,’ a Latin-derived word that entered the Germanic languages through trade long before the emergence of English. We also consider why the Italian and French words for cheese, formaggio and fromage, are not its cognates and how the adjective ‘cheesy’ (meaning something lacking subtlety) evolved.

Aug 17, 2020

The word ‘egg’ plays a part in one of the most famous anecdotes in the written record about the evolution of the English language. In this episode, we consider the implications of that story and look into the etymology of ‘egg’ and some of its cognates. We also look into the ‘egg’ in the idiom ‘to egg on.’

Jun 30, 2020

This episode features a conversation I had with Kevin Stroud of the History of English Podcast at this year's virtual Intelligent Speech conference. We discussed reasons why the history of the Proto Indo-Europeans––the linguistic ancestors of nearly half the world's population––remains obscure to the general public. If you think it has something to do with racist, pseudoscientific scholarship that led to the concept of the Aryan race during World War II, we think so too.



For the video of our conversation, follow this link:

https://www.crowdcast.io/e/intelligentspeech/40

Jun 7, 2020

The idiom ‘dead ringer’ comes down to us from horse-racing slang, but a widely believed folk etymology links the idiom's origins to being buried alive. In this episode, we debunk the myths and get down to the written evidence behind the emergence of this phrase.



I'll be speaking with Kevin Stroud from the History of English podcast about the Proto Indo-Europeans at this year's Intelligent Speech Conference. To purchase tickets, follow this link

May 17, 2020

The idiom ‘red herring’ is used to describe a distraction from the matter at hand. Literally, a ‘red herring’ is a kipper––that is, a smoked and salted sliced fish––but why would such a fish become an expression for a distraction? In this episode, we debunk a popular myth surrounding the idiom's etymology by close reading a handful of selections from the written record and drawing on the most recent scholarship.

Apr 26, 2020

Of all places, why do we put the ‘proof’ in the ‘pudding?’ Like many idioms whose origins date back several centuries, the connection between the literal and figurative meanings of ‘the proof is in the pudding’ is no longer clear in Modern English. ‘The proof is in the pudding’ is actually a shortened corruption of the idiom ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating,’ but that's still not the full story. In the 17th century when the idiom was first used, both ‘proof’ and ‘pudding’ had different meanings than they do today.

Listen to Words for Granted on Lyceum, a new app that curates and builds community around great educational audio. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 12, 2020

In today's episode, I talk with Simon Horobin, Oxford professor and author of "Bagels, Bumf and Buses: A Day in the Life of the English Language," a book that explores the etymology of common words we encounter every day. In addition to discussing Simon's latest book, we discuss a range of language topics including the standardization of grammar, the history of spelling, and more. You can purchase "Bagels, Bumf, and Buses" here.

Click here 25% off your first order with Literati.

Listen to Words for Granted on Lyceum, a curated podcast app featuring educational podcasts.

Mar 25, 2020

The etymology of ‘break a leg’ is disputed, but some theories hold up better than others. In today's episode, we look at a handful of plausible explanations for how ‘break a leg’ became theater slang for ‘good luck’ and also bust a few etymological myths surrounding the idiom.

Today's episode is brought to you by Yabla. Click here for your risk-free 15-day trial. 

Feb 24, 2020

As we all know, the idiomatic meaning of ‘apple of the eye’ has nothing to do with apples. As it turns out, the origins of the idiom also have nothing to do with apples. In this episode, we look at how the English translation of an old Hebrew expression found in the Old Testament unintentionally defined our modern sense of the idiom ‘apple of the eye.’

Feb 5, 2020

"In a pickle" is one of the oddest sounding idioms in English. It means "in a predicament or bad situation," but it's not clear what pickles have to do with anything. In this episode, we look at the origins of both the phrase and the word "pickle" itself. 

Jan 13, 2020

This episode begins a new series on the etymology of English idioms. In this general overview of idioms, we discuss why idioms are syntactically and semantically peculiar, how idioms emerge, how idioms fossilize archaic grammar, and more.

Dec 31, 2019

The word ‘cannibal’ comes to us by way of a familiar historical figure: Christopher Columbus. The word is ultimately a Hispanicization of the name of an indigenous American group today known as the Caribs. Through Columbus' unreliable portrayal of the Caribs in his travel log, ‘cannibal’ came to refer to ‘a person who eats human flesh.’ In this episode, we explore the evolution of the meaning of ‘cannibal’ in Columbus' own journal and how that single word impacted the colonial history of the Americas.

Dec 14, 2019

In common usage, a ‘philistine’ is a derogatory term for an anti-intellectual materialist. The word derives from the ancient Middle Eastern Philistines, a people best known as an early geopolitical enemy of the Israelites in the Hebrew Bible. The historical Philistines were far from philistines––note the lowercase P. Bizarrely, circumstance by which the latter derives from the former can be traced back to a 17th century murder in the German city of Jena.



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Nov 17, 2019

As a common noun, ‘bohemian’ describes an artistic, carefree lifestyle usually marked by poverty and unorthodoxy. The word is derived from Bohemia, a region in the modern Czech Republic, but its semantic connection to actual Czechs is nearly nonexistent. In this episode, we trace the long history of the word ‘bohemian’ from its origins as an ancient Celtic homeland to the present.

Oct 20, 2019

As someone who came of age during the late 90’s, my first encounter with the word ‘gothic’ was through alternative music and fashion. However, the word was originally the name of a Germanic tribe most famous for sacking the Roman Empire. The evolution of the word ‘goth’ over the last two millennia is a classic but complicated story of linguistic appropriation and misunderstanding.

 
 
 
 
 
Sep 17, 2019

In today's episode, I interview Steve Kaufmann. Steve is a polyglot and co-founder of LingQ. He also hosts a popular language learning Youtube channel under the name LingoSteve. Our conversation covers a range of language-related topics such as language learning myths, how language learning has changed with new technology, the relationship between language and culture, and more.

Sep 1, 2019

In Old English, the word ‘wife’ meant woman. In fact, the word ‘woman’ derives from the word wife! Today's episode is not only an exploration of the word ‘wife,’ but also of a handful of woman-related words whose etymologies and usages share a confusing, intertwined history.

 

 

Aug 11, 2019

What makes your parents' parents so ... grand? In today's episode, we trace the etymology and emergence of the French-influenced kinship prefix ‘grand.’ We also look at Old English words for ‘grandparents’ and ‘grandchildren’ before the ‘grand’ prefix became conventional. Just for good measure, we also take a look at the kinship prefix ‘great.’

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Jul 29, 2019

Today, ‘sibling’ is one of the most basic kinship terms. However, it wasn't introduced into English until 1903 by a pair of scientists working on genetics. More accurately, ‘sibling’ was reintroduced into the language after 1,000 years of dormancy. In this episode, we look at ‘sibling’ in its Old English context and explore its Indo-European roots. Furthermore, we look into the etymology of ‘brother’ and ‘sister.’ 

For your free 1-month trial of The Great Courses Plus, click here.

Jul 12, 2019

In today's episode, we explore the origins of some of the universal characteristics of nursery father terms in languages from around the world, most of which include initial /p/, /d/, or /b/ sounds.

For a 1-month free trial of the Great Courses Plus, click here.  

Jun 30, 2019

‘Mama’ is a mysterious word. In the vast majority of languages around the world, the word for ‘mama’ sounds something like ... ‘mama.’ In today's episode, we uncover the reason for this peculiar universality.

For a free 1-month trial of The Great Course plus, click here

Jun 15, 2019

Noah Webster is best known as the father of the first truly American dictionary. However, Webster’s dictionary faced an uphill struggle for recognition during his lifetime. In today’s episode, we examine some of these struggles in addition to the things that made Webster’s dictionary so different from the English dictionaries that preceded it. 

Click here to sign up for you free one-month trial of The Great Courses  Plus. 

May 26, 2019

Noah Webster is best known for his ‘all-American’ dictionary, but in today's episode, we take a look at Webster's earlier works including The Grammatical Institute of the English Language and Dissertations on the English Language. In these works, Webster lays the groundwork for his future dictionary, revealing his political motivations for his spelling reforms and advocation of American English.

 

Be sure to go to www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/words to get a one-month free subscription to The Great Courses Plus!

May 5, 2019

‘OK’ is the most spoken and most written word in the entire world. It's such a fundamental part of modern communication that it's hard to imagine the world without it. But in spite of its ubiquity and compact versatility, ‘OK’ is under two hundred years old. Today's episode tells the story of the word's origins in 19th century America. If the leading theory is correct, then OK might just be the most successful inside joke of all time. 

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