What Makes for “Good Conversation”?

Slate's weekly roundtable.
Dec. 25 2013 10:00 AM

The Culture Gabfest “Abstract Nouns” Edition

Slate’s Culture Gabfest on how we talk: vocabulary, conversation, and voice.

Listen to Culture Gabfest No. 275 with Stephen Metcalf, Dana Stevens, and Julia Turner with the audio player below.

And join the lively conversation on the Culturefest Facebook page here:

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On this week’s experimental episode of the Culture Gabfest, the critics discuss the elements of language: vocabulary, conversation, and voice. In paroxysms of polysyllables, they invoke their favorite writers—and their least favorite linguistic tics—to probe the best and worst of the English language. Why should you eschew the word “eschew”? What does “shibboleth” really mean? And where is the line between a strong voice and self-parody?

Links to some of the things we discussed this week follow:

Endorsements:

Dana: The Sounding Joy, a collection of folk carols, collected by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and performed by Elizabeth Mitchell

Julia: Creating an iTunes playlist of all songs you’ve played more than 10 times and then shuffling them. You’ll rediscover old gems like “The Size of Our Love” by Sleater Kinney

Steve: The mind-bending “Monty Hall problem,” as described by Marilyn vos Savant in Parade Magazine.

You can email us at culturefest@slate.com.

This podcast was produced by Ann Heppermann. Our intern is Anna Shechtman.

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Stephen Metcalf is Slate's critic at large. He is working on a book about the 1980s.

Dana Stevens is Slate's movie critic.

Julia Turner is the editor in chief of Slate and a regular on Slate's Culture Gabfest podcast