Lexicon Valley
Lexicon Valley

Whence Baby Mama?

John McWhorter answers questions from Lexicon Valley listeners.

Oct. 3 2017 12:55 PMEste No Es Parqueo: A Brief Ode to SpanishAn infelicitous parking job inspires musings on the Spanish language.
Sept. 5 2017 1:13 PMDo Languages Simplify Over Time?Old English was arguably more complicated than Modern English. Is that true of all languages?
Aug. 8 2017 2:31 PMNew Life for Dying LanguagesThe Language Conservancy’s Wil Meya discusses the effort to revive Native American languages.
July 11 2017 12:33 PMWhy Do Languages Have Contractions?An explanation for our love of shrinkage.
June 13 2017 1:36 PMIs There a Jewish Way of Talking?Interrupting the hosts of Unorthodox to discuss hallmarks and stereotypes of Jewish communication style.
May 16 2017 12:47 PMThat’s Not a Word, Is It?John McWhorter discusses the near-futile impulse to determine what is, and what is not, a word.
April 18 2017 3:36 PMThe Euphemism TreadmillThe evolution from crippled to handicapped to differently abled—and why no such term is likely to stick around long.
March 21 2017 4:31 PM1930s American English Was Profane, Parochial, and ProvincialJohn McWhorter time-travels to 1930 and eavesdrops on American English.
Jan. 24 2017 12:04 PMWhat Had Happened Was StorytellingJohn McWhorter discusses the subject of his new book, Talking Back, Talking Black: Truths About America's Lingua Franca.
Dec. 27 2016 1:10 PMAway in a Penthouse, the Little Lord JesusWhen hath gave way to has, the original meaning of merry, and other insights from popular Christmas carols.
Nov. 30 2016 12:03 PMBlack Like UsAre the slang, sounds, and syntax of black English a kind of lingua franca for America’s youth?
Nov. 1 2016 3:18 PMWhither Didst Thou Go?How our rich and complex system of second-person pronouns got whittled down to just you.
Oct. 4 2016 12:03 PMBilly and Me Went to the Store. Deal With It.What do the intricacies of the future tense tell us about the unwritten rules of pronouns?
Sept. 6 2016 5:06 PMHickory Dickory Dock: The Invisible Language of Nursery RhymesJohn McWhorter makes linguistic sense of seemingly arbitrary children’s verse.
Aug. 8 2016 3:33 PMShould Shakespeare Get a Modern-English Update?John McWhorter talks with author Jack Lynch about the sacrilege of modified Shakespeare.
Sept. 19 2017 11:17 AMFrom Pidgins to CreolesWhen languages collide and creoles are born.
Aug. 22 2017 10:27 AMDid Cavebabies Say Mama and Papa?Languages across the world developed similar words for mom and dad. How is that possible?
July 25 2017 1:01 PMIn the NegativeJohn McWhorter on the history and evolution of no and not.
June 27 2017 11:47 AMThe Eccentric Irregularity of BeingThe enduring unusualness of the verb to be.
May 30 2017 4:18 PMMining Graffiti for SlangJohn McWhorter talks to Ben Zimmer about the Vietnam Graffiti Project and other slangy topics.
May 2 2017 2:02 PMThe Language of Female FriendshipsJohn McWhorter discusses communication styles with linguist Deborah Tannen.
April 4 2017 1:31 PMHeyo, Let’s Talk About HamiltonJohn McWhorter talks to linguist Neal Whitman about the mashup of hey and yo.
Feb. 7 2017 1:05 PMLike, Why Do We Use Like So Much?John McWhorter talks to sociolinguist Alexandra D’Arcy about the spike in our use of like.
Jan. 10 2017 1:13 PMWhy We Stopped Teaching Children How to ReadMark Seidenberg, author of Language at the Speed of Sight, discusses the fallout from the reading wars.
Dec. 13 2016 3:33 PMWhat The Wizard of Oz Can Tell Us About ArrivalIn Arrival, Amy Adams plays a linguist who discovers that language can radically alter a person’s perception of reality. But is that true?
Nov. 15 2016 2:00 PMLanguage Lessons of Past PresidentsWhat can we learn about English from Bill Clinton, the two Bushes, and other leaders of the free world?
Oct. 18 2016 3:55 PMWhy Do People in Old Movies Talk Like That?What Bette Davis, FDR, and Ralph Kramden have in common when it comes to speech.
Sept. 20 2016 1:26 PMWhat Is a Dictionary, Really?John Simpson, former editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, talks about life as a lexicographer.
Aug. 23 2016 2:20 PMWord SexHow words hook up and make new ones.
July 26 2016 2:13 PMAre Emojis a Language?Gretchen McCulloch talks to John McWhorter about the big meaning behind our favorite little pictograms.

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