Lexicon Valley
Lexicon Valley

The Pronouning of Profanities

Words like f--- and sh-- are increasingly standing in for it and that.

May 29 2018 9:54 AMOne Tongue to Rule Them AllThe tantalizing prospect of a universal language.
May 1 2018 11:54 AMGetting to YesThe making of our compact, workaday affirmative.
April 3 2018 11:26 AMEnglish Spelling Is a Beautiful MessEnglish spelling is so frustratingly idiosyncratic. Here’s why.
March 6 2018 12:47 PMNo-Uh!On the rise of an exclamatory syllable in English.
Feb. 6 2018 10:05 AMWords, for HerOn the origin of woman, girl, and other lady terms.
Jan. 9 2018 11:32 AMThere Are Two N-WordsLike gangster and gangsta, nigger and nigga have become two distinct words.
Dec. 12 2017 10:00 AMAn Accidental SanctityBiblical scholar Mark Ward discusses his forthcoming book, Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible.
Nov. 14 2017 1:15 PMSometimes Just BecauseLanguage is often at the mercy of pure chance.
Oct. 17 2017 1:44 PMWhence Baby Mama?John McWhorter answers questions from Lexicon Valley listeners.
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.
May 15 2018 12:15 PMThe Art of the SpielA brief history of oratory from the Gilded Age to the era of Trump.
April 17 2018 1:35 PMThe Story of PThe 16th letter of our alphabet is a fancy little thing.
March 20 2018 12:22 PMDid the Founding Fathers Have a British Accent?What we know about what Washington, Franklin, and Hamilton may have sounded like.
Feb. 20 2018 2:22 PMThe Inner Workings of OutOn the rich complexities of a humble preposition.
Jan. 23 2018 1:32 PMWhat’s the Deal With Eleven?On the etymology and pronunciation of English numbers.
Dec. 27 2017 9:24 AMThe Thing Is IsThe problem is, is that we sometimes say is twice. Why?
Nov. 28 2017 11:36 AMThanksgiving MisnomersTurkey? Pumpkin? Squash? They’re all mistakes.
Oct. 31 2017 12:40 PMAgainst Strunk and WhiteIt’s time to permanently shelve The Elements of Style.
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.