Sunday, June 23, 2019

5 Podcasts for Logophiles (and Then Some)

Only in the last year have I begun swimming in the warm, infinite ocean of podcasts. And in that time I've found a handful of wonderful islands of wordy goodness. Here are my five favorites, plus a few others I also enjoy. Every logophile should check them out.

Talk the Talk
Recurrence: Weekly
Approx. podcast length: 45-60 minutes

Logo for Talk the Talk podcast
I only discovered this podcast last month, and it has quickly become my favorite logophilic indulgence. Talk the Talk is a weekly radio program about linguistics — with a heavy bent toward Australia's indigenous languages — on RTR-FM, a community radio station in Perth, Australia.

What makes this show so enjoyable are the three hosts' differing personalities — and accents — coming together over their love of and interest in language. The hosts are Daniel Midgely, a linguistics professor at the University of Western Australia and Edith Cowan University, who sounds like your average American national news anchor; Hedvig SkirgĂ„rd, a linguistics PhD candidate from Sweden who's studying at Australian National University; and Ben Ainslie, a media studies teacher in Perth whose accent is undeniably Australian.

Anything language-related is fair game with these folks, from current linguistic research and language preservation efforts to weird idioms (in English and Swedish) and new books. (Their recent interview with Jane Solomon, which veered from her children's book to sex really quickly, is a great place to start.)

Lexicon Valley
Recurrence: Fortnightly
Approx. podcast length: 45 minutes

Logo for Lexicon Valley
John McWhorter drops loads of linguistic goodness, etymological insight, show tunes, morphological minutiae, semantic sexiness, show tunes, and peach Jell-o. Did I write "show tunes" twice? Maybe I should put it in there again, because he peppers his show heavily with show tunes and songs from old Silver Screen musicals.But between all those songs, you'll learn something about our language that you didn't know.

McWhorter teaches linguistics at Columbia University, so he knows his stuff. He's also the author of a number of books on my to-be-read list, tomes with titles like Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English, The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language, and What Language Is (And What It Isn't and What It Could Be).

A Way with Words
Recurrence: Weekly
Approx. podcast length: 52 minutes

Logo for A Way with Words
This is the first podcast I ever followed. It's really the weekly radio show of the same name, which is probably available to you on your local NPR station. Since 2007, author/journalist Martha Barnette and linguist/lexicographer Grant Barrett have been sharing fun stories about weird words and answering listeners' questions about the things they hear other people say. This is the podcast for people interested in etymology and colloquialisms.

The topics are driven by listener questions, so you learn a lot about the way real people talk around the country, which can reveal the idiosyncrasies of your own idiolect. Plus, if you like word games (and who doesn't?), John Chaneski appears in the middle of every episode with some fun thinkers.

The Allusionist
Recurrence: Fortnightly
Approx. podcast length: 30 minutes
Boggle-alluding logo to The Allusionist

The Allusionist
is part of the Radiotopia collective of podcasts, and its host, Helen Zaltzman, takes on any topic even remotely related to language — novel reading and writing, dialects, etymology, onomastics, letter-writing, lexicography, and on and on — with aplomb, humor, and humanity. I only wish the episodes were longer.

Helen Zaltzman is smart, funny, and bursting with personality. If her podcast were about nineteenth-century farming technology, it would still, I'm sure, be a great listen. And as a straight-up vocabulary bonus, she ends every episode with a random word from the dictionary.

Fiat Lex
Frequency: Fortnightly (theoretically)
Approx. podcast length: 25-30 minutes

Logo for Fiat Lex podcast
Steve Kleinedler (executive editor of American Heritage Dictionaries) and Kory Stamper (former editor at Merriam-Webster and now, I guess, Khaleesi of the Great Lexical Sea) talk dictionaries and actually make it interesting and fun! Wanna learn how dictionaries are made? This is a good place to start. Wanna learn about how our mongrel English is kludged together from other languages? Have a seat. Wanna hear Kory Stamper mispronounce words she ought to know how to pronounce? Every episode.

The podcast began in May of 2018, and after their November episode, Stamper and Kleinedler took a break for the holidays. But a lot happened during that break, and these two lexicographers haven't been able to get back together to continue the podcast yet. It looks like they haven't given up on it, though, which is good news to their many fans who are waiting for more lexicological loveliness.

The Also-Rans

The Write-Minded Podcast: Brooke Warner of She Writes and Grant Faulkner of NaNoWriMo talk about the writing life, interview authors, and give encouragement to disciples of the word.
That's What They Say: A weekly segment from Michigan Radio in which University of Michigan English professor Anne Curzan tackles just one oddity of the English language. Each podcast is only about four and a half minutes long, so stop here for your quick quirk fix.
The History of English Podcast: At the opposite end from That's What They Say, THOEP is a fortnightly hour-long lecture from Kevin Stroud that really digs into details. How detailed does he get? At Episode 125, he's only just reached the first English Bible. This is the kind of podcast you have to give your full attention to, and listening to the whole series ought to be worth some college credit hours.
The World in Words: From Public Radio International, this well-produced podcast tackles, according to their website, "everything from bilingual education to the globalization of English to Icelandic insults." Unfortunately, this podcast might not have a future: They've posted only one new episode since last October. (But that's the good thing about the internet: You can still enjoy all the past episodes.)

So, dear readers, what other amazing language-related podcasts am I missing out on. Are there any specifically copyediting-related podcasts? (And if not, what would something like that even sound like?)