The Word Nerds: A Weekly Podcast About Words, Language, and Why We Say the Things We Do

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April 2005
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copyright © 2005, 2006 by Dave Shepherd, Howard Shepherd, and Howard Chang

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Unless otherwise specifically attributed, all original work in this site and feed (including all audio files, web pages, and images) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 2.5 License.

Dave responds to a query from Dreadful Snake Radio about the word 'grim.' (1:40)

Dave and Howard Shepherd talk about technological neologisms such as 'iPod' and 'firmware.' (5:00)

Rude word of the week: 'crap' (15:40)

Howard and Dave share some favorite abbreviations and obfuscatory acronyms. (23:40)

'Boom Boom,' by Loren Schulte (12:16)
'How I Feel Around You,' by Violaine (20:07)

time: 29:59
size: 27.5 Mb

Direct download: TWN-2005-04-30.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:38am EDT

Howard Chang and Dave Shepherd discuss the power of names, nicknames, and pet names. (1:33)

Rude word of the week: 'no-name' (17:15)

Howard Shepherd talks about names and religion, naming in Shakespeare, and patronymics. (23:23)

Howard C. and Dave talk about parents naming children. (27:15)

'Morse Co-Ed,' by Flip City (12:08)
'Orphan,' by Loni Rose (19:24)

time: 30:57
size: 28.3 Mb

Direct download: TWN-2005-04-23.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:51pm EDT

Musings from Howard Shepherd (North Carolina Nerd):

So I'm lying on my bed (in the historical present tense), resting and listening to the most recent Word Nerds podcast, and my mind starts wandering. I start thinking about revolutions in communication--from the invention of the alphabet and the development of writing, to the printing press, to the development of mass media such as radio and TV, and then to the internet.

And finally, to podcasting.

And that's when a word crosses my mind: 'samizdat.' I found myself remembering my summer of 1987 at Princeton, when I did an NEH seminar with John Fleming, then English department chairman. John Fleming had a hand-operated printing press in his house, and he and his wife had a little cottage industry. In a time when small publishers were consolidating willy-nilly, John represented an important movement in publishing: a trend toward very specialized, focused, small-scale publishing.

I realized that at a time of great electronic media consolidation (analogous to the print media consolidation of the 1980's), podcasting is filling the same kind of niche. We podcasters are an example of self-publishers that keep the world of ideas vibrant.

In other words, we are engaged in samizdat--a great Russian contraction from 'samo' (self) and 'izdatyel' (publishing).

Anyway, I thought the word 'samizdat' was both รก propos and interesting, and I thought I'd pass it on.

Category:general -- posted at: 5:30am EDT

(From now on, the time position of segments within the podcast will be indicated in the shownotes.)

Dave explains Podcast Alley voting (1:34).

Favorite Washington obfuscation of the week: Investigation of Department of Education's paying a commentator to sell administration policy (4:35).

Dave discusses Geoff Nunberg's book, The Way We Talk Now (15:02).

Music: 'Precious Time,' by Chip Greene (10:45).

Time: 20:37
Size: 18.9 Mb
Direct download: TWN-2005-04-16.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:39pm EDT

Dave and Howard Chang discuss some English (and German and Latin) words that seem to be inherently sexist.

Dave went to the theatre on Sunday, and he and Howard discuss Shakespeare's The Tempest and what it says about language and humanity.

Rude word of the week: 'bitch'

'Sweet Sugar Mama,' by Kevin Mark
'Thinking You Over,' by Melissa Forbes

Time: 28:49
Size: 26.4 Mb
Direct download: TWN-2005-04-11.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:23pm EDT

Dave talks about podcasting, does a meta-explication of both this podcast and the words 'explication' and 'explanation,' and plays the theme song in its entirety. The cherry trees are in bloom in Washington, DC.

Music: 'Blow Me' by Kick the Cat

Time: 17:21
Size: 15.8 Mb
Direct download: TWN-2005-04-09.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:23pm EDT

In the last podcast, I neglected to mention (because of the timing of recording) that it was Victoria who clued me in on the term 'lost positives.' She also pointed me to a 51-year-old article in Time that talked about the same thing. I don't feel so bad about overlooking this concept, even with a graduate minor in linguistics from Vanderbilt, if one has to reach back 51 years to find a popular-journalism reference to this idea! Dave
Category:general -- posted at: 1:11pm EDT

Dave explains podcasting to the non-podcasting-initiated.

Howard S. and Dave explore several lost positives.

An extremely cool song is played.

Rude word of the week: 'schmuck'

Dave muses on the function of slang.

Music: 'Blue Bird Tattoo' by Circe Link

time: 28:11
size: 25.8 Mb
Direct download: TWN-4-3-2005.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:05pm EDT