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

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

Creative Commons License
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.

This is the archive blog and feed for The Word Nerds, a weekly podcast about language.

If you want access to podcasts published before April 1, 2006, this is the place to be. You can subscribe to this archive feed by using the appropriate buttons in the right-hand navigation column.

To subscribe to current and new podcasts of The Word Nerds, please go to
Category:blog -- posted at: 11:54pm EDT

...all you have to do is to subscribe to this RSS feed:

If you have iTunes, just grab that URL by right-clicking (or control-clicking, if you have a Macintosh). Then go into your iTunes, and under the Advanced menu select Subscribe to podcast... Paste that URL into the box, and you're done!

The feed of archived shows will also be called The Word Nerds, so you'll want to just pay attention to program numbers to keep the two feeds straight in your aggregator.
Category:blog -- posted at: 5:24am EDT

Dave Shepherd announces changes to The Word Nerds' blog and feed, which will take place this weekend. The web address for The Word Nerds will remain, and the feed address is now

This may mean duplicate downloads for editions of TWN that you have already received from April and May 2006. You can correct this on your end by changing the settings in your podcatcher software so that you are receiving only the most recent episodes of podcasts, not all episodes.

If, despite this, you still receive duplicate downloads, I apologize. After this weekend (5/27/06) you should only get one copy of each show through our feed.

Cross your fingers! Let's hope this works! This will mean a more accessible comment function on our blog, as well as a bulletin-board-style forum in coming weeks.

time: 3:22
size: 2.4 Mb
Direct download: TWN-2006-05-23.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:14pm EDT

Dave Shepherd welcomes back the North Carolina Nerd, Howard Shepherd, who is home from his travels to Denmark. Dave and Howard respond to several voicemails and emails about ePrime and puns. (1:55)

Howard shares his memories of his trip with his students to Hobro Gymnasium in Denmark. (8:53)

Revisiting our show on Insidious Idioms, we explain our categories of idiomatic distinctions: national, regional, and socio-economic class differences. (11:36)

Music bumper from by "Make Me Understand" by Matt Thorpe (15:07)

International textures: expressing the same idea in different languages, and the perils of mistaken translation (15:43)

Song: "Fill Me In," by Hollins Steele (21:42)

Rude word of the week: "pot to piss in" (25:41)

Music bumper from "Dancing Cow" by Liquid Floor (27:25)

Variations of idioms by class and region (28:06)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 36:45
size: 25.3 Mb

rating: PG-13 (We discuss some amusing mis-translations of American idioms, some of which have sexual implications in other countries and languages.)

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Direct download: TWN-20006-05-20.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:18am EDT

Dave Shepherd and Howard Chang talk about environments in which we communicate without using any words: elevators, restrooms, automobiles, interviews (1:59)

Music bumper from "Jona Lee" by Roomful of Blues (12:32)

Non-verbal communication in romance, sports, and the classroom (12:51)

Music and dance (19:19)

Song: "There Ain't No Words," by Harrison Kennedy (22:08)

Rude word of the week: "dumb" (25:43)

Music bumper from "Flag of Democracy" by Ernie Van Veen (28:09)

Posture, body language, and gesture: making a good (or bad) impression without words (28:34)

Substitutes for body language in the cyberworld (32:22)

People who like to talk with gestures (33:11)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat

Closing music from "Grapes" by Evan Stone

time: 37:50
size: 26 Mb

rating: PG-13 (We discuss the etiquette of the men's room, as well as the sexual implications of social dancing.)

Tags: ,
Direct download: TWN-2006-05-13.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:04pm EDT

Another blog update

We just learned from Apple Computer that The Word Nerds will be featured as a "splash" on the front page of the iTunes Music Store for about a week.

We are very happy to have this extra promotional push by Apple, and we expect this will mean a lot of new listeners and members of the Nerdly Community within the next week.

As I said in my previous post, I was planning sometime this week to switch the Word Nerds blog over to a separate server and start using WordPress to publish the blog and the podcast feed.

However, since this move could cause our web presence to disappear for a day or two, I think it is probably prudent to hold off on that migration for another week or so. I don't want new listeners to be see our logo prominently featured in the iTunes Music Store and then have absolutely nothing happen when they try to subscribe to the podcast (due to a one-day interruption).

Therefore, the migration to WordPress will probably take place sometime around the weekend of May 20. If you are a regular subscriber and you don't find a new edition of TWN in your podcatcher early that weekend, it means only that we are moving some things around, nothing more.

Thank you for your patience and understanding. We're not going away; we're just trying to improve our look.


Category:blog -- posted at: 3:36pm EDT

The Word Nerds will be making some changes to our blog setup sometime in the next week. (This means sometime between May 9 and May 16.)

While we will continue to have our podcast audio files hosted by our favorite podcast hosting company, Liberated Syndication, we will be moving the blog and feed portion of the podcast to a separate server account. We will be creating our blog posts and podcast feed with WordPress software.

What this means to listeners is this: our blog will have a more refined look and feel, and visually impaired listeners will be able to fully participate in comment discussions. Because of the LibSyn spam-protection scheme, blind and visually impaired listeners cannot now post comments, because the spam-protection mechanism requires reading and re-typing numbers from an on-screen image.

We also plan to install a bulletin-board style forum to make our discussions more open-ended. Listeners will be able to initiate threads of discussion on their own. This will appear sometime in the next month.

If you are a subscriber, you should not have to change anything. There may be a brief interruption in the website, but this should not last more than about a day. Regular subscribers may notice that a few recent editions of The Word Nerds are downloaded twice. We apologize for this, but hope that the inconvenience is not too great.

In any event, our existing podcast blog will continue to be available at We will link to archives of our older shows, but these older editions will not continue to show up in the new feed.

Thanks for your understanding and for your continued participation in our podcast conversation.


Category:blog -- posted at: 11:17am EDT

Hearing Howard Chang talk about “homophone creep? (a term that I like very much) made me think of the problem that I encounter every year when reading Hamlet. At one point in the play, either Rosencranz or Guildenstern uses the expression “niggard of question…? Invariably, the student who is reading that part pronounces the word as “ni-GARD,? because s/he is unwilling to say “NIG-gerd.?

We do tend to be very sensitive to “the N-word.? Sometimes I think that it is the only taboo word left in the English language. Yet the modern history of terminologies for people of African ancestry is confusing. Martin Luther King, in the 1950’s and 1960’s, used to refer to the struggles of “the Negro.? (Malcolm X referred to “the so-called Negro.?) When I was in high school in the early 1970’s, the term “black? (which is the most commonly accepted neutral term nowadays) was actually the beginning of a phrase which was much more hurtful than “------;? namely, “black son of a bitch.? Only recently has “black? begun to reclaim its place from “African-American? as the most common accepted term for a person of African heritage.

It’s difficult even to write about this topic, because it’s difficult to talk about race in America. We are all self-conscious about it—and that results in some occasionally tortuous attempts at political correctness. I remember once hearing someone (I think it was a liberal politician, but I’m not sure), while trying to distinguish a black African from a white African, refer to the person in question as an “African-American African.?

In a recent podcast about puns, I told a joke that may have been perceived by some as mildly racist. The term “squaw? has been misunderstood by some to be etymologically related to a prostitute, or a woman’s genitals (the etymology is actually neutral, from a Narraganset word meaning simply “woman?). I knew that, but I told the joke because it contained three different puns in the punchline—a pun on the word “square,? one on the word “sides,? and one on the word “hypotenuse.? I realized right after telling it that some listeners might be uncomfortable with the term “squaw,? even though it is not originally an epithet. If I had it to do again, I probably would have chosen a less politically charged joke.

—Howard Shepherd

Category:blog -- posted at: 11:52am EDT

Dave Shepherd and Howard Chang welcome a voicemail on the Nerd Number from Hillary Israeli, on modern Hebrew as an invented language. (2:06)

Dave and Howard discuss racial labels and epithets, and the boundaries of acceptability. (4:35)

Music bumper from "Nada" by Jaime Beauchamp (16:24)

Race and identity: what is "race"? (17:01)

Song: "Black Madonna," by Sophia Ramos (25:54)

Rude word of the week: "halfbreed" (29:06)

Music bumper from "Meant to Be" by Rob Costlow (31:52)

Race, ethnicity, and diversity in American English (32:29)

The legal language of race and ethnicity (33:43)

Ethnic labels as names for sports teams (35:00)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat

Closing music from "Grapes" by Evan Stone

time: 39:57
size: 27.4 Mb

rating: R (We explore many aspects of race and speech, including many of the most hurtful and belittling racial epithets in modern American English.)

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Direct download: TWN-2006-04-29.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:54pm EDT

Dave Shepherd and Howard Shepherd respond to a voicemail from Chad at Me and the Bean about the secret girl language. (1:58)

Dave and Howard explore several different sorts of puns. (4:18)

Music bumper from "Nada" by Jaime Beauchamp (11:26)

Some serious puns (12:11)

Song: "Absinthe Minded," by Adrienne Pierce (16:03)

Rude word of the week: "dullard" (as in somebody who just doesn't get puns) (19:03)

Music bumper from "Driving Song" by Bob Hughes (22:01)

Bilingual puns (22:40)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 28:19
size: 19.5 Mb

rating: PG (Puns often have double or triple meanings. Our song celebrates a rather infamous alcoholic drink.)

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Direct download: TWN-2006-04-22.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:00am EDT

Barbara Shepherd returns for the second week as a guest Nerd. She and Dave Shepherd respond to an email from Fred Chalfant about Barbara's grandmother's name. (2:52)

Dave and Barbara, who are both musicians, talk about the importance of music in their lives. (4:23)

Music bumper from "Tonight" by Zach Ashton (9:11)

What music does to language: poetry, songs, musical theater, education (9:38)

Song: "Singing to Me," by Robin Stine (14:39)

Rude word of the week: "tone deaf" (18:09)

Promo for The Sound of Young America (21:23)

The special language of music: re-purposed words in English and musical vocabulary in Italian (22:04)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 31:04
size: 21.3 Mb

rating: G (We talk about singing to our children when they were very young. Aw! Isn't that sweet?)

Categories: , , ,

Direct download: TWN-2006-04-15.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:30am EDT

Since Howard Shepherd and Howard Chang are both travelling the world, Dave Shepherd welcomes a special guest Nerd, Barbara Shepherd (the Love of His Life). (1:57)

Dave and Barbara talk about their favorite new podcast, Washington Travel Cast, produced by their good friends, Julie and Mark. Join Julie and Mark on podcast walking tours of Washington DC and the surrounding area. (2:46)

Dave and Barbara respond to audio feedback from Jenny B. with a mondegreen from childhood. We follow up by quoting a great Word Nerds mondegreen, experienced by Carrie and originally mentioned in a comment thread. (4:00)

Dave and Barbara, both Baby Boomers, talk about how their generation has shaped language. (6:55)

Music bumper from by 'Telepop' by The Jerrys (10:09)

Being children, grandchildren, and parents: how these relationships color our perception of language (10:44)

Song: '21 Years,' by 77 South (18:11)

Rude word of the week: 'square' (21:40)

Music bumper from "Essence" by Evan Stone (25:08)

Trend-watching: Barbara talks about trends that may have an impact on language and culture. (25:31)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 32:00
size: 22 Mb

rating: PG (In our Rude Word segment we make passing reference to a marijuana cigarette, but otherwise it's squeaky-clean.)

Categories: , ,

Direct download: TWN-2006-04-08.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:04pm EDT

Dave Shepherd welcomes Adam Curry, Ashley Simpson, and Howard Stern to the Word Nerds' studio. APRIL FOOLS! Just kidding! It's really Dave and Howard Chang.

Dave and Howard respond to voicemail from Patrick regarding the Rude Word of the Week. (1:59)

On April Fools Day, Dave and Howard explore the relationship of language to deception and humor. Dave presents a mental deception he learned from Frank Freer, the late magic dealer in Berlin. (4:06)

The trickster in myth; deception and theatrical performance (10:25)

Music bumper from by "Had Me Fooled" by The Defibulators (15:12)

Dave's magic teacher, Jamy Ian Swiss, is the Honest Liar. (15:57)

Con games, hustles, deception in sales, and the Nigerian Prince email scam (16:52)

Song: "I Don't Wanna Lie," by Beatrice Ericsson (25:57)

Rude word of the week: "quack" (29:30)

Music bumper from "Just Looking" by The Jerrys (31:07)

Official and public deceptions: wagging the dog, and the "War Magician" (31:37)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat

Closing music from "Grapes" by Evan Stone

time: 38:39
size: 26.5 Mb

rating: PG (Howard's discussion of the trickster in mythology is briefly just slightly violent; otherwise this show is kid-safe.)

Categories: , ,

Direct download: TWN-2006-04-01.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:14pm EDT

Dave Shepherd revisits a couple of blend-word examples we overlooked last week: "celebutante" and "ruinion." (Thanks to Hillary Israeli.) (1:56)

Dave and Howard Shepherd discuss the challenges of trying to remain non-commercial for one year. Our anniversary was the day we recorded this show, March 21, 2006. (2:56)

Dave and Howard explore the realm of invented languages--languages artificially constructed for specific purposes. (Thanks to Kevin Thomas and Alexandre Enkerli for the topic suggestion.) (4:34)

Language that limits:

  • Parental code (8:24)
  • The created sub-languages of childhood (9:44)
  • Pig Latin (10:33)
  • Javanais (11:44)
  • Verlan (12:16)
Music bumper from "Telepop" by The Jerrys (13:26)


  • Morse code, building codes, speech codes and double-talk (14:59)
  • Cryptology, shortwave number-code stations (16:28)
  • The Navajo "Code-Talkers" from World War II (18:03)
Song: 'Code' by Brooks Newton (18:39)

Rude word of the week: "Donald Trump" (an example of Cockney rhyming slang, based on the name of the famous American tycoon and television reality-show star) (23:42)

Music bumper from "Trifle 3" by Fuzzy Logic (25:02)

Language that expands:

  • Fantasy languages: Elvish, Klingon (25:56)
  • Esperanto (27:05)
  • E-Prime (29:48)
Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network and

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 33:14
size: 22.9 Mb

rating: PG (Our Rude Word alludes to a mildly rude word for defecation.)

Categories: ,

Direct download: TWN-2006-03-25.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:54am EDT

Dave Shepherd and Howard Chang respond to voicemail from Paul of The PK and J Show, who has a word-usage question about 'beside' and 'besides.' (1:53)

Dave and Howard discuss the formation of blend words, popularly known as 'portmanteau words,' and their effect on language change. (5:06)

What are 'good' (effective) and 'bad' (non-effective) blends? (8:20)

Music bumper from by 'Stitch Together' by Adam Boucher (14:39)

Blends that promote convenience and utility of of speech (15:05)

Clips and clip-blends (21:33)

Song: 'Brunching Britney and the Homeboy,' by PC Muñoz (24:40)

Blend words from advertising and marketing (29:00)

Rude word of the week: 'shart' (31:11)

Music bumper from 'Court of Greedy Kings' by Val Davis (32:46)

Whimsical blends and awkward, forced blends (33:03)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat

Closing music from 'Grapes' by Evan Stone

time: 38:11
size: 26.3 Mb

rating: PG (We manage to define our Rude Word without being rude at all.)

Categories: ,

Direct download: TWN-2006-03-18.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:21pm EDT

Dave Shepherd and Howard Shepherd respond to voicemail from Art in Vermont about a 'computer-generated' mondegreen. (1:53)

Dave and Howard explore the '-nym' words of linguistics: terms used to categorize types of words. Our title this week is based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail. There is great footage of an interview with the Pythons, just before the American release of Holy Grail, on The Sound of Young America. (3:12)

  • Homonyms (both homophones and homographs) (4:36)
Music bumper from 'Trifle 3' by Fuzzy Logic (10:28)

  • Synonyms (10:58)
  • Antonyms (14:10)
  • Contronyms, also known as auto-antonyms (16:19)
Song: 'Homonym' by Foolish Fortune (18:30)

Rude word of the week: 'snafu' (an acronym) (23:03)

Music bumper from 'Baja Taxi' by Brain Buckit (26:26)

A request by Annik Rubens for votes at Help select a recognizable badge or logo for podcast listeners. (27:01)

  • Retronyms: a flash from the past (27:40)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network and

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 34:54
size: 23.9 Mb

rating: R (Our Rude Word segment contains the 'F-bomb' several times. We also talk about Woody's World of Penis Euphemisms in our Synonyms segment.)

Categories: ,

Direct download: TWN-2006-03-11.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:27am EDT

Dave Shepherd and Howard Chang explore the language of the locker-room, the emerging way young people talk about each other as sexual beings. (1:55)

Song: 'There She Goes' by Brother Love (15:39)

'What's your sign?' and other pickup lines (20:21)

Rude word of the week: 'one-night stand' (26:02)

Song 'Tonight,' by Zach Ashton (27:47)

Flirtation: kinder, gentler, more sincere than pickup lines? (31:28)

Flirtation and the performance of close-up magic (33:22)

Please share with us your experiences with pickup lines and flirtation. (35:57)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat

Closing music from 'Grapes' by Evan Stone

time: 38:23
size: 26.3 Mb

rating: R (We discuss the way adolescents and adults talk about sex.)

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Direct download: TWN-2006-03-04.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:10am EDT

Dave Shepherd and Howard Shepherd play a voicemail response to Howard's recent rap of Beowulf. (2:29)

Howard and Dave discuss speech flubs: malapropisms, spoonerisms, mondegreens, and shibboleths. (Mondegreens are celebrated by Amanda, the Bean of Me and the Bean.) (3:45)

Music bumper from 'Jona Lee' by Roomful of Blues (17:18)

Spoonerisms--funny sound transpositions (17:37)

Song: 'Fairest of the Mall' by Griddle (19:27)

Rude word of the week: 'bass-ackwards' (21:57)

Music bumper from 'Tonight,' by Zach Ashton (24:01)

Shibboleths--'pronunciation passwords' (24:30)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 31:43
size: 21.8 Mb

rating: PG (Nothing much ruder than our Rude Word this week--but you wouldn't want your six-year-old to talk like this, probably.)

Categories: ,

Direct download: TWN-2006-02-25.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:10am EDT

The History of Our Podcast (50) Dave Shepherd, Howard Chang, and Howard Shepherd look back on how this podcast got started. (Warning: navel-gazing alert!) (2:09)

We give a glimpse behind the scenes: how we prepare a show during our 'Nerd Nosh.' (12:36)

Music bumper from 'History Repeats' by Jay Snyder (14:20)

Our worldwide audience and their nerdy interests (14:44)

How we do it: our technical setup, and our usual work-plan for a show (16:50)

We do it for free? Well, yes, but... We would accept your donations, and we might even take a sponsor sometime. (24:06)

Music bumper from 'Lost in History' by Real Smash (25:58)

Rude word of the week: 'sellout' (26:24)

Song: 'Repeat History,' by Jeremy Robinson (28:08)

Where are we going? Our musings about this show's future (30:56)

(We promise we will get back to talking about words next week, honest!)

Music courtesy of

Time: 36:33
Size: 25.1 Mb

Photo of the Word Nerds in the studio by Barbara Shepherd

Rating: PG (Never really rude; a couple of off-hand mild vulgarities)

Categories: , ,

Direct download: TWN-2006-02-18.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:31am EDT

Dave Shepherd plays the first feedback we've received on the new Nerd Number, about our show on onomotapoeia (2:45)

Dave and Howard Chang explore words and metaphors describing systems of governance and polity. Each of them reads a poem about the ship of state. (4:01)

Music bumper from 'Court of Greedy Kings,' by Val Davis (10:02)

Governance, the governator, and other words about those who govern (10:17)

Song: 'Peace Wins the Election' by Maria Daines (19:38)

Rude word of the week: 'tyrant' (23:15)

Music bumper from 'Necessary Rain,' by Emile Westergaard (29:02)

Forms of government and words to describe them (29:34)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat

Closing music from 'Grapes' by Evan Stone.

time: 35:47
size: 16.4 Mb

rating: G (We hope people of all ages will learn about their government, wherever they are.)

Categories: , ,

Direct download: TWN-2006-02-11.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:19pm EDT

Dave Shepherd and Howard Shepherd talk about rhythm and the significance of language cadence. (1:58)

Rhythm in the 'frozen register' (a term we picked up from Prof. Cheryl Carter) (3:33)

Song: 'Rhythm Hymn,' by The Franks (9:44)

Rhythm as a mnemonic device. We recall 'A Prayer of St. Chrysotom,' not having heard it in over 20 years. (14:51)

Music bumper from 'Move to my Beat' by Cool Cluster (17:27)

Rude word of the week: 'stumblebum' (18:04)

Song: 'Back Beat Rhythm,' by Los Blancos (20:38)

Rhythm as a social skill. Howard gangsta-raps the introduction to Beowulf (24:52)

Music courtesy of

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 28:48
size: 13.2 Mb

rating: PG (Oops! We just discovered that our first song has a rude word for 'poop' in it--twice! Otherwise this is an innocuous show this week.)

Categories: ,

Direct download: TWN-2006-02-04.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:51am EDT

Dave Shepherd explains why we have a new Nerd Number (206-600-NERD). For the next couple weeks you'll hear two different numbers mentioned in alternating shows, since we pre-recorded several shows before switching phone numbers. (1:52)

Dave Shepherd and Howard Chang talk about the weather without doing anything about it. (This is a reference to a quote from Mark Twain.) (2:16)

Song: 'Rainfall,' by Hungry Lucy (7:28)

Weather metaphors (11:20)

Dave talks about the play Alle Wetter (Thunderation) by Erich Mühsam (18:45)

Music bumper from 'Necessary Rain' by Emile Westergaard (20:29)

Rude word of the week: 'fair-weather friend' (21:01)

Song: 'Pray for Rain,' by Allison Crowe (23:36)

Ways of describing the weather (27:55)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 34:55
size: 16 Mb

rating: G (Schoolchildren everywhere are waiting for snow--or even wintry mix.)

Categories: , , ,

Direct download: TWN-2006-01-28.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:49am EDT

Dave Shepherd and Howard Shepherd get a buzz out of talking about onomatopoeia. (Did I spell that right?) (1:52)

Song: 'Crash Bang Boom!' by Ellen Rosner (5:48)

Animal sounds around the world (source: Sounds of the World's Animals website) (8:07)

Music bumper from 'Small Thuds in the Night' by Happy Ashtray (12:22)

Rude word of the week: the Bronx cheer (which we can't really spell out) (13:05)

Song: 'The Buzz is Over,' by Macle (15:05)

Other examples of 'word music' (18:54)

  • Alliteration
  • Assonance
  • Consonance
  • Rhyme
  • Phonetic intensives

Howard reads 'Meeting at Night,' by Robert Browning (21:48)

Music courtesy of

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 24:47
size: 11.4 Mb

rating: G (Onomatopoeia is really a kid's thing. We say 'fart' in our Rude Word segment, but that's as rude as it gets.)

Direct download: TWN-2006-01-21.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:38pm EDT

A short plea for help, suggestions, support for the Online Etymology Dictionary, maintained as a labor of love by Douglas Harper, and falling victim to its own success.

time: 2:27
size: 2.3 Mb

Direct download: TWN-2006-01-16.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:27pm EDT

Dave Shepherd, Howard Shepherd, and Howard Chang share some of their favorite words--words that Word Nerds would like. (1:57)

Words whose sounds we like (2:57)

  • wlonk
  • humuhumunukunukuapua'a
  • aglet
'SAT words'--words every smart high school student should know. (6:53)
  • indefatigable
  • benevolent
  • malevolent
Song: 'Certain Words in Uncertain Times,' by This Providence (8:45)

Words whose etymologies interest us (11:56)

  • helicopter
  • dactyl
Music bumper from 'The Helicopter' by Boblex (13:47)

Rude word of the week: 'sycophant' (14:22)

Song: 'Favorite Song,' by Tony Rodd (17:27)

Just some more cool words we like (21:29)

  • apheresis/aphæresis
  • time
  • anthropomorphic
Please share your favorite words with us here on the website, in the comments section. Or leave a voicemail on our new and improved Nerd Number, 206-600-NERD (206-600-6373).

Music courtesy of

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 27:52
size: Mb

rating: PG (The Rude Word segment has a couple fairly rude synonyms for 'sycophant.')

Direct download: TWN-2006-01-14.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:54am EDT

Howard Shepherd and Dave Shepherd introduce a voicemail from Jeff in Houston, Texas, on the infrequency of Christmas (1:56)

Howard and Dave make a conceptual leap by exploring metaphor and metonymy. (3:25)

Song: 'Similar,' by Erich Specht (11:34)

Promo for Will and Iris (14:49)

The development of metaphor in linguistic maturity (15:13)

Music bumper from 'Like Shine' by Likeshine (17:17)

Rude word of the week: 'asshole' (17:43)

Song: 'Like Tears in Rain,' by P.W. Fenton and The Second Ward (19:45)

Visual metonymy and metonymic gesture in film (22:55)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network and

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 28:17
size: 13 Mb

rating: PG-13 (Our Rude Word is one you wouldn't say to your mother, really.)

Direct download: TWN-2006-01-07.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:04am EDT