Monthly Archives: April 2009

A dingo ate my language, a Latin mystery solved, and Comrade Fatso

The language that gave English the words dingo and boomerang has been extinct for more than a century. But that’s not stopping one Australian school from teaching it. A better known language that refuses to die, Latin, lives on in the dummy texts of book and web designers. But who wrote the most famous Latin dummy text? Also, the origins of the term swine flu and why some people aren’t happy with it.  Plus, the music and poetry of bilingual Zimbabwean Comrade Fatso.

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New pod: The CIA’s foreign language deficit, a linguistic fantasy island, and learning Hawaiian in song

Add this to the CIA‘s troubles: the agency is nowhere near multilingual enough. Despite urging from Congress and the 9/11 Commission, the CIA remains overwhelmingly English-only. Also, what Hollywood might make of one linguist’s social experiment: Derek Bickerton proposed marooning six families who spoke mutually incomprehensible languages on an uninhabitated island to see if they would create a new language. Should Hollywood be interested, author Michael Erard offers casting suggestions and a plot twist or two. Finally, Hawaiian language lessons from musician Keali’i Reichel.

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New podcast: Obama’s pirate talk, why you shoudn’t criticize Thailand’s king, and silly British pub names

In the political chaos that is Thailand today, there’s one thing that most Thais agree on: their king is untouchable.Now, the Thai government is using its lèse majesté law to prosecute anyone who criticizes the monarch. Also this week, recordings of American poets are added to a British archive, British pubs are being given slightly ridiculous new names, and Barack Obama’s confusing pirate policy. Listen in iTunes or here.

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A verbless North Korean song, the DMZ linguistic divide, and Obama learns a little Hungarian

Live! From the hermit kingdom! Yes, it’s a North Korea special. The Korean language, like everything else on the peninsula has split into two. Our report from inside North Korea features a song whose lyrics fixate on one thing: food. Then we take a look at the linguistic challenges facing North Korean refugees in South Korea. Finally, Barack Obama’s adventures in the wonderful world of Hungarian.

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pod #48: The meaning of yoga

To most people in the west, yoga means…yoga. No translation necessarily. It is a naturalized foreign word, and as with many foreign terms,  we appropriate it, and quickly forget – if we ever knew in the first place – what it actually means. A new film, Enlighten Up! explores yoga’s many meanings and manifestations in the United States. And then it goes in search of some kind of original meaning in India. We have an interview with the director and on-screen reporter/victim.

Also in this week’s podcast naughty French schoolboy, Le Petit Nicolas, turns 50. That’s just three years younger than French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is sometimes called Petit Nicolas. (Sarkozy is not a tall man.)

Finally the second part of my interview with Wikipedian Andrew Lih, whose book The Wikipedia Revolution is just out.  He argues that American politicos write many more manipulative wiki-articles than their Chinese counterparts. And he reveals why there is,  shockingly, no Wikipedia in Montenegrin.

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