Words for Granted is a podcast that looks at how words change over time. Each episode looks at the evolution of a single word. Host Ray Belli uses language—more specifically, individual words—to examine history, culture, society, religion, and more.
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This episode features a conversation I had with Kevin Stroud of the History of English Podcast at this year’s virtual Intelligent Speech conference. We discussed reasons why the history of the Proto Indo-Europeans – the linguistic ancestors of nearly half the world’s population – remains obscure to the general public. If you’re thinking racist, pseudoscientific
The idiom “red herring” is used to describe a distraction from the matter at hand. Literally, a “red herring” is a kipper––that is, a smoked and salted sliced fish––but why would such a fish become an expression for a distraction? In this episode, we debunk a popular myth surrounding the idiom’s etymology by close reading
Of all places, why do we put the “proof” in the “pudding?” Like many idioms whose origins date back several centuries, the connection between the literal and figurative meanings of “the proof is in the pudding” is no longer clear in Modern English. “The proof is in the pudding” is actually a shortened corruption of
In today’s episode, I talk with Simon Horobin, Oxford professor and author of “Bagels, Bumf and Buses: A Day in the Life of the English Language,” a book that explores the etymology of common words we encounter every day. In addition to discussing Simon’s latest book, we discuss a range of language topics including the
Lyceum is a new educational audio platform that curates, creates, and builds community around educational audio. You can find Words for Granted there as part of the curated “Words with Friends” collection and join the discussion room to chat with me and other listeners.
The etymology of “break a leg” is disputed, but some theories hold up better than others. In today’s episode, we look at a handful of plausible explanations for how “break a leg” became theater slang for “good luck” and also bust a few etymological myths surrounding the idiom. Today’s episode is brought to you by
As we all know, the idiomatic meaning of “apple of the eye” has nothing to do with apples. As it turns out, the origins of the idiom also have nothing to do with apples. In this episode, we look at how the English translation of an old Hebrew expression found in the Old Testament unintentionally
This episode begins a new series on the etymology of English idioms. In this general overview of idioms, we discuss why idioms are syntactically and semantically peculiar, how idioms emerge, how idioms fossilize archaic grammar, and more. Today’s episode is brought to you by Yabla. To try Yabla 15-day free trial of Yabla, click here.
This episode is brought to you by Yabla. Language immersion with authentic video. For your risk-free 15-day trial, sign up here. The word “cannibal” comes to us by way of a familiar historical figure: Christopher Columbus. The word is ultimately a Hispanicization of the name of an indigenous American group today known as the Caribs.
In common usage, a “philistine” is a derogatory term for an anti-intellectual materialist. The word derives from the ancient Middle Eastern Philistines, a people best known as an early geopolitical enemy of the Israelites in the Hebrew Bible. The historical Philistines were far from “philistines” (note the lowercase P). The circumstance by which the latter
As a common noun, “bohemian” describes an artistic, carefree lifestyle usually marked by poverty and unorthodoxy. The word is borrowed from “Bohemia,” a region in the modern Czech Republic, but its semantic connection to actual Czechs is nearly nonexistent. In this episode, we trace the long history of “Bohemian” from its origins as an ancient
As someone who came of age during the late 90’s, my first encounter with the word “gothic” was through alternative music and fashion. However, the word was originally the name of a Germanic tribe most famous for sacking the Roman Empire. The journey of the word “goth” through the last two millennia is a classic
In today’s episode, I interview Steve Kaufmann. Steve is a polyglot and founder of LingQ, an online language learning platform. He also hosts a popular language learning Youtube channel under the name LingoSteve. Our conversation covers a range of language-related topics such as language learning myths, language learning tips, and the relationship between language and
In Old English, the word “wife” meant “woman.” In fact, the word “woman” derives from the word “wife!” Today’s episode is not only an exploration of the word “wife,” but also a deep-dive into handful of woman-related words whose etymologies and usages share a confusing, intertwined history. We also try to solve the mystery of