Anne Curzan is a linguist. Currently, she is a professor at the University of Michigan and a member of the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel Curzan co-hosts of Michigan Public Radio's "That's What They Say." She writes for The Chronicle of Higher Education's language blog, "Lingua Franca." Curzan has taught courses at the Universities of Michigan and of Washington, in English, the history of English, language and gender, and the politics of language authority. Her research focuses on the history of English. She has written several books, including textbooks and general interest books, on the English language. Curzan received her B.A. in linguistics from Yale University, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan.
Auto-antonyms are words that can hold two, generally opposite, meanings at the same time. Once you know what they are, you’ll start to see them everywhere. “Dust” is a good example. You can remove dust, like dusting a shelf, or you can add dust, like dusting a cake with powdered sugar. It's possible for phrases to work this way too.
Listening to someone talk about the incidence of particular types of incidents could leave anyone feeling baffled. We've even had a listener ask us whether people have started using "incidence" as a hybrid of "incident" and "instance." We don't think so. However, since we're talking about homophones here, it's likely people are just confused.
As stories of police brutality and anti-police brutality protests continue to dominate the headlines, you may have noticed some people placing the blame on “a few bad apples.” However, as a listener named Louis Finkelman recently wrote to us, this expression “has changed its meaning 180 degrees in the past few decades.”
Were you aware that "unawares" is a thing people say? Maybe you've seen it recently it in relation to COVID-19 – things like "The governor's announcement caught some people unawares," and "We have no excuse to be caught unawares in an outbreak. We wanted to know, where did that "s" come from?
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Creator Details

Episode Count
169
Podcast Count
8
Total Airtime
16 hours, 38 minutes