Gretchen McCulloch is an internet linguist, bestselling author of Because Internet, a book about internet language.
"In a year that left us speechless, 2020 has been filled with new words unlike any other”... so it's unprecedented that for the first time, the Oxford English Dictionary did NOT name a word of the year. But do we really need the dictionaries to tell us what our words of the year are? Especially if the approaches "Big Word" takes may be based on more lagging vs. leading indicators; after all, language is created and constructed as we go.And yet. People want the dictionary to give them permission of "tell me what the words are", observes internet linguist (and author of the NYT bestselling book Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language) Gretchen McCulloch. No! We, the people, decide what the words are!! So in this special holiday, end-of-year episode, a16z Podcast showrunner Sonal Chokshi chats with McCulloch about the words of the year in and beyond Oxford's "Words of an Unprecedented Year" report -- and importantly, the tech shifts and cultural shifts behind them.From remote work portmanteaus to scientific discourse in a pandemic (for better and for worse) to social movements and more -- we take a whirlwind tour through the words of the year, exploring misplaced analogies, shifting metaphors, and even the evolution of interfaces. We dip into the settling of the "Zoomer" generation and "moonshots"; dive into the need for "third places" and parties; debate Dunbar numbers for conversations, and the trend of "proximity chat" -- and discuss the meta story of language, and of writing itself. The English language may have resulted from network effects involving the "loners" who introduce words, and the “leaders” who spread them; but writing is a technology that spreads with the tools, going well beyond medium/message, connecting us across time and place and online spaces. image: Andy Simmons / Flickr
“Cold enough for ya?” “Nice weather for ducks.” Small talk is a valuable piece of our social interactions -- it can be a way of having a momentary exchange with someone you don’t know very well or a bridge into getting to know someone better by figuring out which deeper conversational topics might be of mutual interest. In this episode of Lingthusiasm, your hosts Lauren Gawne and Gretchen McCulloch get enthusiastic about the science behind small talk: how we pick topics for small talk conversation, the fine art of media references from memes to movies, and our own tested strategies for dodging awkward small talk questions while keeping the conversation flowing, such as when you’re having a not-great time but don’t want to talk about it, and that ubiquitous linguist question “so, how many languages do you know?” This month’s bonus episode is a Q&A with lexicographer Emily Brewster of Merriam-Webster! Gretchen and Lauren get enthusiastic about the process of making dictionaries, posing your patron questions to lexicographer Emily Brewster of Merriam-Webster. We also talk about how lexicography has changed since dictionaries went online and in the era of social media, and the extremely esoteric process of getting lexicography jobs. Get all your lexicography questions answers, as well as access to 45 other bonus episodes by becoming a Patron! https://www.patreon.com/lingthusiasm Announcements Crash Course Linguistics videos are available now and coming out weekly! https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8dPuuaLjXtP5mp25nStsuDzk2blncJDW Keep an eye out for them around 2pm North American Eastern Time on Fridays for the rest of 2020 (except a few holiday Fridays) and into early 2021. If you want to get an email each week with some further reading and practice exercises on each topic, you can also check out the companion issues of Mutual Intelligibility. https://mutualintelligibility.substack.com/ Become a Patron and get access to the Crash Course channel in the Lingthusiasm Discord to chat about each episode! https://lingthusiasm.com/discord For links to all the things mentioned in this episode: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/637790657255227392/lingthusiasm-episode-51-small-talk-big-deal
“Blick” is not a word of English. But it sounds like it could be, if someone told you a meaning for it. “Bnick” contains English sounds, but somehow it doesn’t feel very likely as an English word. “Lbick” and “Nbick” seem even less likely. What’s going on? In this episode, your hosts Lauren Gawne and Gretchen McCulloch get enthusiastic about the underlying pattern behind how sounds fit together in various languages, what linguists call sonority. We can place sounds in a line -- or along the steps up a mountain -- according to how sonorous they are, and this lets us compare and contrast how languages put together their syllables. We also talk about the incredibly weird case of S. --- This month’s bonus episode is a behind the scenes look at the creation of Crash Course Linguistics! We’re joined by Jessi Grieser, the third member of our linguistics content team behind the scripts of Crash Course Linguistics. We talk about how we structured the syllabus of Crash Course Linguistics, how Gavagai came to be a recurring character in the series, finding our delightful host Taylor Behnke, and what it's like working with the awesome teams at Complexly and Thought Cafe. Get all the details and access to 44 other bonus episodes by becoming a Patron! https://www.patreon.com/lingthusiasm Announcements We’re coming up on Lingthusiasm’s fourth anniversary! In celebration, we’re asking you to help people who would totally enjoy listening to fun conversations about linguistics, they just don’t realize it exists yet! Most people still find podcasts through word of mouth, and we’ve seen a significant bump in listens each November when we ask you to help share the show, so we know this works. If you tag us @lingthusiasm on social media in your recommendation post, we will like/retweet/reshare/thank you as appropriate, or if you send a recommendation to a specific person, we won’t know about it but you can still feel a warm glow of satisfaction at helping out (and feel free to still tell us about it on social media if you’d like to be thanked!). Trying to think of what to say? One option is to pick a particular episode that you liked and share a link to that. Also, Crash Course Linguistics videos are coming out every Friday! Subscribe on YouTube, or sign up for Mutual Intelligibility email newsletters to get an email when each video comes out, along with exercises to practice the concepts and links for further reading. For links to the things mentioned in this episode: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/635258033226776576/lingthusiasm-episode-50-climbing-the
Before even starting to translate a work, a translator needs to make several important macro-level decisions, such as whether to more closely follow the literal structure of the text or to adapt more freely, especially if the original text does things that are unfamiliar to readers in the destination language but would be familiar to readers in the original language. In this episode of Lingthusiasm, your hosts Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne get enthusiastic about the relationship of the translator and the text. We talk about the new, updated translation of Beowulf by Maria Dahvana Headley (affectionately known as the "bro" translation), reading the Tale of Genji in multiple translations, translating conlangs in fiction, and mistranslation on the Scots Wikipedia. Announcements We’re coming up on Lingthusiasm’s fourth anniversary! In celebration, we’re asking you to help people who would totally enjoy listening to fun conversations about linguistics, they just don’t realize it exists yet! Most people still find podcasts through word of mouth, and we’ve seen a significant bump in listens each November when we ask you to help share the show, so we know this works. If you tag us @lingthusiasm on social media in your recommendation post, we will like/retweet/reshare/thank you as appropriate, or if you send a recommendation to a specific person, we won’t know about it but you can still feel a warm glow of satisfaction at helping out (and feel free to still tell us about it on social media if you’d like to be thanked!). Trying to think of what to say? One option is to pick a particular episode that you liked and share a link to that. This month’s bonus episode was about honorifics, words like titles and forms of “you” that express when you’re trying to be extra polite to someone (and which can also be subverted to be rude or intimate). Get access to this and 43 other bonus episodes at https://www.patreon.com/lingthusiasm This is also a good time to start thinking about linguistics merch and other potential gift ideas (paperback copies of Because Internet, anyone?), in time for them to arrive via the internet, if you’re ordering for the holiday season. Check out the Lingthusiasm merch store at https://lingthusiasm.com/merch For links mentioned in this episode: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/632086691477323776/lingthusiasm-episode-49-how-translators-approach
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Creator Details

Location
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Episode Count
69
Podcast Count
16
Total Airtime
1 day, 18 hours
PCID
Podchaser Creator ID logo 332203