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The Allusionist

A Language, Poetry and Arts podcast featuring Helen Zaltzman
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57. AD/BC
There’s a small matter I trip over regularly in the Allusionist: Dates. Not the fruit. Specicially, the terms BC and AD, Before Christ and Anno Domini (‘the year of the Lord’ (‘the Lord’ also being Christ)). How did Jesus Christ get to be all up in our system of counting the years? There’s more about the episode at http://theallusionist.org/abdc. This month, each of the Radiotopia shows is interpreting the theme Doing Time, to welcome the new member of the collective, Ear Hustle. Visit http://radiotopia.fm to hear all the Doing Time episodes, and to subscribe to Ear Hustle – you’ll hear a preview of it at the end of this episode. Stay in touch at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow.
62. In Crypt, Decrypt
Crossword-solving is often a solitary activity – over breakfast; on the train; on the loo… But a few times a year, crossword puzzle enthusiasts gather in their hundreds to compete to be the fastest, most accurate crossword-solver. This episode comes to you from a church basement on the Upper East Side of New York City, wherein takes place America’s second largest crossword puzzle tournament: Lollapuzzoola. For more about this episode, visit http://theallusionist.org/lollapuzzoola. Come to see the live show at the London Podcast Festival in September; tickets are on sale now at http://kingsplace.co.uk/radiotopia. Stay in touch at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX, a collective of the best podcasts on the interwaves. Find all our podcasts at http://radiotopia.fm, and be a pal and tell us your thoughts about our shows in the annual listener survey: http://surveynerds.com/allusionist.
4. Detonating the C-Bomb
WARNING: this episode contains lots of swearing and words which some of you may find offensive. If, however, you love offensive words, you will enjoy this episode, which is all about how the C-word doesn’t deserve to be the pariah of cusses. Visit http://theallusionist.org/c-bomb to find out more about this episode. Tweet @allusionistshow, and convene at facebook.com/allusionistshow. Subscribe on iTunes http://tinyurl.com/iTunesAllusionist. The Allusionist is a proud member of http://Radiotopia.fm for http://PRX.org.
108. Enjoy!
In the last Food Season episode of the current batch, we get into the language of restaurant service - specifically those terms that give some of us fiery indigestion, like “Enjoy!” or “Are you still working on that?” Restaurant psychologist Stephani Robson and former server Sara Brooke Curtis explain how what servers say is affected by such things as restaurant furniture, tipping, the need to turn a table around quickly for the next diners, and customer moods and caprices. Find out more about this episode at theallusionist.org/enjoy. The Allusionist's online home is theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at twitter.com/allusionistshow, facebook.com/allusionistshow and instagram.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist live show No Title is on tour in North America - come to see us! For all event listings, visit theallusionist.org/events. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX, a collective of the finest podcasts on the interwaves. Find them at radiotopia.fm. Also! I’m making a NEW PODCAST! Veronica Mars Investigations, wherein Jenny Owen Youngs (of Buffering the Vampire Slayer podcast) and I investigate every episode of Veronica Mars from the beginning. Find Veronica Mars Investigations in your podcast-getting app of choice, and at VMIpod on the social medias and VMIpod.com. This month, the Allusionist is sponsored by: • BetterHelp online counselling. Get started at betterhelp.com/allusionist, and use the code ALLUSIONIST for 10% off your first month. • Freshbooks accounting software for small businesses. Get started at FreshBooks.com/BUYNOW. • Bombas, socks that won’t let you - or themselves - down. Buy your expertly engineered socks at bombas.com/allusionist and get 20% off your first purchase. • Babbel, the language-learning app that will help you speak a new language with confidence. Visit babbel.com to find out more, and text ALLUSIONIST to 484848 to try it for free. • Squarespace, your one-stop shop for creating and running a good-looking and well-working website. Go to squarespace.com/allusion for a free trial, and use the code ALLUSION to get 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain.
58. Eclipse
It’s August 2007. Lauren Marks is a 27-year-old actor and a PhD student, spending the month directing a play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She’s in a bar, standing onstage, performing a karaoke duet of ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’…and then a blood vessel in her brain bursts. When she wakes up in hospital, days later, she has no internal monologue, and a vocabulary of only forty words. Find out more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/eclipse, and more about Lauren at http://astitchoftime.com. Stay in touch at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia.fm for PRX.org. Find all our shows at http://radiotopia.fm.
110. Engraving part 1
When Dave Nadelberg of Mortified used to visit his mother’s grave, he would look around at the nearby gravestones and see similar - or even the exact same - epitaphs for lots of different people. And it made him curious: who were these people, really? What were their personalities, what happened in their lives? And didn’t they deserve something more meaningful, more personal, than these bland and repetitive epitaphs? So when Dave’s father died a few years later, Dave was determined to choose better words to represent him in perpetuity. Go to theallusionist.org/epitaph to read more about this episode and find a transcript. Dave Nadelberg is the founder of Mortified: find the podcast, live events, books, TV series and documentary at getmortified.com. The Allusionist's online home is theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at twitter.com/allusionistshow, facebook.com/allusionistshow and instagram.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist live show No Title is on tour in North America - for all event listings, visit theallusionist.org/events. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX, a collective of the finest podcasts on the interwaves. Find them at radiotopia.fm. This month, the Allusionist is sponsored by: • Molekule air purification. For 10% off your first air purifier order, visit molekule.com and enter the code ALLUSIONIST10 at checkout. • BetterHelp online counselling. Get started at betterhelp.com/allusionist, and use the code ALLUSIONIST for 10% off your first month. • Bombas, socks that won’t let you - or themselves - down. Buy your expertly engineered socks at bombas.com/allusionist and get 20% off your first purchase. • Babbel, the language-learning app that will help you speak a new language with confidence. Visit babbel.com to find out more, and text ALLUSIONIST to 484848 to try it for free. • Squarespace, your one-stop shop for creating and running a good-looking and well-working website. Go to squarespace.com/allusion for a free trial, and use the code ALLUSION to get 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain.
60. Zillions
They look like numbers. They sound like numbers. You kinda know they are numbers. But they’re not actually numbers. Linguistic anthropologist Stephen Chrisomalis explains what’s going on with indefinite hyperbolic numerals like ‘zillion’, ‘squillion’ and ‘kajillion’. For more about this episode, visit http://theallusionist.org/zillions. Come to see the live show at the London Podcast Festival in September; tickets are on sale now at http://kingsplace.co.uk/radiotopia. Stay in touch at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX, a collective of the best podcasts on the interwaves. Find all our podcasts at http://radiotopia.fm.
61. In Your Hand
“It’s sort of frozen body language; that’s what handwriting analysis is about.” Since it caught on a couple of hundred years ago, graphology – analysing handwriting to deduce characteristics of the writer – has struggled to be taken seriously as a practice. But undoubtedly, there are things about ourselves that we can’t help but reveal in our handwriting. Graphologist Adam Brand explains the ‘pseudoscience/useful art’. For more about this episode, visit http://theallusionist.org/graphology. Come to see the live show at the London Podcast Festival in September; tickets are on sale now at http://kingsplace.co.uk/radiotopia. Stay in touch at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX, a collective of the best podcasts on the interwaves. Find all our podcasts at http://radiotopia.fm, and be a pal and tell us your thoughts about our shows in the annual listener survey: http://surveynerds.com/allusionist.
Extra special QUIZ!
For a bit of fun to celebrate Radiotopia’s 2018 fundraiser, this episode is a wordy quiz for you to play along with as you listen. Get a pen and paper, or fill in your answers online at http://theallusionist.org/2018quiz. Also! I’ve put together an Allusionist print-at-home puzzle book, featuring a wordsearch, crossword, some jollity with portmanteaus, eponyms and scandals ending in -gate. It’s available exclusively if you donate any amount to Radiotopia’s 2018 fundraiser from now until it ends on 21 December 2018. Let me reiterate: ANY amount, from $1 to $∞! Head to http://radiotopia.fm to get your puzzles. Let me know how you fare in the quiz and puzzles at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The show will be back on 23 January 2019. For all Allusionist episodes, extra material, transcripts, event listings etc, visit http://theallusionist.org. The Allusionist is a member of Radiotopia from PRX, a collective of the best podcasts on the interwaves. Hear all the shows at http://radiotopia.fm – and if you can afford to help our shows keep going, become a donor in our 2018 fundraiser at https://www.radiotopia.fm/donate-2018z.
90. Dear Santa
Jim Glaub and Dylan Parker didn’t think too much of it when, every year, a few letters were delivered to their New York apartment addressed to Santa. But then one year, 400 letters arrived. And they decided they had to answer them. Find out more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/dear-santa, and visit http://miracleon22ndstreet.com to learn more about the nonprofit Jim and Dylan now run, donate, and get involved. The Allusionist is a member of Radiotopia from PRX, a collective of the best podcasts on the interwaves. Hear all the shows at http://radiotopia.fm – and if you can afford to help our shows keep going, become a donor in our 2018 fundraiser at https://www.radiotopia.fm/donate-2018z. The Allusionist’s online home is http://theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. And come to see the debut performance of the brand new Allusionist 2019 live show at SF Sketchfest, 7.30pm 25 January! Tickets are on sale now: https://tinyurl.com/allusionistSFsketchfest2019 Today’s episode is sponsored by Care/Of, a monthly subscription service that delivers personalised vitamin packs to your door. It’s like an advent calendar full of health supplements! For 25% off your first month of personalised Care/of vitamins, visit TakeCareOf.com and enter the discount code ALLUSIONIST.
86. Name Therapy
“It’s the word that you use the most often and the soonest to describe yourself, and yet nobody’s really ever talked about how it kind of makes me feel like this.” Until Duana Taha, who, after a lifetime of feelings about her own unique name, became the Name Therapist. Duana offers advice on how to name your baby/future adult, so their name works shouted across a playground, whispered into an ear, scribbled on a coffee cup. She also deals with your concerns about being named after a relative or parent’s ex, having a name that elicits playground taunts, or doesn’t describe you as an individual at all. Find more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/name-therapy. The Allusionist live tour is ON NOW, at cities in the US and Canada during October and November 2018: show listings are at http://theallusionist.org/events. The Allusionist’s online home is http://theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX, a collective of the best podcasts on the interwaves. Hear all the shows at http://radiotopia.fm. Thanks to today’s sponsors: SQUARESPACE. Design your website at squarespace.com/allusion, and use the offer code ALLUSION to save 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain. BOMBAS. Shop for expertly engineered socks at bombas.com/allusionist and save 20% by entering the offer ALLUSIONIST in the checkout code space.
85. Skin Story
“I wanted a story that actually lives, and actually dies, and disappears.” In 2003, artist and author Shelley Jackson started the Skin Project: a story printed, word by word, as tattoos on volunteers. https://ineradicablestain.com/skindex.html Find more about this episode at https://theallusionist.org/skin-story. The Allusionist live tour comes to the US, Canada, and Ireland during autumn 2018: show listings are at https://theallusionist.org/events. The Allusionist’s online home is http://theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and https://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX, a collective of the best podcasts on the interwaves. Hear all the shows at https://radiotopia.fm. This episode is sponsored by the sleep brand Casper. Get $50 towards select mattresses by going to Casper.com/allusionist and using the promo code ALLUSIONIST at checkout.
43. The Key part II: Vestiges
If you don’t have a Rosetta Stone to hand, deciphering extinct languages can be a real puzzle, even though they didn’t intend to be. They didn’t intend to become extinct, either, but such is the life (and death) of languages. NB: there is a CATEGORY B swear word towards the end of this episode. But it IS there for educational purposes only. ALSO NB: After the episode was released, I was alerted that listener Ryan’s request was about a FAKE Mike Pence statement. I CAN NEVER TRUST YOU AGAIN, RYAN! The etymological content still stands. There’s more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/vestiges. It is a companion to episode 42: The Key part I: Rosetta, which is at http://theallusionist.org/rosetta. Find me at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia.fm from PRX.org.
42. The Key part I: Rosetta
Languages die. But if they’re lucky, a thousand-odd years later, someone unearths an artefact that brings them back to life. Laura Welcher of the Rosetta Project shows us the Rosetta Disk, a slice of electroplated nickel three inches in diameter that bears text in 1500 languages for future linguists to decipher. Ilona Regulski of the British Museum describes how its namesake, the Rosetta Stone, unlocked hieroglyphics. Find out more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/rosetta. Find me at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia.fm from PRX.org.
40. Olympics
On your marks… Get set… GO! It’s the Etymolympics, where the gymnastics should be gymnaked and the hurdles are a bloodbath. Find out more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/olympics. Be an Olympic-level champ and express your opinions about the show at http://surveynerds.com/allusionist. Seek me out online at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow, and on stage at the London Podcast Festival – get tickets at http://www.kingsplace.co.uk/whats-on/spoken-word/the-allusionist. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia.fm from PRX.org.
39. Generation What?
Which are you: Millennial, Generation X, Baby Boomer, Silent Generation, an impressively young-looking Arthurian Generation? Or are you an individual who refuses to be labelled? Demographer Neil Howe, author Miranda Sawyer and Megan Tan, the host of Millennial podcast, consider whether the generational names are useful or reductive. Or both. Read more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/generation-what. Seek me out at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia.fm from PRX.org.
44: This Is Your Brain On Language
What is your beautiful brain up to as you comprehend language? Cognitive psychologist Jenni Rodd takes a peek. Visit http://theallusionist.org/brain for more information about this topic. Find me at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia.fm from PRX.org.
47. The Year Without a Summer
Today: a tale of darkness, gathering storms, and a terrifying creature that resembles a human man… No, nothing topical: it’s The Year Without A Summer, the story of how Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. This piece first appeared on Eric Molinsky’s excellent podcast Imaginary Worlds. Hear all the episodes at http://imaginaryworldspodcast.org. For more information, visit http://theallusionist.org/frankenstein. Find me at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia.fm from PRX.org.
103. Food Into Words
When recipe writing is done well, the skill and effort involved might not be evident. But explaining the different steps clearly so that people of varying culinary abilities and equipment can cook it, and indeed want to make it, and translating flavour and physical actions and sensory experiences into words - all that takes work. Recipe writers MiMi Aye and Felicity Cloake and cookbook editor Rachel Greenhaus consider the verbal ingredients of a well-written recipe. Find out more at theallusionist.org/food-into-words. The Allusionist's online home is theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at twitter.com/allusionistshow, facebook.com/allusionistshow and instagram.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist live show is coming to London in September. For all event listings, visit theallusionist.org/events. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX, a collective of the finest podcasts on the interwaves. Find them at radiotopia.fm. In August 2019, the Allusionist is sponsored by: • Squarespace, your one-stop shop for creating and running a good-looking and well-working website. Go to squarespace.com/allusion for a free trial, and use the code ALLUSION to get 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain. • Bombas, socks that won’t let you - or themselves - down. Buy your expertly engineered socks at bombas.com/allusionist and get 20% off your first purchase. • Babbel, the language-learning app that will help you speak a new language with confidence. Visit babbel.com to find out more, and text **ALLUSIONIST **to 484848 to try it for free. • Progressive. Get your car insurance quote online at progressive.com and see how much you could be saving. Discounts not available in all states and situations.
22. Vocables
La la la, dum di di dum, a wop bop a loo bop a wop bom bom – why are songs riddled with non-words masquerading as words? Hrishikesh Hirway from Song Exploder and songwriter Tony Hazzard explain. Read more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/vocables. Say hello at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow, and find Song Exploder at http://songexploder.net. The Allusionist is a proud member of http://Radiotopia.fm for http://PRX.org. Radiotopia needs your support. Become a donor at http://on.prx.org/radiotopia-forever.
24. Spill Your Guts
It’s cathartic; it’s a useful historical record; and it might help you behave better on public transport. Neil Katcher and Dave Nadelberg from Mortified discuss the art and practice of keeping a diary. Find the Mortified podcast, stage shows, documentary, TV series and books at http://getmortified.com. Roman Mars also stops by to talk about the Radiotopia fundraiser. To support the collective, become a donor at http://on.prx.org/radiotopia-forever. Read more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/diaries. Say hello at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of http://Radiotopia.fm for http://PRX.org.
13. Mixed Emojions
Emoji allow communication without words. Could emoji be the universal language of the 21st century? Matt Gray and Tom Scott, founders of the emoji-only messaging platform emoj.li, talk through the pitfalls; and History Today’s Dr Kate Wiles finds the 500- and 5,000-year-old precedents for emoji. CONTENT WARNING: this episode contains one category B swear word, plus reference to penises growing on trees. There’s more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/emoji, including a fine selection of medieval marginalia. Tweet @allusionistshow, and convene at facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia.fm for PRX.org.
12. Pride
“The poison is shame. The antidote is pride.” It’s June; the President of the USA has officially designated it LGBT Pride Month, and there’ll be Pride events around the world. But how did the word ‘pride’ came to be the banner word for demonstrations and celebrations of LGBT rights and culture? There’s more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/pride. Tweet @allusionistshow, and convene at facebook.com/allusionistshow. This episode was produced by me and Eleanor McDowall of Falling Tree, with help from Peregrine Andrews. The music is by Martin Austwick. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia.fm for PRX.org.
7. Mountweazel
You’d think you could trust dictionaries, but it turns out, they are riddled with LIES. Visit theallusionist.org/mountweazel to find out more about this episode. Tweet @allusionistshow, and convene at facebook.com/allusionistshow. Also please give us your thoughts about podcasts at surveynerds.com/allusionist The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia.fm for PRX.org.
51. Under the Covers – part II
Does the available vocabulary for sex leave something to be desired? Namely desire? (And also the ability to use it wthout laughing/dying of embarrassment?) Aiding in the search for a better sex lexicon – sexicon – are Kaitlin Prest of fellow Radiotopia podcast The Heart, and romance novelist Mhairi McFarlane. CONTENT NOTE: this episode contains Sexual Language from the start. For more information about this episode, visit http://theallusionist.org/covers-ii. Find the show at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia.fm from PRX.org.
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Podcast Details
Started
Jan 14th, 2015
Latest Episode
Nov 26th, 2019
Release Period
Weekly
No. of Episodes
115
Avg. Episode Length
19 minutes
Explicit
No

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