In today's episode, we look at the etymology of "mouse," but really, that's just a springboard into a far more complicated topic: the word "mice," its irregular plural form. Why do we say "mice" and "mouses" when referring to more than one "mouse?" The answer lies in the grammar of an ancient tongue that predates Modern English by thousands of years. This is the most linguistic-heavy episode of Words for Granted, so first-time listeners, beware!
The English language utilizes the word "cell" in a handful of contexts. We have prison "cells", brain "cells", battery "cells", and of course, "cell" phones. At first glance, these various applications of the word "cell" seem unrelated, but if we dig a little deeper into their etymological roots, we discover that they in fact originate from a single source: Medieval monasteries. In today's episode, we explore the unlikely historical relationship between the living quarters of Medieval Christian monks and the modern technology behind the cellular phone.
Today's episode begins a mini-series on technology-related words. Although digital computers didn't permeate the masses at large until the end of the twentieth century, the word "digital" has been around for centuries. If you're a tech nerd, you probably already know what this word refers to, but if you're not, then you're in for a surprise. Furthermore, we discuss why usage of the term may begin to wane in upcoming years.
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The word "comfort" once described the spiritual consolation given by God to an individual. Today, it is used to describe commercialized products ranging from air conditioners to tennis shoes to sofas---a pretty drastic change, to say the least. How did this evolution occur? Today's episode looks at the impact of capitalism and consumerism on our ideas of material "comfort".
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The word "meat" once referred to all forms of solid food, not just animal flesh. In today's episode, Ray explores the ambiguities of the word "meat" as it appears in the King James Bible and debunks a certain myth surrounding meat-related words such as pork, beef, and veal, among others.
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Welcome to the first Words for Granted bonus episode! This episode explores polysemy, the phenomenon by which a single word can have multiple meanings. Why do we use the word "foot" in the compound word "footnote"? Why does the word "decimate" derive from the Latin word for "ten"? Will books eventually become extinct? Ray answers all of these questions and more, all through the lens of polysemy.
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"Nice" has gone through more changes than almost any other word in the English language. Over the course of seven centuries, it has meant "stupid", "promiscuous", "elegant", and "effeminate", among countless other things. In this episode, we're going to try to make sense of its perplexing evolution.
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