Episode 61: Names of Germany

There are more names for Germany than there are for any other European country. This is due to a long history of disunity among Gemanic tribes and the geographical location of the Germanic homeland smack dab in the middle of Europe. In today’s episode, we explore the history and linguistic distribution of the etymological roots of Germany’s many international names. 

Download and subscribe with:

Apple Podcasts Google Play Spotify Stitcher Libsyn

Episode 38: Algebra/Algorithm

audio Block
Double-click here to upload or link to a .mp3. Learn more

The emergence of the words "algebra" and "algorithm" can be traced back to the life of one man, an Arabic mathematician named Al-Kworizmi. Today's episode looks at the history of Al-Kworizmi's works and their impact on the Western world, particularly on European languages. 

Download and Subscribe with:

Apple Podcasts     Stitcher     Libsyn

 

Episode 36: Serendipity

Unlike most Arabic loanwords, the word "serendipity" was not borrowed from a foreign language, but invented by an eighteenth century Englishman. It's based on "Serendip," an old Arabic word for the nation of Sri Lanka, and was inspired by an Italian folk tale originally composed in Persian. The odd coinage of "serendipity" is an international story that spans many cultures, languages, and time periods. 

Download and Subscribe with:

Apple Podcasts     Stitcher     Libsyn

Episode 32: Wednesday

audio Block
Double-click here to upload or link to a .mp3. Learn more

In Old English, the word for "Wednesday" was Wodnesdaeg, which literally meant "Woden's day." It comes from a loan translation of the Latin dies mercurii, which literally meant "day of Mercury," because Woden was the Germanic god associated with the Roman god mercury. This much is for certain. But how did the /o/ in Wodnesdaeg shift to the /e/ in "Wednesday?" This is a bit of a linguistic mystery, and we discuss some of the possibilities.

Download and subscribe with:

Apple Podcasts      Stitcher     Libsyn

Episode 28: Scene

Historically, the word "scene" has had close ties to the theater, but it did not always refer to "subdivisions within in a play." The Greek word skene originally meant "tent or booth." It's an odd etymology, and today's episode explores multiple theories that seek to explain where this sense may have come from. 

An example of the permanent, stone theater backdrop known as the  scaenae frons  in Latin. 

An example of the permanent, stone theater backdrop known as the scaenae frons in Latin. 

Download and subscribe with:

iTunes     Libsyn     Stitcher

Episode 21: Inauguration

     The presidential inauguration is a tradition inherited from the Ancient Romans. The word "inauguration" is rooted in "augury," the Ancient Roman practice of interpreting omens based on the flight patterns of birds. Over the course of today's episode, we discuss how this unlikely religious tradition gave us the sense of "inauguration" used today. 

Subscribe with:

iTunes     Stitcher     Libsyn   

Bonus Episode 1: Polysemous Words

     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.

Download Subscribe with: 

iTunes     Stitcher     Libsyn