Our award-winning NPR.org podcast (with co-host Fletcher Powell of NPR’s KMUW) about all things word-related — from grammar peeves to word histories, language controversies to emerging slang, pronunciation pitfalls to unwritten language rules, and a lot more. A lot of words, a lot of conversation, a lot of laughs … and even a little controversy!
That still doesn’t mean what you think it means, part 2 Regimen vs regime, hysterical vs hilarious, the REAL meaning of prodigal vs its current use, & other words that are changing even as we use them. (Culled from our book That Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means, just out as an audiobook!)
That still doesn’t mean what you think it means A look at some of the words we wrote about in That Doesn’t Mean What You Think it Means that continue to confuse people — from ambivalent to chronic, pristine to random, emigrate to immigrate, not to mention e.g. and i.e.
The Staying Power of Slang A lot of slang words only last a year or two, but others stick around. We take a look at some that have stood the test of time, and it turns out a bunch of them are older than we realize.
Searching for meaning in Gen Z slang The old people try their hand at sussing out the meanings of Gen Z slang words, although we all remain skeptical that actual people in Gen Z use any of these words. Groovy!
The Most Mispronounced Words of 2022 It’s an episode we look forward to each January, as we take a look back at the most mispronounced words of the previous year. Even the dinosaurs said one of these wrong!
Wait, THESE are the words of the year?? The words of the 2022, as chosen by various dictionaries and lexicographers. Kathy and Ross take major issue with various choices for words of the year for 2022. What makes for a good word of the year? Can anyone please our experts?
Will We Ever Learn? While recording the audio versions of their books, Kathy and Ross discover there are words they’ve written about that they STILL say wrong, even after all these years. A look at some of the most commonly mispronounced words in English.
Come Sit With Us a Spell A look at the most commonly misspelled words in English. After we puzzle over some words Kathy and Ross recently found in the news, we’ll tackle a list of the English language’s most misspelled words. Two billion tweets can’t be wrong, can they? (Yes, they can, and are.)
Get My Agentive Suffix On the Phone! Turns out agentive suffixes are popular! We tackle a number of listener questions we got after our first episode on the topic, and Kathy gets VERY excited about a couple of the words that come up.
Secret Agentive Suffix Man! A listener asks why some words end in -er, while other similar words end in -or, like “seller” vs. “vendor,” or “supervisor” vs. “manager.”
Happy Spooky Season! It’s the spoooookiest episode we’ve ever had, as we dive into the roots of the scary words we hear each Halloween. Vampires! Werewolves! Witches and Warlocks!
SAT Prep: A look at some of the words that surveys say people have the most difficulty with, ones that show up in articles, books, and (groan) standardized tests but that tend to trip us up.
Separated by a Common Language, Part 2: We continue our discussion of spelling differences between American English and British English, including what will probably be the last conversation you’ll ever want to hear about the nuances of “get,” “got,” and “gotten.”
Separated by a Common Language: On one side, you have people spelling it “realise,” on the other, it’s “realize.” And the poor Canadians are caught right in the middle. A listener question from Spain prompts us to dig into why Americans and Brits spell so many words differently when they’re supposed to be using the same language.
Wait… Is There a Difference? Part 2: After we take another (brief) run at the lie/lay problem, we continue our discussion of words we often use interchangeably that might actually have different meanings.
Wait… Is There a Difference? A listener question has us talking about words we often use interchangeably that actually might mean different things. Don’t mistrust us or distrust us, we’ll never lead you astray!
100th Episode of You’re Saying It Wrong: Yup, 100 episodes of words, laughter, etymology, grammar, and everything and anything word related …. and this time we’re taking listener questions. (Do you say toMAYto? Or do you say toMAHto … and is one “righter”? There’s more to it than you’d think!
Phrasal Verbs: Listen up! After we learn not to take investing advice from Kathy, we move on to a discussion of phrasal verbs. What are phrasal verbs, you ask? Stick around to find out…
You’re spelling it wrong… again: In honor of the National Spelling Bee, we return to our trip through the list of most commonly misspelled words in the English language. Wait… misspelled? Mispelled? Mis-spelled? These darn double letters… Also, we start out with a brief discussion that is *chef’s kiss*.
A dangling modifier walks into a bar…: Misplaced modifiers/dangling modifiers/other problematic modifiers. Jumping off from some recent Twitter confusion, we look at how much trouble there can be when we misplace our modifiers, or just let them dangle in the wind.
Dead Grammar Is? We set aside our usual games and quizzes for a wide-ranging discussion about the necessity of grammar rules, when we need them and when we don’t, who gets to decide what’s “right” and what’s “wrong,” and whether we need to rethink that.
Genericide: We continue on with our discussion of trademarks by looking at words that were once trademarked, but have become so widely used that they’ve actually lost that trademark. Also, Kathy sings! And Ross explains why he never sings.
Trademark this! Hey, can we trademark this? The word “this”? We may not be lawyers, but that’s never stopped us from having opinions, especially when it comes to trademarking every word under the sun. I’m sure we can trademark “digression” though, we’ve cornered the market on that one…
We’re Doing Some Verbing :Which came first, the chicken or the chickening out? The egg or the egging on? The noun or the verb? Today we’re looking at verbing nouns and nouning verbs, and maybe even a little adjectiving while we’re at it. Trust us, this episode is NOT cringe!
A Visit from Lady Mondegreen: Have you ever wondered who Jimi Hendrix was talking about when he sang, “‘Scuse me, while I kiss this guy”? We don’t know! Because that’s not what he said. Today we look at mondegreens, those times we mishear lyrics or phrases in ways that completely change their meaning.
A really, really, really hard quiz: A look at a survey of words that people think make other people sound smart, and then we tackle the most difficult word quiz we’ve ever had on the show.
We’re in a Mood: If I were you, I’d hold on to my hat, because in this week’s episode we’re going to try to tackle the subjunctive mood! We’re doing a lot of this under protest …
Driving Linguistic Change: Prompted by a listener email, we look at the idea that women tend to be the ones who initial changes in language. Do they? If so, how?
Get Thee Behind Me, 2021!: In which we air our grievances and discuss the words and phrases from 2021 we’d like most to be retired (or at least sent on a long vacation)
The (Most Mispronounced) Words of the Year! From “cheugy” to “chipotle” (Still!?!), these are the words that plagued newscasters
A Grab Bag of Confusion: More of those easily confused words, from a slew of listener emails!
Medial Cluster Reduction! Or … is it WRONG to pronounce the “t” in “often”?
Weird Origins of Everyday Phrases: The sometimes surprising, usually murky origins of phrases we use every day — from the theatrical beginnings of “stealing your thunder” to the somewhat sloppy “getting caught red-handed.
Apostrophes? Who Needs ‘Em!: A talk about apostrophes used and misused, the problems with possessives, and the all-too-common “greengrocer’s apostrophe”
Fun with Plurals!: What we get wrong when we try to use Latin plurals, the rules of English plurals, pluralizing compound words… Look out, our opinions on plurals are like a charging herd of rhinocerotes!
You’re Spelling it Wrong, part 1 and part 2: A look at the most commonly misspelled words, and why it’s so easy to spell them wrong.
Pretentious Confusables: Based on the many responses to our CNBC article (These 26 Words Can Make You Sound Smarter, But Most People Use Them The Wrong Way), it’s a further examination of those times you try hard to sound oh-so-clever, but use the wrong word in the process
Fun with Contranyms, part 1 and part 2: A look at contronyms (aka antagonyms, enantiosemy, or Janus words) words that look exactly alike but have two completely opposite meanings, & some other -nyms as well!!
Flapdoodle Words, part 1 and part 2: Talking about what we call “flapdoodle words” — those words and phrases that are redundant and just kind of junk things up. Or do they
We’re Flat Fine With These Adverbs: Think fast! Drive safe! Who needs that pesky -ly ending? Let’s talk flat adverbs, those adverbs that look like adjectives but are, well, adverbs.
It’s The Wild West Out Here!: Why we don’t talk that much about “The Rules” of English. Spoiler: THERE AREN’T ANY! (Ok, we’re kidding, there are some.)
Mailbag Day! Or, We Lay Waste (to) The English Language : The lie/lay dilemma, and other listener questions
A Return To Blipover Words: Words we sometimes use without really knowing what they mean, or words we see that we just kind of skim past because we aren’t totally sure what they mean
Taking Selfies:A discussion about the very popular reflexive pronoun “myself” (and its corresponding partners)
We Are Loath (Loathe?) To Confuse These Words: And even more commonly confused words, this time beginning with letters L and M
To Me or Not To Me: I vs. Me, Her & Him vs. She & He, Them vs. They: A look at pronouns, when to use “I” instead of “me” and vice versa
We’re Incredulous That These Words Are Confused: More commonly confused words
A Word Or Two About Portmanteaus: Talk about portmanteau words (two words that are “smushed” together to form a new word)
Tossing Words Around Willy-Nilly – from the Oxford comma to nihilism, words people use even though they’re not completely sure what they mean (based on our book Awkword Moments)
More Fun With Fossils! Today, we’re digging up some fossil words! To wit: We’ll wade through the flotsam and jetsam of words that have lost all their meaning to us except in very specific circumstances. So batten down the hatches! We wouldn’t want to give this topic short shrift.
The ABCs Of Confused Words We start with a quick lightning round of the most mispronounced names of 2020, followed by a TRIPLE redundancy from a listener, and then we’ll tackle some of the most commonly confused word pairs in English… but only the ones that start with A, B, or C. Otherwise we’d be here forever.
Redundant Language Redundancies Prompted by a listener email about pet peeves, we’ll look at redundant phrases people use every day, and talk about how sometimes redundancy… can be good?
Earlier YOU’RE SAYING IT WRONG podcast episodes available here