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Episode 80: Cannibal

Words for Granted - An etymology and linguistics podcast

Release Date: 12/31/2019

Episode 96: Lost Letters: Wynn (Ƿ), Insular G (ᵹ), Yogh (Ȝ) show art Episode 96: Lost Letters: Wynn (Ƿ), Insular G (ᵹ), Yogh (Ȝ)

Words for Granted - An etymology and linguistics podcast

Before the letter W was invented, the rune wynn was borrowed into the Latin AngloSaxon alphabet as a way of representing the /w/ sound. The letter yogh evolved out of Insular G, an Irish variation of the traditional letter G. The phonetic value of yogh varied. It could represent the /y/ sound, the guttural /x/ sound as in the Scottish "loch," and others. Many Modern English words spelled with GH digraph (laugh, though, night, etc.) were once spelled with the letter yogh.  Interested in taking part in our virtual Latin 101 course this summer taught by Harvard PhD candidate Rebecca...

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Interview with Ralph Keyes, Author of "The Hidden History of Coined Words"

Words for Granted - An etymology and linguistics podcast

In this episode, I speak with author Ralph Keyes. Ralph's new book, The Hidden History of Coined Words, is an exuberant celebration of the malleability of the English language. Keyes discusses not only the stories behind word formation, but also how words influence social discourse.  Click to order Ralph's new book.  Click to RSVP for the Words for Granted Latin 101 course.

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Latin 101 Course Announcement! show art Latin 101 Course Announcement!

Words for Granted - An etymology and linguistics podcast

Words for Granted has partnered with (Harvard University) to offer a Latin 101 course to listeners. To learn more and RSVP, please fill out this Google form:

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Episode 95: Lost Letters: Eth and Thorn (Ð,ð and Þ, þ) show art Episode 95: Lost Letters: Eth and Thorn (Ð,ð and Þ, þ)

Words for Granted - An etymology and linguistics podcast

In Modern English, we use the TH digraph to represent the voiced and voiceless dental fricative sounds. However, English previously had two unique letters that did this same job: eth and thorn. In this episode, we look at the origin and decline of eth and thorn in English in addition to some places outside of the English alphabet where these ancient letters have survived. Also, check out these links: Ticket link to Intelligent Speech 2021: The International Phonetic Alphabet interactive chart: Ticket link to Intelligent Speech 2021: The International Phonetic Alphabet interactive chart: ...

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Episode 94: The Lost Letters of the English Alphabet (Overview) show art Episode 94: The Lost Letters of the English Alphabet (Overview)

Words for Granted - An etymology and linguistics podcast

You can't have the English language without the ABC's, right? Wrong. In this overview episode, we look at the history of the alphabet and the many changes it has undergone from its Phoenician origins to today. We also consider the significance of the runic alphabet known as futhorc, the first alphabet used to write English. Two of the lost English letters, thorn and wynn, were directly adapted from this older Germanic script. Lingthusiasm Episode 52: Writing is a Technology Runic alphabet (futhorc):

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Episode 93: Pasta show art Episode 93: Pasta

Words for Granted - An etymology and linguistics podcast

‘Pasta’ is first attested in English during the 1800's, which is later than one might expect. However, in prior centuries, a handful of its closely related cognates such as ‘paste,’ ‘pastry,’ ‘pastel,’ and others were borrowed into English. We consider how these words relate historically and etymologically to the beloved Italian food. We also examine the semantic relationship between the words pasta, macaroni, and noodle.

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Episode 92: Meals (Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner) show art Episode 92: Meals (Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner)

Words for Granted - An etymology and linguistics podcast

In today's episode, we look at the etymologies of our meal words––not to mention "meal" itself. (As it turns out, "meal" has a long history of usage as a measurement word.) The meanings of our meal words have shifted over time in concert with the standard time at which these meals are eaten. Spoiler: "Dinner" was the original "breakfast," and etymologically, the two words mean almost the same thing.  To support the show, go to: https://www.patreon.com/wordsforgranted

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Interview with Tim Brookes, founder of Endangered Alphabets show art Interview with Tim Brookes, founder of Endangered Alphabets

Words for Granted - An etymology and linguistics podcast

In this interview episode, I speak with Tim Brookes, founder of the Endangered Alphabets Project. Among many other things, we discuss why preserving endangered writing systems is so important to the cultures that use them, how writings systems become endangered in the first place, and Tim's fundraiser to raise awareness about the Mongolian script through an original board game.  You can learn more about Tim and his work at the links below. 

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Episode 91: Artichoke  show art Episode 91: Artichoke

Words for Granted - An etymology and linguistics podcast

In ancient Greek botanical literature, there is a reference to a spiny plant called a kaktos. This word would pass into Modern English as "cactus," though the kaktos itself was certainly not a cactus as we know it. More likely, it was an undomesticated "artichoke," a plant whose name ultimately comes from Arabic. In this episode, we take a look at the intertwined history of these two words and the plants they designate. 

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Episode 90: Apple show art Episode 90: Apple

Words for Granted - An etymology and linguistics podcast

In this episode, we explore the etymology of the most culturally ubiquitous fruit, the apple. Etymologically, the ubiquity of the apple is fitting, since it originally used to refer to apples and all fruits in general. We also explore the Latin and Greek words for ‘apple,’ the derivatives of which are hiding in plain sight in a handful of modern English fruit and vegetable words. 

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More Episodes

The word ‘cannibal’ comes to us by way of a familiar historical figure: Christopher Columbus. The word is ultimately a Hispanicization of the name of an indigenous American group today known as the Caribs. Through Columbus' unreliable portrayal of the Caribs in his travel log, ‘cannibal’ came to refer to ‘a person who eats human flesh.’ In this episode, we explore the evolution of the meaning of ‘cannibal’ in Columbus' own journal and how that single word impacted the colonial history of the Americas.