It happens on every road trip — you're driving from city to city, natural wonder to natural wonder. Every hour is a magical combination of rustic beauty and historic landmarks and fascinating people. Until, one day, things change: The scenery turns gray; the people lose their charm. You find yourself at a rest stop with no toilet paper, where the vending machine eats your last single. It's 90 miles to the nearest motel. Small, but menacing-looking rodents scurry across the road.

You, my friend, are in Podunk. Or as some people say, "Some Podunk town in the middle of nowhere."

The voice was soft and scratchy, as if a bit timid in front of the microphone.

"Ae," she said, meaning "yes" in Hawaiian, when asked a question by a male voice. "Ae hanau ia wau i Honoma'ele." ("Yes, I was born in Honoma'ele," she said.)

That voice of an elderly Hawaiian woman was that of my great-grandmother, Martha Kekauililani Kahanu Iwanaga, speaking her native language on a Honolulu radio program more than 40 years ago. The first time I heard the CD recording, it sent chills down my spine.

At a pediatric clinic in Kirksville, Mo., a young boy is waiting in an exam room to be vaccinated. A nurse explains the shots to his mother, and Lisette Chibanvunya translates.

Did Cooking Really Give Us The F-Word?

Mar 14, 2019

Processed foods get blamed for a lot of things. But this week, a group of linguists took it to a whole new level.

To put it crudely, they argue that the invention of processed foods like yogurt and gruel thousands of years ago gave us the F-word. Lots of F-words. To be more precise, the researchers think that softer foods led to more frequent use of the sounds "f" and "v" in human languages. (Other experts on language are skeptical; more about that later.)

According to the new theory, food influenced language through a complex chain of events.

Listen up, y'all: Perhaps even Yankees should start saying "y'all."

That's an argument put forth by Catherine Davies, a professor of linguistics at the University of Alabama, in a collection of essays titled Speaking of Alabama: The History, Diversity, Function, and Change of Language (edited by Thomas E. Nunnally). Davies' essay includes a section with the heading "A Southern Improvement to the Pronoun System."

"Well, I would say that Southern English is doing a great job," she says in an interview with Scott Simon on Weekend Edition.

Tara Acharya is one of the state's few Nepali interpreters, an in-demand role for the state with the largest concentration of Nepalese-Bhutanese refugees.
Adora Namigadde / WOSU

Judge Andrea Peeples says having an honest interpreter is crucial. She recalls a case she heard when she first hit the bench, during which a brother was interpreting for his sister.

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Language constantly changes. New words and phrases are always emerging. And no one knows that better than author and host of the “Grammar Girl” podcast, Mignon Fogarty. Today on All Sides, we discuss the biggest changes in language, grammar myths and more. 

Procter & Gamble has filed to trademark such Internet speak as "LOL" and "WTF," saying the terms could be used to market its products. 

What qualifies as a dumpster fire depends on who's watching, but you tend know it when you see it.

But if forced to define it for someone not prone to hashtagging, you might quote Merriam-Webster:

Dumpster fire (noun, US informal): "an utterly calamitous or mismanaged situation or occurrence: disaster."

Coding in Classrooms

Dec 22, 2017
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Today at 10am

Proposed legislation in Ohio would allow computer coding to replace some math courses. We weigh the pros and cons as many schools work to include more computer science in curriculums in place of math and foreign language.

For 30 years, Robert Siegel has pretty much been the voice of All Things Considered. He steps down from the host chair on Jan. 5.

During his career, one of the recurrent themes of his reporting has been language — and how we speak.

Back in 1993, he reported on what he heard as something new in speech.

"I heard it mostly from young women, but it was spreading among men, too: the phenomenon of making statements that sound like questions, a rising intonation," he tells All Things Considered co-host Audie Cornish.

Has anyone — a parent, teacher, or boss — told you to purge the words "um" and "uh" from your conversation?

When these words creep into our narrative as we tell a story at home, school, or work, it's natural to feel that we can do better with our speech fluency.

In 2017 alone, Merriam-Webster added more than 1,000 words to its dictionary.

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Thanks in part to the testimony of an Ohio State University freshman, the state of Ohio is joining more than 20 other states in rewarding graduating high school seniors who speak at least two languages.