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The Word Nerds Archive

Published: Wed, 18 Jul 2007 19:21:00 +0000

Last Build Date: Tue, 16 Jan 2018 07:38:44 +0000

Copyright: 2006

Comments are disabled here

Wed, 18 Jul 2007 19:21:00 +0000

As of Wednesday, July 18, 2007, the ability to comment on blog posts here at the Word Nerds' archive site has been disabled. This measure is being taken to prevent the flood of comment spam, and the attendant notifications, that have plagued this site.

You can still participate in discussions on any Word Nerds post, either here or in our regular site, as well as at the Word Nerds Discussion forum site.

This is the archive

Fri, 14 Jul 2006 03:54:00 +0000

This is the archive blog and feed for The Word Nerds, a weekly podcast about language.

If you want access to podcasts published before April 1, 2006, this is the place to be. You can subscribe to this archive feed by using the appropriate buttons in the right-hand navigation column.

To subscribe to current and new podcasts of The Word Nerds, please go to

To subscribe to the old shows...

Fri, 26 May 2006 09:24:00 +0000

...all you have to do is to subscribe to this RSS feed:

If you have iTunes, just grab that URL by right-clicking (or control-clicking, if you have a Macintosh). Then go into your iTunes, and under the Advanced menu select Subscribe to podcast... Paste that URL into the box, and you're done!

The feed of archived shows will also be called The Word Nerds, so you'll want to just pay attention to program numbers to keep the two feeds straight in your aggregator.

We're changing our blog! (63.5)

Wed, 24 May 2006 01:14:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd announces changes to The Word Nerds' blog and feed, which will take place this weekend. The web address for The Word Nerds will remain, and the feed address is now

This may mean duplicate downloads for editions of TWN that you have already received from April and May 2006. You can correct this on your end by changing the settings in your podcatcher software so that you are receiving only the most recent episodes of podcasts, not all episodes.

If, despite this, you still receive duplicate downloads, I apologize. After this weekend (5/27/06) you should only get one copy of each show through our feed.

Cross your fingers! Let's hope this works! This will mean a more accessible comment function on our blog, as well as a bulletin-board-style forum in coming weeks.

time: 3:22
size: 2.4 Mb

Media Files:

Idioms and Culture (63)

Sat, 20 May 2006 14:18:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd welcomes back the North Carolina Nerd, Howard Shepherd, who is home from his travels to Denmark. Dave and Howard respond to several voicemails and emails about ePrime and puns. (1:55)

Howard shares his memories of his trip with his students to Hobro Gymnasium in Denmark. (8:53)

Revisiting our show on Insidious Idioms, we explain our categories of idiomatic distinctions: national, regional, and socio-economic class differences. (11:36)

Music bumper from by "Make Me Understand" by Matt Thorpe (15:07)

International textures: expressing the same idea in different languages, and the perils of mistaken translation (15:43)

Song: "Fill Me In," by Hollins Steele (21:42)

Rude word of the week: "pot to piss in" (25:41)

Music bumper from "Dancing Cow" by Liquid Floor (27:25)

Variations of idioms by class and region (28:06)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 36:45
size: 25.3 Mb

rating: PG-13 (We discuss some amusing mis-translations of American idioms, some of which have sexual implications in other countries and languages.)

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Non-Verbal Communication (62)

Sat, 13 May 2006 22:04:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd and Howard Chang talk about environments in which we communicate without using any words: elevators, restrooms, automobiles, interviews (1:59)

Music bumper from "Jona Lee" by Roomful of Blues (12:32)

Non-verbal communication in romance, sports, and the classroom (12:51)

Music and dance (19:19)

Song: "There Ain't No Words," by Harrison Kennedy (22:08)

Rude word of the week: "dumb" (25:43)

Music bumper from "Flag of Democracy" by Ernie Van Veen (28:09)

Posture, body language, and gesture: making a good (or bad) impression without words (28:34)

Substitutes for body language in the cyberworld (32:22)

People who like to talk with gestures (33:11)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat

Closing music from "Grapes" by Evan Stone

time: 37:50
size: 26 Mb

rating: PG-13 (We discuss the etiquette of the men's room, as well as the sexual implications of social dancing.)

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Media Files:

Another blog update

Wed, 10 May 2006 19:36:00 +0000

We just learned from Apple Computer that The Word Nerds will be featured as a "splash" on the front page of the iTunes Music Store for about a week.

We are very happy to have this extra promotional push by Apple, and we expect this will mean a lot of new listeners and members of the Nerdly Community within the next week.

As I said in my previous post, I was planning sometime this week to switch the Word Nerds blog over to a separate server and start using WordPress to publish the blog and the podcast feed.

However, since this move could cause our web presence to disappear for a day or two, I think it is probably prudent to hold off on that migration for another week or so. I don't want new listeners to be see our logo prominently featured in the iTunes Music Store and then have absolutely nothing happen when they try to subscribe to the podcast (due to a one-day interruption).

Therefore, the migration to WordPress will probably take place sometime around the weekend of May 20. If you are a regular subscriber and you don't find a new edition of TWN in your podcatcher early that weekend, it means only that we are moving some things around, nothing more.

Thank you for your patience and understanding. We're not going away; we're just trying to improve our look.


Some changes coming

Tue, 09 May 2006 15:17:00 +0000

The Word Nerds will be making some changes to our blog setup sometime in the next week. (This means sometime between May 9 and May 16.)

While we will continue to have our podcast audio files hosted by our favorite podcast hosting company, Liberated Syndication, we will be moving the blog and feed portion of the podcast to a separate server account. We will be creating our blog posts and podcast feed with WordPress software.

What this means to listeners is this: our blog will have a more refined look and feel, and visually impaired listeners will be able to fully participate in comment discussions. Because of the LibSyn spam-protection scheme, blind and visually impaired listeners cannot now post comments, because the spam-protection mechanism requires reading and re-typing numbers from an on-screen image.

We also plan to install a bulletin-board style forum to make our discussions more open-ended. Listeners will be able to initiate threads of discussion on their own. This will appear sometime in the next month.

If you are a subscriber, you should not have to change anything. There may be a brief interruption in the website, but this should not last more than about a day. Regular subscribers may notice that a few recent editions of The Word Nerds are downloaded twice. We apologize for this, but hope that the inconvenience is not too great.

In any event, our existing podcast blog will continue to be available at We will link to archives of our older shows, but these older editions will not continue to show up in the new feed.

Thanks for your understanding and for your continued participation in our podcast conversation.


Language, Race, and Homophonic Creep

Mon, 01 May 2006 15:52:00 +0000

Hearing Howard Chang talk about “homophone creep? (a term that I like very much) made me think of the problem that I encounter every year when reading Hamlet. At one point in the play, either Rosencranz or Guildenstern uses the expression “niggard of question…? Invariably, the student who is reading that part pronounces the word as “ni-GARD,? because s/he is unwilling to say “NIG-gerd.?

We do tend to be very sensitive to “the N-word.? Sometimes I think that it is the only taboo word left in the English language. Yet the modern history of terminologies for people of African ancestry is confusing. Martin Luther King, in the 1950’s and 1960’s, used to refer to the struggles of “the Negro.? (Malcolm X referred to “the so-called Negro.?) When I was in high school in the early 1970’s, the term “black? (which is the most commonly accepted neutral term nowadays) was actually the beginning of a phrase which was much more hurtful than “------;? namely, “black son of a bitch.? Only recently has “black? begun to reclaim its place from “African-American? as the most common accepted term for a person of African heritage.

It’s difficult even to write about this topic, because it’s difficult to talk about race in America. We are all self-conscious about it—and that results in some occasionally tortuous attempts at political correctness. I remember once hearing someone (I think it was a liberal politician, but I’m not sure), while trying to distinguish a black African from a white African, refer to the person in question as an “African-American African.?

In a recent podcast about puns, I told a joke that may have been perceived by some as mildly racist. The term “squaw? has been misunderstood by some to be etymologically related to a prostitute, or a woman’s genitals (the etymology is actually neutral, from a Narraganset word meaning simply “woman?). I knew that, but I told the joke because it contained three different puns in the punchline—a pun on the word “square,? one on the word “sides,? and one on the word “hypotenuse.? I realized right after telling it that some listeners might be uncomfortable with the term “squaw,? even though it is not originally an epithet. If I had it to do again, I probably would have chosen a less politically charged joke.

—Howard Shepherd

Race and Language (60)

Sat, 29 Apr 2006 19:54:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd and Howard Chang welcome a voicemail on the Nerd Number from Hillary Israeli, on modern Hebrew as an invented language. (2:06)

Dave and Howard discuss racial labels and epithets, and the boundaries of acceptability. (4:35)

Music bumper from "Nada" by Jaime Beauchamp (16:24)

Race and identity: what is "race"? (17:01)

Song: "Black Madonna," by Sophia Ramos (25:54)

Rude word of the week: "halfbreed" (29:06)

Music bumper from "Meant to Be" by Rob Costlow (31:52)

Race, ethnicity, and diversity in American English (32:29)

The legal language of race and ethnicity (33:43)

Ethnic labels as names for sports teams (35:00)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat

Closing music from "Grapes" by Evan Stone

time: 39:57
size: 27.4 Mb

rating: R (We explore many aspects of race and speech, including many of the most hurtful and belittling racial epithets in modern American English.)

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Media Files:

Puns (59)

Sat, 22 Apr 2006 13:00:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd and Howard Shepherd respond to a voicemail from Chad at Me and the Bean about the secret girl language. (1:58)

Dave and Howard explore several different sorts of puns. (4:18)

Music bumper from "Nada" by Jaime Beauchamp (11:26)

Some serious puns (12:11)

Song: "Absinthe Minded," by Adrienne Pierce (16:03)

Rude word of the week: "dullard" (as in somebody who just doesn't get puns) (19:03)

Music bumper from "Driving Song" by Bob Hughes (22:01)

Bilingual puns (22:40)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 28:19
size: 19.5 Mb

rating: PG (Puns often have double or triple meanings. Our song celebrates a rather infamous alcoholic drink.)

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Media Files:

Music and Language (58)

Sat, 15 Apr 2006 13:30:00 +0000

Barbara Shepherd returns for the second week as a guest Nerd. She and Dave Shepherd respond to an email from Fred Chalfant about Barbara's grandmother's name. (2:52)

Dave and Barbara, who are both musicians, talk about the importance of music in their lives. (4:23)

Music bumper from "Tonight" by Zach Ashton (9:11)

What music does to language: poetry, songs, musical theater, education (9:38)

Song: "Singing to Me," by Robin Stine (14:39)

Rude word of the week: "tone deaf" (18:09)

Promo for The Sound of Young America (21:23)

The special language of music: re-purposed words in English and musical vocabulary in Italian (22:04)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 31:04
size: 21.3 Mb

rating: G (We talk about singing to our children when they were very young. Aw! Isn't that sweet?)

Categories: , , ,

Media Files:

Age and Language (57)

Sat, 08 Apr 2006 17:04:00 +0000

Since Howard Shepherd and Howard Chang are both travelling the world, Dave Shepherd welcomes a special guest Nerd, Barbara Shepherd (the Love of His Life). (1:57)

Dave and Barbara talk about their favorite new podcast, Washington Travel Cast, produced by their good friends, Julie and Mark. Join Julie and Mark on podcast walking tours of Washington DC and the surrounding area. (2:46)

Dave and Barbara respond to audio feedback from Jenny B. with a mondegreen from childhood. We follow up by quoting a great Word Nerds mondegreen, experienced by Carrie and originally mentioned in a comment thread. (4:00)

Dave and Barbara, both Baby Boomers, talk about how their generation has shaped language. (6:55)

Music bumper from by 'Telepop' by The Jerrys (10:09)

Being children, grandchildren, and parents: how these relationships color our perception of language (10:44)

Song: '21 Years,' by 77 South (18:11)

Rude word of the week: 'square' (21:40)

Music bumper from "Essence" by Evan Stone (25:08)

Trend-watching: Barbara talks about trends that may have an impact on language and culture. (25:31)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 32:00
size: 22 Mb

rating: PG (In our Rude Word segment we make passing reference to a marijuana cigarette, but otherwise it's squeaky-clean.)

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Media Files:

Language of Deception (56)

Sat, 01 Apr 2006 17:14:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd welcomes Adam Curry, Ashley Simpson, and Howard Stern to the Word Nerds' studio. APRIL FOOLS! Just kidding! It's really Dave and Howard Chang.

Dave and Howard respond to voicemail from Patrick regarding the Rude Word of the Week. (1:59)

On April Fools Day, Dave and Howard explore the relationship of language to deception and humor. Dave presents a mental deception he learned from Frank Freer, the late magic dealer in Berlin. (4:06)

The trickster in myth; deception and theatrical performance (10:25)

Music bumper from by "Had Me Fooled" by The Defibulators (15:12)

Dave's magic teacher, Jamy Ian Swiss, is the Honest Liar. (15:57)

Con games, hustles, deception in sales, and the Nigerian Prince email scam (16:52)

Song: "I Don't Wanna Lie," by Beatrice Ericsson (25:57)

Rude word of the week: "quack" (29:30)

Music bumper from "Just Looking" by The Jerrys (31:07)

Official and public deceptions: wagging the dog, and the "War Magician" (31:37)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat

Closing music from "Grapes" by Evan Stone

time: 38:39
size: 26.5 Mb

rating: PG (Howard's discussion of the trickster in mythology is briefly just slightly violent; otherwise this show is kid-safe.)

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Media Files:

Invented Language (55)

Sat, 25 Mar 2006 15:54:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd revisits a couple of blend-word examples we overlooked last week: "celebutante" and "ruinion." (Thanks to Hillary Israeli.) (1:56)

Dave and Howard Shepherd discuss the challenges of trying to remain non-commercial for one year. Our anniversary was the day we recorded this show, March 21, 2006. (2:56)

Dave and Howard explore the realm of invented languages--languages artificially constructed for specific purposes. (Thanks to Kevin Thomas and Alexandre Enkerli for the topic suggestion.) (4:34)

Language that limits:

  • Parental code (8:24)
  • The created sub-languages of childhood (9:44)
  • Pig Latin (10:33)
  • Javanais (11:44)
  • Verlan (12:16)
Music bumper from "Telepop" by The Jerrys (13:26)


  • Morse code, building codes, speech codes and double-talk (14:59)
  • Cryptology, shortwave number-code stations (16:28)
  • The Navajo "Code-Talkers" from World War II (18:03)
Song: 'Code' by Brooks Newton (18:39)

Rude word of the week: "Donald Trump" (an example of Cockney rhyming slang, based on the name of the famous American tycoon and television reality-show star) (23:42)

Music bumper from "Trifle 3" by Fuzzy Logic (25:02)

Language that expands:

  • Fantasy languages: Elvish, Klingon (25:56)
  • Esperanto (27:05)
  • E-Prime (29:48)
Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network and

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 33:14
size: 22.9 Mb

rating: PG (Our Rude Word alludes to a mildly rude word for defecation.)

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Portmanteau Words (Blend Words) (54)

Sat, 18 Mar 2006 17:21:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd and Howard Chang respond to voicemail from Paul of The PK and J Show, who has a word-usage question about 'beside' and 'besides.' (1:53)

Dave and Howard discuss the formation of blend words, popularly known as 'portmanteau words,' and their effect on language change. (5:06)

What are 'good' (effective) and 'bad' (non-effective) blends? (8:20)

Music bumper from by 'Stitch Together' by Adam Boucher (14:39)

Blends that promote convenience and utility of of speech (15:05)

Clips and clip-blends (21:33)

Song: 'Brunching Britney and the Homeboy,' by PC Muñoz (24:40)

Blend words from advertising and marketing (29:00)

Rude word of the week: 'shart' (31:11)

Music bumper from 'Court of Greedy Kings' by Val Davis (32:46)

Whimsical blends and awkward, forced blends (33:03)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat

Closing music from 'Grapes' by Evan Stone

time: 38:11
size: 26.3 Mb

rating: PG (We manage to define our Rude Word without being rude at all.)

Categories: ,

Media Files:

Nerds Who Say "Nym" (53)

Sat, 11 Mar 2006 14:27:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd and Howard Shepherd respond to voicemail from Art in Vermont about a 'computer-generated' mondegreen. (1:53)

Dave and Howard explore the '-nym' words of linguistics: terms used to categorize types of words. Our title this week is based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail. There is great footage of an interview with the Pythons, just before the American release of Holy Grail, on The Sound of Young America. (3:12)

  • Homonyms (both homophones and homographs) (4:36)
Music bumper from 'Trifle 3' by Fuzzy Logic (10:28)

  • Synonyms (10:58)
  • Antonyms (14:10)
  • Contronyms, also known as auto-antonyms (16:19)
Song: 'Homonym' by Foolish Fortune (18:30)

Rude word of the week: 'snafu' (an acronym) (23:03)

Music bumper from 'Baja Taxi' by Brain Buckit (26:26)

A request by Annik Rubens for votes at Help select a recognizable badge or logo for podcast listeners. (27:01)

  • Retronyms: a flash from the past (27:40)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network and

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 34:54
size: 23.9 Mb

rating: R (Our Rude Word segment contains the 'F-bomb' several times. We also talk about Woody's World of Penis Euphemisms in our Synonyms segment.)

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Media Files:

Locker-room Lingo, Pickup Lines, and Flirtation (52)

Sat, 04 Mar 2006 14:10:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd and Howard Chang explore the language of the locker-room, the emerging way young people talk about each other as sexual beings. (1:55)

Song: 'There She Goes' by Brother Love (15:39)

'What's your sign?' and other pickup lines (20:21)

Rude word of the week: 'one-night stand' (26:02)

Song 'Tonight,' by Zach Ashton (27:47)

Flirtation: kinder, gentler, more sincere than pickup lines? (31:28)

Flirtation and the performance of close-up magic (33:22)

Please share with us your experiences with pickup lines and flirtation. (35:57)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat

Closing music from 'Grapes' by Evan Stone

time: 38:23
size: 26.3 Mb

rating: R (We discuss the way adolescents and adults talk about sex.)

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Media Files:

Fantastic Flubs (51)

Sat, 25 Feb 2006 16:10:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd and Howard Shepherd play a voicemail response to Howard's recent rap of Beowulf. (2:29)

Howard and Dave discuss speech flubs: malapropisms, spoonerisms, mondegreens, and shibboleths. (Mondegreens are celebrated by Amanda, the Bean of Me and the Bean.) (3:45)

Music bumper from 'Jona Lee' by Roomful of Blues (17:18)

Spoonerisms--funny sound transpositions (17:37)

Song: 'Fairest of the Mall' by Griddle (19:27)

Rude word of the week: 'bass-ackwards' (21:57)

Music bumper from 'Tonight,' by Zach Ashton (24:01)

Shibboleths--'pronunciation passwords' (24:30)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 31:43
size: 21.8 Mb

rating: PG (Nothing much ruder than our Rude Word this week--but you wouldn't want your six-year-old to talk like this, probably.)

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The History of Our Podcast (50)

Sat, 18 Feb 2006 15:31:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd, Howard Chang, and Howard Shepherd look back on how this podcast got started. (Warning: navel-gazing alert!) (2:09)

We give a glimpse behind the scenes: how we prepare a show during our 'Nerd Nosh.' (12:36)

Music bumper from 'History Repeats' by Jay Snyder (14:20)

Our worldwide audience and their nerdy interests (14:44)

How we do it: our technical setup, and our usual work-plan for a show (16:50)

We do it for free? Well, yes, but... We would accept your donations, and we might even take a sponsor sometime. (24:06)

Music bumper from 'Lost in History' by Real Smash (25:58)

Rude word of the week: 'sellout' (26:24)

Song: 'Repeat History,' by Jeremy Robinson (28:08)

Where are we going? Our musings about this show's future (30:56)

(We promise we will get back to talking about words next week, honest!)

Music courtesy of

Time: 36:33
Size: 25.1 Mb

Photo of the Word Nerds in the studio by Barbara Shepherd

Rating: PG (Never really rude; a couple of off-hand mild vulgarities)

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Governmental Gab (49)

Sat, 11 Feb 2006 20:19:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd plays the first feedback we've received on the new Nerd Number, about our show on onomotapoeia (2:45)

Dave and Howard Chang explore words and metaphors describing systems of governance and polity. Each of them reads a poem about the ship of state. (4:01)

Music bumper from 'Court of Greedy Kings,' by Val Davis (10:02)

Governance, the governator, and other words about those who govern (10:17)

Song: 'Peace Wins the Election' by Maria Daines (19:38)

Rude word of the week: 'tyrant' (23:15)

Music bumper from 'Necessary Rain,' by Emile Westergaard (29:02)

Forms of government and words to describe them (29:34)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat

Closing music from 'Grapes' by Evan Stone.

time: 35:47
size: 16.4 Mb

rating: G (We hope people of all ages will learn about their government, wherever they are.)

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Rhythm and Meaning (48)

Sat, 04 Feb 2006 13:51:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd and Howard Shepherd talk about rhythm and the significance of language cadence. (1:58)

Rhythm in the 'frozen register' (a term we picked up from Prof. Cheryl Carter) (3:33)

Song: 'Rhythm Hymn,' by The Franks (9:44)

Rhythm as a mnemonic device. We recall 'A Prayer of St. Chrysotom,' not having heard it in over 20 years. (14:51)

Music bumper from 'Move to my Beat' by Cool Cluster (17:27)

Rude word of the week: 'stumblebum' (18:04)

Song: 'Back Beat Rhythm,' by Los Blancos (20:38)

Rhythm as a social skill. Howard gangsta-raps the introduction to Beowulf (24:52)

Music courtesy of

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 28:48
size: 13.2 Mb

rating: PG (Oops! We just discovered that our first song has a rude word for 'poop' in it--twice! Otherwise this is an innocuous show this week.)

Categories: ,

Media Files:

Weather Words (47)

Sat, 28 Jan 2006 13:49:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd explains why we have a new Nerd Number (206-600-NERD). For the next couple weeks you'll hear two different numbers mentioned in alternating shows, since we pre-recorded several shows before switching phone numbers. (1:52)

Dave Shepherd and Howard Chang talk about the weather without doing anything about it. (This is a reference to a quote from Mark Twain.) (2:16)

Song: 'Rainfall,' by Hungry Lucy (7:28)

Weather metaphors (11:20)

Dave talks about the play Alle Wetter (Thunderation) by Erich Mühsam (18:45)

Music bumper from 'Necessary Rain' by Emile Westergaard (20:29)

Rude word of the week: 'fair-weather friend' (21:01)

Song: 'Pray for Rain,' by Allison Crowe (23:36)

Ways of describing the weather (27:55)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 34:55
size: 16 Mb

rating: G (Schoolchildren everywhere are waiting for snow--or even wintry mix.)

Categories: , , ,

Media Files:

Onomatopoeia and Other Word Music (46)

Sat, 21 Jan 2006 21:38:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd and Howard Shepherd get a buzz out of talking about onomatopoeia. (Did I spell that right?) (1:52)

Song: 'Crash Bang Boom!' by Ellen Rosner (5:48)

Animal sounds around the world (source: Sounds of the World's Animals website) (8:07)

Music bumper from 'Small Thuds in the Night' by Happy Ashtray (12:22)

Rude word of the week: the Bronx cheer (which we can't really spell out) (13:05)

Song: 'The Buzz is Over,' by Macle (15:05)

Other examples of 'word music' (18:54)

  • Alliteration
  • Assonance
  • Consonance
  • Rhyme
  • Phonetic intensives

Howard reads 'Meeting at Night,' by Robert Browning (21:48)

Music courtesy of

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 24:47
size: 11.4 Mb

rating: G (Onomatopoeia is really a kid's thing. We say 'fart' in our Rude Word segment, but that's as rude as it gets.)

Media Files: needs your help (45A)

Tue, 17 Jan 2006 02:27:00 +0000

A short plea for help, suggestions, support for the Online Etymology Dictionary, maintained as a labor of love by Douglas Harper, and falling victim to its own success.

time: 2:27
size: 2.3 Mb

Media Files:

Our Favorite Words (45)

Sat, 14 Jan 2006 14:54:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd, Howard Shepherd, and Howard Chang share some of their favorite words--words that Word Nerds would like. (1:57)

Words whose sounds we like (2:57)

  • wlonk
  • humuhumunukunukuapua'a
  • aglet
'SAT words'--words every smart high school student should know. (6:53)
  • indefatigable
  • benevolent
  • malevolent
Song: 'Certain Words in Uncertain Times,' by This Providence (8:45)

Words whose etymologies interest us (11:56)

  • helicopter
  • dactyl
Music bumper from 'The Helicopter' by Boblex (13:47)

Rude word of the week: 'sycophant' (14:22)

Song: 'Favorite Song,' by Tony Rodd (17:27)

Just some more cool words we like (21:29)

  • apheresis/aphæresis
  • time
  • anthropomorphic
Please share your favorite words with us here on the website, in the comments section. Or leave a voicemail on our new and improved Nerd Number, 206-600-NERD (206-600-6373).

Music courtesy of

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 27:52
size: Mb

rating: PG (The Rude Word segment has a couple fairly rude synonyms for 'sycophant.')

Media Files:

Metaphor and Metonymy (44)

Sat, 07 Jan 2006 07:04:00 +0000

Howard Shepherd and Dave Shepherd introduce a voicemail from Jeff in Houston, Texas, on the infrequency of Christmas (1:56)

Howard and Dave make a conceptual leap by exploring metaphor and metonymy. (3:25)

Song: 'Similar,' by Erich Specht (11:34)

Promo for Will and Iris (14:49)

The development of metaphor in linguistic maturity (15:13)

Music bumper from 'Like Shine' by Likeshine (17:17)

Rude word of the week: 'asshole' (17:43)

Song: 'Like Tears in Rain,' by P.W. Fenton and The Second Ward (19:45)

Visual metonymy and metonymic gesture in film (22:55)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network and

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 28:17
size: 13 Mb

rating: PG-13 (Our Rude Word is one you wouldn't say to your mother, really.)

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Games Nerds Play (43)

Sat, 31 Dec 2005 06:42:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd explains that the only reason this show is rated 'R' is because of the second song. (It would otherwise probably be PG.) (1:59)

Howard Chang, Howard Shepherd and Dave Shepherd talk about the langauge of games and playing. (2:19)

Song: 'Play My Game,' by Heidi McCurdy (6:35)

More gaming language--'frolic,' 'cavort,' 'puzzle,' 'pun' (9:35)

Music bumper from 'Games' by Shaun (15:30)

Greetings from Simran in India. (15:53)

Rude word of the week: 'player/playa' (16:16)

Song: 'Playa's Fo Life,' by Gangsta Tea, the Oklahoma Realist (18:36)

Games nerds play (23:05)

  • Catchphrase (23:17)
  • Taboo (24:40)
  • Scattergories (25:53)
  • Fictionary (27:17)
You play Fictionary with us. Type your answers to the word 'melicrate' as comments here under this blog post. (Listen to the choices first.) (32:37)

Music courtesy of

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 35:42
size: 16.4 Mb

rating: R (Our discussion is all pretty PG-mild, but our second song uses a racial epithet and rather rude street slang for women.)

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Word Nerds in 2005--A Look Back (42)

Sat, 24 Dec 2005 05:03:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd introduces a look back over the previous 41 editions of The Word Nerds, on behalf of Howard Shepherd and Howard Chang. (3:27)

Greeting from Annik Rubens of Schlaflos in München (7:10)

Song: 'Why,' by The Day Traders (7:31)

Greeting from Sébastien of French Podclass (11:26)

Clips from the past year:

Greeting from Paul Nicholls of (17:40) Greeting from Chad ('Me') & the Bean from (21:05)

Song: 'Friday Night,' by Amy Dalley (21:05)

Greeting from Jason of Perth, Australia (24:52)

Rude Words of the Week:

Greeting from Scott Fletcher of Podcheck Review (29:10)

Song: 'Talk, Talk, Talk,' by Cheryl B. Engelhardt (29:10)

Greeting and etymology of 'accent' from Charles Hodgson of podictionary (31:31)

More clips from the past:

Greeting from Holger of MacManiacs (36:11)

Music courtesy of and The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 41:53
size: 19.2 Mb

rating: PG-13 (some of our most interesting rude words, plus sexual references in our clip from the Euphemisms show)

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Insidious Idioms (41)

Sat, 17 Dec 2005 17:03:00 +0000

Howard Shepherd and Dave Shepherd define insidious idioms--quirky forms of expression that don't seem quirky to native speakers. (2:33)

Song: 'Figure It Out,' by Cara Aley (7:00)

Embedded metaphor versus insidious idiom (10:02)

Music bumper from 'Like Shine' by Likeshine. (18:18)

Rude word of the week: 'piss off' (18:46)

Song: 'So Long, Goodby,' by The Jimi Ruccolo Band (23:12)

Cross cultural confusions and insidious idioms (26:25)

Annik Rubens chats with Dave about cross-cultural confusion in Germany (26:37)

Music courtesy of

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 32:27
size: 14.9 Mb

rating: PG (We chose a less rude Rude Word than we original considered, but it's still rather rude. We also make a brief, non-explicit sexual reference.)

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Curiosity (40)

Sat, 10 Dec 2005 19:48:00 +0000

Howard Chang and Dave Shepherd explore the etymology of words used to talk about curiosity. (Thanks to Paul Lawler for this topic suggestion.) (1:54)
  • curious
  • quidnunc
Song: 'Why,' by Mandi Perkins (6:19)

More about the dark side of curiosity (10:30)

  • eavesdropper
  • voyeur
  • gossip
  • Schadenfreude
  • spying, espionage
  • interrogation
Music bumper from 'Why' by Don't Call Me Dude (16:23)

Rude word of the week: 'MYOB (mind your own business)' (17:06)

Song: 'Why,' by The Day Traders (19:12)

Curiosity as a good thing (the quality that teachers like students to have) (23:07)

Music courtesy of

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 29:25
size: 13.5 Mb

rating: PG (discussion of Jeffrey Eugenides' fascinating novel Middlesex, about a hermaphrodite)

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Word Nerds in History (39)

Sat, 03 Dec 2005 17:00:00 +0000

Howard Shepherd and Dave Shepherd tip their hats to the great, famous, and influential word nerds in the modern history of the English language. (1:49)

Song: 'Talk, Talk, Talk,' by Cheryl B. Engelhardt (16:17 )

Our friend Jason from Perth, Australia sends greetings. (18:37)

Rude word of the week: 'old fart' (18:46)

Song: 'Mark My Words,' by Granian (22:32)

Word nerds in the mass media (up to, and including podcasting) (25:44)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat, courtesy of

time: 33:50
size: 15.5 Mb

rating: PG (We mention a recent rude Rude Word and explicate the details of this week's Rude Word.)

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Color Metaphors (38)

Sat, 26 Nov 2005 17:03:00 +0000

Howard Chang and Dave Shepherd talk about a virtual rainbow of color metaphors. (2:03)

Song: 'Blue Bird Tattoo,' by Circe Link (20:02)

Rude word of the week: 'yellow' (23:06)

Song: 'Lime,' by Persona (26:22)

The many faces of 'green,' plus a bit of brown-nosing (29:53)

Music courtesy of

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 35:17
size: 16.2 Mb

rating: PG (Everything's just fine, until we talk about brown-nosing at the end.)

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Cliches (37)

Sat, 19 Nov 2005 18:46:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd explains why we put a 'ratings' announcement at the beginning of each show. (1:51)

Howard Shepherd and Dave give it 110% as they explore clichés. (3:04)

Song: 'Friday Night,' by Amy Dalley (13:33)

Rude word of the week: 'shit happens' (17:21)

Song: 'Sick As a Dog,' by Brad Sucks (21:04)

Clichés from the news (24:12)

Music courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network

Theme music by Kick the Cat, courtesy of

time: 31:25
size: 14.4 Mb

rating: PG-13 (Our rude word is one that Dave, for one, would not want to hear his middle-school students use.)

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Names and Identity (36)

Sat, 12 Nov 2005 21:59:00 +0000

Howard Chang and Dave Shepherd talk about the relationship of names to identity--a revisitation of our show 'The Power of Names.' (1:54)

  • Many listeners have emailed us with comments about name-related topics. (2:08)
  • Names are used as concealments and as self-expression on the Internet. (4:55)
  • Our names are connected to our faces and identities. (8:39)
  • Names enter our language as eponymous adjectives. (12:40)
Song: 'Forget My Name,' by The Spinning Jennies (17:57)

Rude word of the week: 'troll' (20:45)

Song: 'Find My Name,' by Kristin Dare (24:50)

Marriage and names--changes and choices (28:55)

An ancient Roman's life changes when he takes his adopted father's name. (31:52)

Music courtesy of

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 35:42
size: 16.4 Mb

rating: PG (explanation of a Neronian phlebotomy; a rude definition of our Rude Word)

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Euphemisms (35)

Sat, 05 Nov 2005 17:00:00 +0000

Howard Shepherd and Dave Shepherd talk about euphemisms--nice ways of saying things. (Mom taught us that if we couldn't say anything nice, we shouldn't say anything at all.) (1:52) Song: 'Collateral Damage,' by Furthur Abuse (17:48)

Rude word of the week: 'vomit,' and several euphemisms for it (21:57)

Song: 'In Words,' by Instant Winner (24:48)

Dysphemism, euphemism's evil twin--less pleasant ways of saying things (This idea is clearly explained by Dr. Susanna Cumming of the University of California/Santa Barbara.) (28:12)

Music courtesy of

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 32:28
size: 14.9 Mb

rating: R (Our discussion of sexual euphemisms is pretty frank, especially of John Roberts's press-gaggle gaff.)

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Words of Weariness (34)

Sat, 29 Oct 2005 16:00:00 +0000

Howard Chang and Dave Shepherd are two exhausted teachers--and they talk about words used to talk about weariness (2:12)

Song: 'Carry Me Home,' by Virginia (16:10)

Rude word of the week: 'dragging your ass' (19:26)

Song: 'Weary Rag,' by Earl Oliver, the Walkin' Blues Man (23:03)

More words about weariness (We've just run out of gas...) (26:11)

Music courtesy of

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 30:17
size: 13.9 Mb

rating: PG (Our rude word is ruder than a child should utter, but otherwise we're too tired to be very nasty.)

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Eponyms (33)

Sat, 22 Oct 2005 16:00:00 +0000

Howard Shepherd and Dave Shepherd discuss some of their favorite eponymic expressions--common words taken from proper nouns (1:46)

Song: 'Cellophane,' by Sattelite Hearts (13:56)

Rude word of the week: 'chauvinist' (18:35)

Song: 'Aphrodite's Child,' by Juliet Kelly (21:36)

Eponyms from myth and literature (25:58)

Thanks to emailers and voice-mailers. Ferg from the podcast Air Ferg scooped us on 'playing the dozens.' Chad from Mt. Airy, NC, gives us a couple of North Carolina-isms we left out. (30:55)

Music courtesy of

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 35:03
size: 16.2 Mb

rating: PG (Discussion of the attitudes of male chauvinist pigs.)

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Our Favorite Resources: Online and Print (32)

Sat, 15 Oct 2005 16:00:00 +0000

Howard Chang talks about why we love both online and print books and other resources about words. (1:50) Dave Shepherd shares some suggestions by listeners for good online word resources. Thanks especially to Frank Jonen for The Devil's Dictionary and Eric Strauss for The Origins of Cliches. (4:36) Howard Shepherd sings the praises of (5:56) Howard Chang and Dave talk about many of their favorite online sites (7:25): The Oxford English Dictionary Online The Online Etymology Dictionary Urban Dictionary Podictionary A Word a Day from Song: 'Find the Words,' by Chandler (14:05) Rude word of the week: 'plagiarist' (18:20) Song: 'Blue Book,' by Jamen Brooks (21:26) Howard Chang, Howard Shepherd, and Dave discuss their favorite word books (25:04): The New College Latin & English Dictionary The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White 100 Words Every High-School Graduate Should Know Latin for the Illiterati, by Jon R. Stone Amo, Amat, Amas, and More, by Eugene H. Ehrlich It's Greek to Me: Brush Up Your Classics by Michael Macrone An Encyclopedia of the Languages of Europe, by Glanville Price The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language Expletive Deleted!, by Ruth Wajnryb Eats, Shoots and Leaves, by Lynne Truss Writing Without Teachers, by Peter Elbow Music courtesy of Theme music by Kick the Cat time: 36:53 size: 16.9 Mb rating: G (People of all ages should read word books.)[...]

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Registers of Language (31)

Sat, 08 Oct 2005 17:33:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd shares a joke from Ed Nickow about American monolingualism. (1:56)

Howard Shepherd and Dave Shepherd talk about registers of language and explore the concept of 'vertical' registers. (2:49)

One interesting hierarchy of 'vertical' registers is proposed by Cheryl Carter.

Song: 'Proper English,' by Frontliners (12:11)

Rude word of the week: 'gauche' (15:51)

Song: 'Intimate Strangers,' by Aaron Cheney (19:14)

'Horizontal' registers, jargon, and community argot (22:54)

Theme music by Kick the Cat

Music courtesy of

time: 29:11
size: 13.2 Mb

rating: G (This podcast is mostly done in a polite register of language.)

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Flight and Terror (30)

Sat, 01 Oct 2005 11:28:00 +0000

Howard Chang and Dave Shepherd talk about words used to describe people who are running away from dreadful situations. (1:51)

Song: 'Home,' by Hawkeye (14:44)

Rude word of the week: 'bum' (20:44)

Music: 'In His Time,' by 21DCO (27:09)

Fear and terror, terrorists and freedom fighters (27:08)

Theme music by Kick the Cat

Music courtesy of

time: 37:19
size: 17.1 Mb

rating: PG-13 (Howard mentions an alteration of a racial slur.)

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Verbal Put-Downs (29)

Sun, 25 Sep 2005 04:03:00 +0000

Howard Shepherd and Dave Shepherd share some of their favorite bon mots, verbal put-downs and snaps. (Resource for snaps and playing the dozens: Online Magazine) (1:45)

Song: 'Lights Are On But No One's Home,' by The Churchills (15:06)

Rude word of the week: 'dumbass' (19:04)

Song: 'Cuttin' You Down to Size,' by Billy Hatley's Big City Band (23:22)

A few favorite Shakespearean insults (26:58)

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 32:53
size: 15.2 Mb

rating: PG (Mildly rude insults; brief sexual reference in The Churchills' song)

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Animal Metaphors and Animal Idioms (28)

Sat, 17 Sep 2005 23:52:00 +0000

Howard Chang and Dave Shepherd explore animal metaphors and American English idioms based on animals. (1:41)

Song: 'Snakes,' by Calyptra, courtesy of (11:38)

Rude word of the week: 'dog' and other animal-based insults (14:56)

Song: 'Taller Than Dogs,' by Oscar Trim, courtesy of the Podsafe Music Network (19:44)

Fantastic animal metaphors, and ancient roots of animal idioms (22:23)

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 30:51
size: 14.1 Mb
NOTE: We will save you all some hard drive space by encoding at 64 kbps and 22.05 kHz from now on. It seems to sound just as good!

rating: PG (Some animal insults are really rude.)

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Regional Speech and Our Roots (27)

Sun, 11 Sep 2005 04:03:00 +0000

Howard Shepherd and Dave Shepherd invited their two siblings to talk about the roots of their speech.

Robert Shepherd talks about being the son who stayed close to home. (2:25)

Howard and Dave recall learning English on the North Carolina rural route, and losing a lot of their accents. (5:37)

Song: 'Blue Highway Home,' by Jim Taylor and Friends (19:59)

Rude word of the week: 'hillbilly' (22:37)

Beth Shepherd Bliss reminisces about leaving North Carolina to come to the Philadelphia area. (27:40)

What listeners from around the USA (and Australia) call a carbonated sweet drink and a long sandwich--emails and voicemails (32:00)

Howard recalls Tom Wicker's taking professional advantage of a southern accent. (34:22)

One of our favorite podcasts that features speech of our native region is 5 Minutes With Wichita.

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 37:49
size: 34.7 Mb

rating: G (It's all about family. Our parents might even hear this one! Nothing much rude at all about this podcast.)

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Nerds in Europe: Traveling and Language (26)

Sun, 04 Sep 2005 04:03:00 +0000

Howard Chang and Dave Shepherd respond to some of the summer's emails. Thanks to Rachael for sending us a copy of Expletive Deleted, by Ruth Wajnryb. (1:50)

Howard and Dave reminisce about their summer travels in Europe and about speaking in other languages than English. (6:29)

Song: 'Summertime,' by Brother Love, courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network (20:20)

Rude word of the week: 'schlock' (23:32)

Song: 'Bad Vacation,' by Rockwell Church, courtesy of (27:38)

Summer sounds of Vienna, Austria (31:54)

Soundseeing, sightseeing, and being a tourist (32:12)

Albumizing versus scrapbooking. (34:57)

Theme music by Kick the Cat

photos: Howard and Vanessa in Rome; Salzburg by night as photographed by Dave.

time: 38:31
size: 35.4 Mb
rating: PG (Brother Love's song contains a mild profanity. But what can be offensive about a nice trip to Europe?)

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Please Support Hurricane Katrina Relief Efforts (25A)

Thu, 01 Sep 2005 09:11:00 +0000

The Word Nerds urge you to support relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Katrina through contributions to the American Red Cross or other relief organizations.

time: 1:44
size: 2.5 Mb

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Word Fads (25)

Sun, 28 Aug 2005 04:03:00 +0000

Howard Shepherd and Dave Shepherd talk about neologisms that stick around in language. (2:45)

Song: 'Groovy T' by Euphonic (17:36)

Rude word of the week: 'duh' (We include a tribute to Urban Dictionary.) (20:04)

Song: 'Fashion Dog' by One Drop Rule (24:04)

Metaphors that die (27:53)

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 33:21
size: 30.6 Mb
rating: PG-13 (brief reference to sex; use of a racial slur as a slang reference)

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Filling the Void: the Fear of Silence (24)

Sun, 21 Aug 2005 04:03:00 +0000

Howard Chang, Howard Shepherd, and Dave Shepherd talk about filler language and the tyranny of silence. (2:00)

Song: Vocal tic mashup, based on 'Saunter Down Sixth Avenue' by The Pulsars (11:29)

Rude word of the week: 'blabbermouth' (12:17)

Song: 'Gift of Gab [god's gift]' by Doug Evans (16:34)

The discipline of silence; silence as punishment (20:14)

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 27:27
size: 25.2 Mb

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Tone and the Written Word (23)

Sun, 14 Aug 2005 04:03:00 +0000

Howard Shepherd and Dave Shepherd talk about the effect of Internet communication on written English. (2:16)

Song: 'Letters to Myself,' by Now Death, courtesy of (17:36)

Rude word of the week: 'Dear John letter' (22:04)

Song: 'Fairest of the Mall,' by Griddle, courtesy of The Podsafe Music Network (26:33)

What's coming next? How is new technology influencing language change? (29:05)

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 34:22
size: 31.6 Mb

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Our Linguistic Pet Peeves (22)

Sun, 07 Aug 2005 04:03:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd, Howard Shepherd, and Howard Chang talk about their pet language peeves. (1:54)

Song: 'You and I Are,' by Laughing Colors (11:12)

Rude word of the week: 'anal retentive' (14:13)

Why we all dislike 'verbing' (18:21)

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 25:03
size: 23 Mb

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A Whole Lot of Stuff: Collective Nouns (21)

Sun, 31 Jul 2005 04:03:00 +0000

Howard Shepherd and Dave Shepherd define and discuss collective and mass nouns. (2:25)

Some cool collective noun links:
World Wide Words Collective Noun Page
British Council Collective Nouns Page
The Collective Noun Page
Paul Vigay's Collective Noun Database

Song:"Crows and Ravens Grouped in Clusters," by The Low Season Combo (WARNING: this song contains a rude word.) (13:59)

Rude word of the week: "philistine" (18:29)

Song: "Gaggle of Titmice," by The Slowly Rubbings (21:53)

Corporate versus individual identity and collective nouns (25:46)

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 30:38
size: 28.2 Mb

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Meet the Nerds (20)

Sun, 24 Jul 2005 04:02:00 +0000

(UK title: With the Nerds)

The Bioloquy Show

Dave Shepherd acknowledges several nerdy interlocutors. (2:55)

Howard Chang defines 'bioloquy.' (4:36)

Dave Shepherd's bioloquy (5:38)

Howard Shepherd's bioloquy (10:01)

Howard Chang's bioloquy (14:48)

Song: 'Something to Say,' by Mr. E (20:05)

Rude word of the week: 'dork' (23:53)

What we teach and why (27:06)

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 35:43
size: 32.8 Mb

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(Dis)comfort and Paralanguage (19)

Sun, 17 Jul 2005 04:03:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd and Howard Chang explore expressions of discomfort, both verbal and nonverbal. (3:20)

Song: 'Comfortably Uncomfortable,' by Everyday Atlas (15:41)

Rude word of the week: 'up shit creek without a paddle' (19:49)

Song: 'Hurt So Good,' by The Yellow Snow Company (22:26)

Expressions of comfort and pleasure (26:53)

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 34:26
size: 31.6 Mb

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Snooty Foreignisms (18)

Sun, 10 Jul 2005 04:02:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd and Annik Rubens talk about using slang in a foreign language, and about English in German advertising. (4:27)

Howard Shepherd and Dave discuss snooty foreignisms, calques, and loan words. (6:48)

Song: 'Babblefish' by Maxwell Strait (16:56)

Rude word of the week: 'shit' and its European cousins (21:02)

Song: 'Lime Ennui,' by Him & the Drinks (24:18)

Loans and calques from English into other languages (28:02)

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 32:12
size: 22.1 Mb

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Sun, 03 Jul 2005 04:01:00 +0000

Howard Chang and Dave Shepherd discuss the language of inspiration (2:05)

Song: 'Inspiration,' by Dan Mayer (15:12)

Rude word of the week: 'airhead' (18:35)

Song: 'Who Needs Air?' by Orizon (22:20)

Sports metaphors and inspiration (26:49)

How to overcome writer's block (29:45)

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 33:04
size: 22.7 Mb

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The Unnamed Antecedent

Sun, 26 Jun 2005 04:02:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd pays tribute to Doug Harper's Online Etymology Dictionary, found at (2:28)

Howard Shepherd and Dave talk about pronouns without antecedents. (4:55)

Song: 'It's Time,' by Amyssis (12:38)

Rude word of the week: the Unnamed Antecedent (Wanna make something of it?) (16:38)

Song: 'Hearts and Minds,' by Dig Trio (19:35)

Anticipatory pronouns (24:47)

Theme music by Kick the Cat

time: 29:46
size: 20.6 Mb

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Terms of Determination, Terms of Surrender

Sun, 19 Jun 2005 04:01:00 +0000

Howard Chang and Dave Shepherd discuss the 'podcast conversation.' (2:21)

Tell us what you call a long sandwich. Call the Nerd Number, 215-543-NERD. (4:30)

The language of determination and seeing things through (5:22)

Song: 'Here and Now,' by Shaheen (14:05)

Rude word of the week: 'balls' (17:07)

Song: 'Find a Way,' by Wiretree (23:01)

Terms of surrender (25:41)

time: 32:15
size: 22.1 Mb

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The Cold War and Hostile Language

Sun, 12 Jun 2005 13:35:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd introduces the Nerd Number, 215-543-NERD. Leave us a voicemail and tell us how you refer to a soft drink. (2:00)

Dave mentions podictionary, a short daily podcast about words. (2:42)

Dave & Howard Shepherd talk about language from the Cold War. (3:59)

Song; 'Adrenaline,' by Nicolas Johansen (13:27)

Rude word of the week: 'nazi' (19:05)

Song: 'Big Blue Cadillac,' by Kevin Mark (23:00)

Military euphemisms (27:38)

time: 36:13
size: 24.9 Mb

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The Language of Love: Food, War, Fire

Sat, 04 Jun 2005 17:54:00 +0000

Howard Chang and Dave Shepherd discuss food metaphors in the language of love. (2:07)

Song: 'I Will Love You,' by Fisher (12:07)

Rude word of the week: 'prick' (15:53)

Song: 'Blackheart Blues,' by Melissa Forbes (18:48)

Love and war, love and fire (23:50)

time: 34:12
size: 23.5 Mb

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Rude Words and Categories of Rudeness

Sun, 29 May 2005 18:56:00 +0000

Re-introduction of the Three Nerds (2:09)

Feedback on the baseball edition of The Word Nerds (3:20)

DISCLAIMER: This is definitely a 'not-safe-for-work-or-school' podcast. (4:27)

Howard Shepherd and Dave discuss categories of rudeness. (5:05)

Song: 'Planet Blue' by Mike Musgrove (16:15)

Rude Word of the Week: 'f**k' (20:59)

Song: 'The Whole Day Sleeping' by Dark Smile (28:04)

Our favorite rude words (31:31)

time: 35:57
size 24.7 Mb

rating: R (This show frankly discusses the background and roots of some of English's rudest words, but with a largely academic approach.)

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Homophobic Language: The Straight Dope

Sun, 22 May 2005 11:54:00 +0000

Howard Chang and Dave Shepherd discuss 'gay' as a pejorative and as a cultural identifier. (1:41)

Song: 'Bring the Devil,' by The Jane Doe's (14:25)

Rude word of the week: 'faggot' (17:57)

Song: 'I'm Over It,' by Suzanne Smith (21:57)

The homophobic penumbra: the re-purposing of neutral words as homosexual labels (25:41)

Time: 31:17
Size: 21.5 Mb

Rating: R (This week's show talks about hurtful speech, and cites a couple of obscene epithets as examples.)

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Baseball in Asheville, Washington, and American English

Sun, 15 May 2005 19:01:00 +0000

Dave enthusiastically recommends Annik Rubens' podcast Schlaflos in München to podcast fans who speak German. (2:14)

Dave explains baseball to people who don't know the game (or tries to). (3:00)

Howard Shepherd, Jim Taylor, and Luke Taylor see an Asheville Tourists game at McCormick Field. (9:00)

Dave explores the word 'southpaw.' (13:44)

Dave Shepherd and Mark Holm go to their first Washington Nationals game at RFK Stadium. (18:18)

Dave discusses some examples of baseball language in American English. (22:20)

Dave waits out a rain delay at RFK; he buys peanuts but does not buy a Nationals jacket. (25:05)

Statistics and baseball (40:16)

'Carolina Dreams,' by Heroes and Villains (14:32)

(Photo by Mark Holm)

time: 44:04
size: 30.2 Mb

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Movies and Language, plus the State of Podcasting

Sun, 08 May 2005 04:57:00 +0000

Dave Shepherd and Howard Chang discuss quotations from movies and their resonance in popular language. (1:39)

The meaning of 'film noir' and its echoes. (9:45)

Dave and Dreadful Snake Guy discuss the Podshow initiative and its meaning for mid-level podcasters. (14:43)

Rude word of the week: 'bomb' (19:36)

Washington obfuscation: Undersecretary of Defense Stephen Cambone testifies unclearly before the Senate Armed Services Committee. (24:55)

Different names for motion pictures (26:57)

'Film Noir,' by Venus Throw (9:45)
'70s Movies,' by Father Festus (22:01)

time: 31:53
size: 29.2 Mb

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Whoops! One Letter Off

Sun, 01 May 2005 21:18:00 +0000

Two faithful and helpful listeners have corrected me (Dave) on a mistake of which I was aware as soon as I uploaded the last podcast.

The acronym LASER stands for light amplification through STIMULATED emission of radiation, not simulated. The emission is absolutely, totally real, not fake at all.

Well, I was de-acronymizing (??) right off the top of my head. Got most of it right, at least!

Oh, also, one of those faithful listeners pointed us to a Wikipedia article that explains the concept of aggregators very clearly (although we think our interviewee, Julie, did a pretty good job in the podcast, actually).

Neologisms, Technology, and Acronyms

Sat, 30 Apr 2005 14:38:00 +0000

Dave responds to a query from Dreadful Snake Radio about the word 'grim.' (1:40)

Dave and Howard Shepherd talk about technological neologisms such as 'iPod' and 'firmware.' (5:00)

Rude word of the week: 'crap' (15:40)

Howard and Dave share some favorite abbreviations and obfuscatory acronyms. (23:40)

'Boom Boom,' by Loren Schulte (12:16)
'How I Feel Around You,' by Violaine (20:07)

time: 29:59
size: 27.5 Mb

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The Power of Names

Sun, 24 Apr 2005 00:51:00 +0000

Howard Chang and Dave Shepherd discuss the power of names, nicknames, and pet names. (1:33)

Rude word of the week: 'no-name' (17:15)

Howard Shepherd talks about names and religion, naming in Shakespeare, and patronymics. (23:23)

Howard C. and Dave talk about parents naming children. (27:15)

'Morse Co-Ed,' by Flip City (12:08)
'Orphan,' by Loni Rose (19:24)

time: 30:57
size: 28.3 Mb

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The New Samizdat

Wed, 20 Apr 2005 09:30:00 +0000

Musings from Howard Shepherd (North Carolina Nerd):

So I'm lying on my bed (in the historical present tense), resting and listening to the most recent Word Nerds podcast, and my mind starts wandering. I start thinking about revolutions in communication--from the invention of the alphabet and the development of writing, to the printing press, to the development of mass media such as radio and TV, and then to the internet.

And finally, to podcasting.

And that's when a word crosses my mind: 'samizdat.' I found myself remembering my summer of 1987 at Princeton, when I did an NEH seminar with John Fleming, then English department chairman. John Fleming had a hand-operated printing press in his house, and he and his wife had a little cottage industry. In a time when small publishers were consolidating willy-nilly, John represented an important movement in publishing: a trend toward very specialized, focused, small-scale publishing.

I realized that at a time of great electronic media consolidation (analogous to the print media consolidation of the 1980's), podcasting is filling the same kind of niche. We podcasters are an example of self-publishers that keep the world of ideas vibrant.

In other words, we are engaged in samizdat--a great Russian contraction from 'samo' (self) and 'izdatyel' (publishing).

Anyway, I thought the word 'samizdat' was both á propos and interesting, and I thought I'd pass it on.

An Obfuscation, a Book and a Song

Sun, 17 Apr 2005 03:39:00 +0000

(From now on, the time position of segments within the podcast will be indicated in the shownotes.)

Dave explains Podcast Alley voting (1:34).

Favorite Washington obfuscation of the week: Investigation of Department of Education's paying a commentator to sell administration policy (4:35).

Dave discusses Geoff Nunberg's book, The Way We Talk Now (15:02).

Music: 'Precious Time,' by Chip Greene (10:45).

Time: 20:37
Size: 18.9 Mb

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The Secret Sexism of Language

Tue, 12 Apr 2005 02:23:00 +0000

Dave and Howard Chang discuss some English (and German and Latin) words that seem to be inherently sexist.

Dave went to the theatre on Sunday, and he and Howard discuss Shakespeare's The Tempest and what it says about language and humanity.

Rude word of the week: 'bitch'

'Sweet Sugar Mama,' by Kevin Mark
'Thinking You Over,' by Melissa Forbes

Time: 28:49
Size: 26.4 Mb

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Meta-explication, podcasting, Washington, and music

Sat, 09 Apr 2005 20:23:00 +0000

Dave talks about podcasting, does a meta-explication of both this podcast and the words 'explication' and 'explanation,' and plays the theme song in its entirety. The cherry trees are in bloom in Washington, DC.

Music: 'Blow Me' by Kick the Cat

Time: 17:21
Size: 15.8 Mb

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More on lost positives

Mon, 04 Apr 2005 17:11:00 +0000

In the last podcast, I neglected to mention (because of the timing of recording) that it was Victoria who clued me in on the term 'lost positives.' She also pointed me to a 51-year-old article in Time that talked about the same thing. I don't feel so bad about overlooking this concept, even with a graduate minor in linguistics from Vanderbilt, if one has to reach back 51 years to find a popular-journalism reference to this idea! Dave

Lost positives and a New Nerd

Mon, 04 Apr 2005 03:05:00 +0000

Dave explains podcasting to the non-podcasting-initiated.

Howard S. and Dave explore several lost positives.

An extremely cool song is played.

Rude word of the week: 'schmuck'

Dave muses on the function of slang.

Music: 'Blue Bird Tattoo' by Circe Link

time: 28:11
size: 25.8 Mb

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Exploring nerdiness and geekiness

Mon, 28 Mar 2005 01:30:00 +0000

Dave introduces himself and The Word Nerds.

The show is rated PG-13, but will sometimes be R, because it is about the actual language people speak.

The word 'nerd' is explicated in a hopefully not-too-nerdy way. 'Geek' is geekily explained, and 'dweeb' is glanced at as only a dweeb could do.

Rude word of the week: suck.

Music: 'Mistakable Mr. Smith' by Ten Story Relapse (Note: contrary to what is said in the 'cast, Ten Story Relapse DOES have a CD for sale on their website. Check it out!)

'Blow Me' by Kick the Cat
time: 28:45
size: 26.3 Mb

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The Word Nerds: trial podcast (second try)

Tue, 22 Mar 2005 00:53:00 +0000

(This is the second time this podcast was posted. It has a new file name, and improved ID3 tag. Hopefully it can be downloaded as a new podcast.)

Dave muses about the concept of the Word Nerds podcast; Howard S. loses his iPod and takes it as an opportunity; the trio of Word Nerds (Dave S., Howard S., Howard C.) is introduced; and Dave thinks about what it means to be not only overwhelmed, but also whelmed.

time: 5:19
size: 5 Mb

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Welcome to The Word Nerds

Sat, 19 Mar 2005 05:03:00 +0000

Welcome to The Word Nerds!

Dave Shepherd introduces the three Word Nerds: Dave, Howard Shepherd, and Howard Chang. The Nerds explore everyday use of the English language and language change.

Every week the podcast features a Rude Word of the Week, and it showcases new music by independent artists. Usually about a half-hour, usually uploaded by Sunday midnight. Website:

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