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Word of Mouth

7.10.15: Words, Words, Words

Logan Shannon

Today’s show is all about words –written, spoken, or spelled – starting with the emotional, and surprisingly partisan debate over whether to continue teaching cursive. Later in the show we’ll explore the art of inventing new words and languages. And, how do you spell stereotype? We’ll discuss the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which has been won by an Indian American student every year since 2007.  

Listen to the full show: 

The Great Cursive Debate

Americans do much of their correspondence these days by email, and most writing, professional and otherwise, is typed on a computer – which are just two reasons that schools are cutting down on cursive instruction in schools around the country.

Ruth Graham is correspondent to the Boston Globe and frequent contributor to the Globe’s Ideas section where we found her article: "Fighting to Save Cursive From the Common Core."


Put your cursive skills to the test! Download and print out our worksheet, then upload a photo of the results to our Facebook page.

And if you want to see the results from the Word of Mouth team, head over to this link: Putting Our Cursive Skills to the Test


International Emoji Use

The mobile app company SwiftKey recently conducted a wide reaching study on how emojis are used across the world, and analyzed more than a billion pieces of data. Jennifer Kutz is head of US communications for SwiftKey and joined us to discuss the company’s findings. 

Forbidden Words

There are a number of words you will never hear Virginia say on the radio – and even if by chance one of her guests let one slip, a bleep is all you’d get.  And yet history has seen some powerful slurs and epithets adopted by the very people they were once used to repress.  In this piece, producer Caitlin Esch of the program “Philosophy Talk”, explores why some taboo words are appropriated, while others remain forbidden.

You can listen to this story again at PRX.org.

That Should be a Word

Lizzie Skurnick is the author of That Should Be A Word: A Language Lover’s Guide To Choregasms, Povertunity, Brattling, And Other Much-Needed Terms For The Modern World. See a few more of our favorite neologisms from Lizzie here.

Do you have a favorite invented word you’d like to share? Tell us about it on our Facebook page

The Invented Language of the Country of Ice Cream Star

While one critic has called Sandra Newman’s book The Country of Ice Cream Star a sort of Hunger Games for grown-ups, Newman’s dystopian epic may have more in common with books like a Clockwork Orange, or Riddley Walker – at least when it comes to the language.  Producer Taylor Quimby spoke with Newman about the language she created for her characters.

Read a review of the book from NPR: “10 Hearts for the Country—and Language of ‘Ice Cream Star’”


National Spelling Bee Champions Face Stereotypes

Shalini Shankar is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Asian American Studies at Northwestern University. Her article for Pacific Standard “How Do You Spell Stereotype?” looks at the stereotypes surrounding the last seven winners of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

She is also the author of Advertising Diversity: Ad Agencies and the Creation of Asian American Consumers


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