The Allusionist

Oct 10 2020 19 mins 147.6k

Adventures in language with Helen Zaltzman. TheAllusionist.org





123. Celebrity
Oct 10 2020 27 mins  
Celebrity used to mean a solemn occasion; X factor was algebraic; and fame was a huge terrifying Godzilla-like beast with many many tongues. Here to try define celebrity and fame are historian Greg Jenner of the podcast You’re Dead To Me, Lindsey Weber and Bobby Finger of Who? Weekly podcast, and writer, podcaster and videomaker Hank Green. Find more information about these topics and guests at theallusionist.org/celebrity. The Allusionist music is by Martin Austwick. Hear Martin’s songs at palebirdmusic.com or on Spotify, and he’s @martinaustwick on Twitter and Instagram. He also composed the music for the new kids’ science podcast Maddie’s Sound Explorers. I make two other podcasts, Veronica Mars Investigations and Answer Me This, which are soothingly escapist. The Allusionist's online home is theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at twitter.com/allusionistshow, facebook.com/allusionistshow and instagram.com/allusionistshow. This month, the Allusionist is sponsored by: • BetterHelp online licensed professional counselling. Get started today at betterhelp.com/allusionist and receive a 10% discount off your first month with the discount code ALLUSIONIST. • Bombas socks, thoughtfully engineered for comfort and durability - and for every pair of socks you buy, Bombas donates a pair to someone in need. Get twenty percent off your first purchase at Bombas.com/allusionist. • Molekule, air purification reinvented. For 10% off your first air purifier order, visit molekule.com and at checkout enter the code allusionist10. • Squarespace, your one-stop shop for creating and running a good-looking and well-working website. Go to squarespace.com/allusion for a free trial, and use the code ALLUSION to get 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain. • Progressive. See your insurance options and start a quote online at progressive.com.

122. Ghostwriter
Sep 28 2020 23 mins  
The word for ‘ghostwriter’ in French is a racist slur. How did THAT come about? And what word could French-speakers use instead? Ngofeen Mputubwele and Gregory Warner investigate. This piece originally aired on NPR’s Rough Translation; hear their new season at npr.org and on your pod app. Content note: the piece is about, and therefore contains, offensive terms. And towards the end of the episode, in the Minillusionist, I get into the racist violent etymology of the word ‘bulldozer’. Find more information about these topics and guests at theallusionist.org/ghostwriter. The Allusionist music is by Martin Austwick. Hear Martin’s songs at palebirdmusic.com or on Spotify, and he’s @martinaustwick on Twitter and Instagram. He also composed the music for the new kids’ science podcast Maddie’s Sound Explorers. I make two other podcasts, Veronica Mars Investigations and Answer Me This, which are soothingly escapist. The Allusionist's online home is theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at twitter.com/allusionistshow, facebook.com/allusionistshow and instagram.com/allusionistshow. This month, the Allusionist is sponsored by: • BetterHelp online licensed professional counselling. Get started today at betterhelp.com/allusionist and receive a 10% discount off your first month with the discount code ALLUSIONIST. • Bombas socks, thoughtfully engineered for comfort and durability - and for every pair of socks you buy, Bombas donates a pair to someone in need. Get twenty percent off your first purchase at Bombas.com/allusionist. • Molekule, air purification reinvented. For 10% off your first air purifier order, visit molekule.com and at checkout enter the code allusionist10. • Mejuri, ethically sourced fine jewelry for everyday wear, without the markups. Visit mejuri.com/allusionist for 10% off your first order. • Squarespace, your one-stop shop for creating and running a good-looking and well-working website. Go to squarespace.com/allusion for a free trial, and use the code ALLUSION to get 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain. • Progressive. See your insurance options and start a quote online at progressive.com.


121. No Title
Sep 14 2020 58 mins  
In 2014, a seemingly trivial and boring incident at the bank propelled me down a linguistic road via medieval werewolves, Ms Marvel and confusingly inscribed gravestones, to find out why the English language is riddled with all this gender. What’s it FOR? How did it GET there? Will it go AWAY now please? It is, at the very least, taking up brainspace and not paying any rent. This is a recording of a live performance at the Blueberry Hill Duck Room in St Louis, Missouri on 23 November 2019, and there were visuals happening, so I’ll drop in sometimes to explain them, and I’ve also put a transcript and pictures at theallusionist.org/notitle. There are swears in this. There are also arguments that will be very useful to you if you ever come up against a denier of singular they. You will definitely win. The show features Martin Austwick and Richard Zaltzman. The original music is by Martin Austwick. Hear Martin’s songs at palebirdmusic.com or on Spotify, and he’s @martinaustwick on Twitter and Instagram. He also composed the music for the new kids’ science podcast Maddie’s Sound Explorers. I make two other podcasts, Veronica Mars Investigations and Answer Me This. The Allusionist's online home is theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at twitter.com/allusionistshow, facebook.com/allusionistshow and instagram.com/allusionistshow. This month, the Allusionist is sponsored by: • BetterHelp online licensed professional counselling. Get started today at betterhelp.com/allusionist and receive a 10% discount off your first month with the discount code ALLUSIONIST. • Bombas socks, thoughtfully engineered for comfort and durability - and for every pair of socks you buy, Bombas donates a pair to someone in need. Get twenty percent off your first purchase at Bombas.com/allusionist. • Molekule, air purification reinvented. For 10% off your first air purifier order, visit molekule.com and at checkout enter the code allusionist10. • Mejuri, ethically sourced fine jewelry for everyday wear, without the markups. Visit mejuri.com/allusionist for 10% off your first order. • Catan, the fun collaborative boardgame where you settle, build and trade on the island of Catan. Allusionist listeners get 10% off the original base game Catan at catanshop.com/allusionist by using the promo code ALLUSIONIST at checkout. • Squarespace, your one-stop shop for creating and running a good-looking and well-working website. Go to squarespace.com/allusion for a free trial, and use the code ALLUSION to get 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain. • Progressive. See your insurance options and start a quote online at progressive.com.

Tranquillusionist: Home and Garden
Aug 28 2020 20 mins  
This is the Tranquillusionist, in which I, Helen Zaltzman, quell anxiety and calm brain frenzies by replacing your interior monologue with words detached from significance. In this case: the list of HGTV original programming, and lawnmower adverts from before I was born. Find this episode and a transcript and some pics of lawnmower ads at theallusionist.org/homeandgarden, and all the Allusionist episodes - other Tranquillusionists and also ones that are actually about something - at theallusionist.org. The original music is by Martin Austwick. Hear Martin’s songs at palebirdmusic.com or on Spotify, and he’s @martinaustwick on Twitter and Instagram. He also composed the music for the new kids’ science podcast Maddie’s Sound Explorers. I make two other podcasts, Veronica Mars Investigations and Answer Me This, which are also soothingly escapist. The Allusionist's online home is theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at twitter.com/allusionistshow, facebook.com/allusionistshow and instagram.com/allusionistshow. This month, the Allusionist is sponsored by: • BetterHelp online licensed professional counselling. Get started today at betterhelp.com/allusionist and receive a 10% discount off your first month with the discount code ALLUSIONIST. • Bombas socks, thoughtfully engineered for comfort and durability - and for every pair of socks you buy, Bombas donates a pair to someone in need. Get twenty percent off your first purchase at Bombas.com/allusionist. • Molekule, air purification reinvented. For 10% off your first air purifier order, visit molekule.com and at checkout enter the code allusionist10. • Mejuri, ethically sourced fine jewelry for everyday wear, without the markups. Visit mejuri.com/allusionist for 10% off your first order. • Catan, the fun collaborative boardgame where you settle, build and trade on the island of Catan. Allusionist listeners get 10% off the original base game Catan at catanshop.com/allusionist by using the promo code ALLUSIONIST at checkout. • Squarespace, your one-stop shop for creating and running a good-looking and well-working website. Go to squarespace.com/allusion for a free trial, and use the code ALLUSION to get 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain. • Progressive. See your insurance options and start a quote online at progressive.com.

The Away Team redux
Aug 18 2020 20 mins  
After yet another spell of the British press and politicians using very dehumanising and derogatory rhetoric about migrants, I felt it necessary to go back to the Away Team episode of the Allusionist, about the language of migration, with lecturer and researcher Emma Briant, and author and editor Nikesh Shukla. This episode originally went out in early 2017, but it is never not relevant. And there’s a chunk of new material in the Minillusionist, so stick around right till the end to hear that. Find out more about this episode at theallusionist.org/migration2020. The Allusionist's online home is theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at twitter.com/allusionistshow, facebook.com/allusionistshow and instagram.com/allusionistshow. This month, the Allusionist is sponsored by: • BetterHelp online licensed professional counselling. Get started today at betterhelp.com/allusionist and receive a 10% discount off your first month with the discount code ALLUSIONIST. • Bombas socks, thoughtfully engineered for comfort and durability - and for every pair of socks you buy, Bombas donates a pair to someone in need. Get twenty percent off your first purchase at Bombas.com/allusionist. • Molekule, air purification reinvented. For 10% off your first air purifier order, visit molekule.com and at checkout enter the code allusionist10. • Mejuri, ethically sourced fine jewelry for everyday wear, without the markups. Visit mejuri.com/allusionist for 10% off your first order. • Catan, the fun collaborative boardgame where you settle, build and trade on the island of Catan. Allusionist listeners get 10% off the original base game Catan at catanshop.com/allusionist by using the promo code ALLUSIONIST at checkout. • Squarespace, your one-stop shop for creating and running a good-looking and well-working website. Go to squarespace.com/allusion for a free trial, and use the code ALLUSION to get 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain. • Progressive. See your insurance options and start a quote online at progressive.com.





























100. The Hundredth
May 27 2019 29 mins  
To mark the 100th* episode of the Allusionist, here’s a celebratory parade of language-related facts: some of your favourites from the Allusionist back catalogue, some of my favourites from the Allusionist back catalogue, and a load of fresh facts making their Allusionist debut. (*short hundred, not long hundred.) Thanks for listening to the Allusionist! If you’ve liked any of the 100 episodes, tell someone else about it. Content note: this episode contains swears. Find out more about this episode at theallusionist.org/hundredth. The Allusionist live tour of the new show, No Title, has landed in Australia! Get your tickets for Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth and Darwin from t heallusionist.org/events. The Allusionist's online home is theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at twitter.com/allusionistshow, facebook.com/allusionistshow and instagram.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX, a collective of the finest podcasts on the interwaves. Find them all at radiotopia.fm. In May 2019, the Allusionist is sponsored by: • Squarespace, your one-stop shop for creating and running a good-looking and well-working website. Go to squarespace.com/allusion for a free trial, and use the code ALLUSION to get 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain. • Bombas, socks that won’t let you - or themselves - down. Buy your expertly engineered socks at bombas.com/allusionist and get 20% off your first purchase. • Babbel, the app that teaches you a new language with confidence. If you’re in the USA, text ALLUSIONIST to 484848 to try a Babbel lesson for free. Elsewhere? Check out the courses at babbel.com and on the Babbel app. • Beer52, the craft beer discovery club. Each month they’ll deliver to you eight different craft beers, PLUS a snack, PLUS a copy of the award-winning Ferment magazine. If you’re in the UK, Beer52 will give you your first case for free; you just need to pay the £5.95 postage. Claim your free case today at beer52.com/allusionist. • Progressive. Get your car insurance quote online at progressive.com and see how much you could be saving. Discounts not available in all states and situations.











91. Bonus 2018
Dec 16 2018 16 mins  
Throughout the year, the people who appear on the Allusionist tell me a lot of interesting stuff. Not all of which is relevant to the episode they initially appeared in, so I stash it away in preparation for this moment: the annual bonus episode! Get ready for gory 19th century London slang, the rise and fall of superhero capes, the post-WW1 trend for nudism, and more. Find out more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/bonus2018. There is one swear in this episode. The Allusionist is a member of Radiotopia from PRX, a collective of the best podcasts on the interwaves. Hear all the shows at http://radiotopia.fm – and if you can afford to help our shows keep going, become a donor in our 2018 fundraiser at https://www.radiotopia.fm/donate-2018z. The Allusionist’s online home is http://theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. And come to see the debut performance of the brand new Allusionist 2019 live show at SF Sketchfest, 7.30pm 25 January! Tickets are on sale now: https://tinyurl.com/allusionistSFsketchfest2019 Thanks to today’s sponsors: SQUARESPACE. Design and run a website with ease using Squarespace. Go to squarespace.com/allusion for a free trial, and for 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain, use the code ALLUSION. MYTHOLOGIES. Subscribe to the new Mythologies podcast from Parcast in your podblaster of choice, or find it at parcast.com/mythology.






86. Name Therapy
Oct 08 2018 26 mins  
“It’s the word that you use the most often and the soonest to describe yourself, and yet nobody’s really ever talked about how it kind of makes me feel like this.” Until Duana Taha, who, after a lifetime of feelings about her own unique name, became the Name Therapist. Duana offers advice on how to name your baby/future adult, so their name works shouted across a playground, whispered into an ear, scribbled on a coffee cup. She also deals with your concerns about being named after a relative or parent’s ex, having a name that elicits playground taunts, or doesn’t describe you as an individual at all. Find more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/name-therapy. The Allusionist live tour is ON NOW, at cities in the US and Canada during October and November 2018: show listings are at http://theallusionist.org/events. The Allusionist’s online home is http://theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX, a collective of the best podcasts on the interwaves. Hear all the shows at http://radiotopia.fm. Thanks to today’s sponsors: SQUARESPACE. Design your website at squarespace.com/allusion, and use the offer code ALLUSION to save 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain. BOMBAS. Shop for expertly engineered socks at bombas.com/allusionist and save 20% by entering the offer ALLUSIONIST in the checkout code space.






81. Shark Week
Jul 28 2018 23 mins  
Today, we’re dipping into the Allusionist mailbag full of listeners’ linguistic requests, with the help of special guest Hrishikesh Hirway of Song Exploder and The West Wing Weekly podcasts. What is the expression ‘beyond the pale’ on about? How do you express the absence of feeling? Does ‘testify’ have anything to do with testicles? Do avocados have anything to do with testicles? How does the phrase “It’s all Greek to me” relate to food styling? Can you have a caper with capers? Are sharks misunderstood, etymologically and morally? And finally: where do allusions come from? Find out more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/shark-week. The Allusionist live tour comes to the US, Canada, Britain and Ireland during late 2018: live show listings are at http://theallusionist.org/events. If your town is not listed, check back soon, because more gigs will soon be added! The Allusionist’s online home is http://theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX, a collective of the best podcasts on the interwaves. Hear all the shows at http://radiotopia.fm. Thanks to today’s sponsors, Squarespace and Babbel. Design your own website using Squarespace: try it out at squarespace.com/allusion, then use the offer code ALLUSION for a 10% discount off your first purchase of a website or domain. You can learn fourteen languages through Babbel. To get 50% off your first 3 months of Babbel, use the code ALLUSION when you go to babbel.com/allusion.


79. Queer
Jun 03 2018 25 mins  
Strange or obtuse; a stinging homophobic slur; a radical political rejection of normativity; a broad term encompassing every and any variation on sexual orientation and gender identity: the word ‘queer’ has a multifarious past and complicated present. Tracing its movements are Kathy Tu and Tobin Low from Nancy podcast, Eric Marcus from Making Gay History, historian and author Amy Sueyoshi, and Jonathan Van Ness from Queer Eye. Find out more about this episode at http://theallusionist.org/queer. Content note: this episodes contains discussions of sexuality and sexual acts, as well as some problematic terms. See the Allusionist live in Australia and New Zealand in the next month: show listings are at http://theallusionist.org/events The Allusionist’s online home is http://theallusionist.org. Stay in touch at http://twitter.com/allusionistshow and http://facebook.com/allusionistshow. The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX, a collective of the best podcasts on the interwaves. Hear all the shows at http://radiotopia.fm. This episode is sponsored by Bombas and Babbel. Get a 20% discount on Bombas’s expertly engineered socks by visiting http://bombas.com/allusionist and entering the offer ALLUSIONIST in the checkout code space. There are fourteen languages you can learn via Babbel, the number 1 selling language app in the world. To get 50% off your first 3 months of Babbel, use the code ALLUSION when you go to babbel.com/allusion.
















































































4.5 • 11 Ratings

Stable Genius Sep 20 2020
Very interesting podcast looking at language

ronansprake Sep 14 2020
Used to be really good with diverse topics, but the constant LGBTQ content got boring and the episodes where Helen literally just lists words is such lazy content. There are plenty of LGTBQ and relaxation podcasts out there already.






TylerJMartinEsq Aug 18 2020
Listen to the first 70 or so episodes. They are wonderful adventures into the the wonders and foibles of (mostly English) language. But eventually it becomes a vehicle for socio-political commentary centered around marginalized populations (admittedly still from a language bent). A worthy cause, but no longer what it says on the tin. Unsubscribed.

Sagebrush24 Jul 05 2020
Playful and fun with a relaxed atmosphere, and great stories!

Brian from Lakew Jun 19 2020
Fantastic bird's eye view of linguistics, as a futurehusband (yeah, that's a word now) to a doctoral candidate in the field. The host is hilarious and insightful, guests and subjects are solid. I never miss an episode.

Dan S. Jun 15 2020
Helen Zaltzman is a genius with a perfectly delicate radio touch, a passion and facility for language and for culture, and the ability to get exactly the right people to talk about it with her. I absolutely can't recommend this podcast enough to anyone who uses things. Words. Thoughts in physical form that we pass back and forth to each other and make bootleg copies of and... and...

Silva May 13 2020
As a language nerd, I can only love this podcast (even when it's too PC for my taste).

LenaGunEm May 11 2020
great language stories from the best voice in radio. bonus points for hella queer/trans content

Rhiannon Apr 16 2020
Interesting stories about language. I love it.

SlowBikeIain Apr 15 2020
Always fascinating and delivered with a light touch.






Asimov95 Apr 15 2020
A gallant examination of English and other languages that sometimes a laugh riot and at other times a wonderfully dramatic experience telling the stories of language, those who affect it, and those who are affected by it