July 2012

Interview on WFAE’s “Charlotte Talks” about the history of English idioms (July 31, 2012).

Actors tell each other to “break a leg” before going on stage. Here at Charlotte Talks we like to do shows that are “a horse of a different color” and we certainly strive to spend time “off the beaten path.” So today, we explore the history behind some of the most well-known phrases in the English language. Some histories may be known but others will be “brand spanking new.” And, along the way, our experts will debunk some phrase origins to help you take them “with a grain of salt.” So, don’t “bust our chops,” “if you can’t beat us, join us” for a history of idioms.

Ralf Thiede – Associate Professor for Applied Linguistics, UNC Charlotte
Ben Zimmer – Executive Producer, Visual Thesaurus and Vocabulary.com

(Show page, audio)


Interview on the WGBH show Boston Public Radio about the increasing casualness of political communication. (July 9, 2012)

FDR’s fireside chats are among the earliest examples of a president speaking directly to the people. But what if he had been texting, and tweeting instead? What kind of persona would he have? And how much folksy charm would he be able to get away with?

Linguist Ben Zimmer looks at how today’s politicians, particularly Mitt Romney and President Obama, are getting extremely casual and faux-familiar when it comes to communicating with us in email and out there in cyberspace.

(Show page, audio, related Boston Globe column)

Interview on the American Public Media/NPR show “Marketplace” about President Obama’s “Betting on America” slogan (July 5, 2012)

(Show page, audio)