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Word of Mouth


Series exploring the world of words and the ways in which we use them

Series exploring the world of words and the ways in which we use them
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London, United Kingdom




Series exploring the world of words and the ways in which we use them




Word of Mouth, BBC Radio 4, Bristol, BS8 2LR. 08 700 100400


Raymond Williams' Keywords

Michael Rosen talks to academic Colin MacCabe and Dr Laura Wright about Raymond Williams' 1976 book Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, which looks at the changing meanings of words such as 'culture', 'art', 'nature' and 'society'. Often the changes in meaning of these words reflect the changing society in which they are being used. Colin MacCabe has spent the past decade updating Williams' work, and he and his team have added some words of their own. Producer Sally Heaven.


Communication and Dementia

Michael Rosen finds out how best to communicate with people with dementia. Professor Alison Wray shares her new research about the ways in which language is affected by dementia. She offers practical advice to carers, such as to respond to the feeling behind the words being used by the person with dementia rather than to the words themselves. Producer Beth O'Dea Related films: Dementia - The "Communication Disease" and Understanding the Challenges of Dementia Communication here:...


T-Shirt Slogans

Michael Rosen discusses slogan T-shirts with fashion historian Amber Butchart and fashion identity commentator Caryn Franklin. What do the words we wear say about us? Slogan clothing is having - what fashion insiders might call - ‘a bit of a moment’ right now. From longstanding British fashion house Burberry with its new contemporary text based monogram to US designer Tory Burch’s political ‘Vote’ print, the slogan t-shirt is quite literally making a statement. And it’s not just on the...


Multicultural London English

Michael Rosen and Dr Laura Wright talk about the Multicultural London English (MLE) dialect with Somali born journalist Ismail Einashe. Listen to this with your fam and you'll know what Stormzy means when he talks about this wasteman ting, and find out how MLE speakers are using new forms of grammar. This programme draws heavily on research on Multicultural London English published by Paul Kerswill, University of York, UK; Jenny Cheshire, Queen Mary University of London, UK; Susan Fox,...


Lane Greene on Editing

Lane Greene talks to Michael Rosen and Dr Laura Wright about the joys of editing and how it can improve writing. Lane Greene is The Economist's Johnson language columnist and deputy editor of books & arts. He's also a lover of a literal literally and of a well-placed colon. Producer Beth O'Dea


Give 'em an inch... imperial and metric

Michael Rosen and Laura Wright talk to maths writer Rob Eastaway about imperial and metric measurements. How and why do they co-exist in the United Kingdom? Why are teenagers still talking in feet and inches when at school they are taught in centimetres? And where do the words 'gallon', 'tonne' 'acre' and "yard" come from? Producer Sally Heaven.


Stephen Fry and Michael Rosen talk language

Stephen Fry talks to presenter Michael Rosen about their mutual obsession with language: the particular joys they both find in speech and in writing and how language is developing. Starting at the very beginning with Stephen's theory about where a facility with words may come from, then dashing through the joy of finding connections between words in different languages, of listening to the rhythms of music-hall patter, in telephone voicemail messages and in rap, to sketch-writing with Hugh...


Shop Names

Michael Rosen and Laura Wright look at the history behind and witty wordplay used in shop names, with guest Greg Rowland of The Semiotic Alliance, which invents names for products, and favourite punning shop names tweeted in by the audience.. a florist called Back to the Fuchsia, anyone? Producer Beth O'Dea.


How to talk like a Samaritan

Michael Rosen talks to Mark Harris and Darran Latham, who volunteer for the Samaritans, about the ways in which talking and listening can best be used to help people in crisis. You can call Samaritans anytime, free to from any phone, on 116 123. People can also contact us via email: jo@samaritans.org or go to www.samaritans.org to find details of their nearest branch for face to face help. Producer Beth O'Dea.


The Words That Saved Me

Michael Rosen and Laura Wright talk to Sally Bayley, author of Girl With Dove, about how words both mystified and rescued her during a highly unusual childhood. Producer Sally Heaven.


Me, Myself & AI

Michael Rosen and Dr. Laura Wright are joined in the studio by a virtual assistant and Tom Hewitson - conversation designer for the likes of Siri, Alexa and Cortana. They discuss whether virtual assistants can ever speak like actual humans, and how us humans are developing a new vernacular for machines. Mitsuku is a bot that won an award for most human-like AI and Tay is a now-deceased bot who learnt to speak like a Nazi. Producers Eliza Lomas & Sally Heaven.


Naming Emotions

Michael Rosen talks to Dr Tiffany Watt Smith about the words we use to try and describe our emotions, and what that can tell us about the way we feel now and have felt at different times in the past. Sadness once occupied the place that happiness now does in terms of life aspirations, and nostalgia was listed as a cause of death on death certificates - in the twentieth century. Producer Beth O'Dea.


Not My Type

How do fonts change the meaning of a message? What was Comic Sans invented for? Why was Obama's first election campaign so typographically bold? And which font would make you buy one chocolate bar over another? Michael Rosen is joined by graphic designer, author and the font of all knowledge when it comes to fonts, Sarah Hyndman, to discuss the psychology of typefaces. Sarah is the author of 3 books, including 'Why Fonts Matter' and 'How to Draw Type and Influence people'. She is also the...


Words Apart

Word of Mouth returns with a special programme in which Michael Rosen and guests Marina Warner and Barry Smith discuss the state of language and public debate. With the rise of the internet there is more political discussion than ever. Yet this torrent of words seems to carry less understanding than ever. This has been attributed to many causes. Some say it is the anonymous nature of internet discussions, or the increasing disparity between rich and poor, or even the efficacy with which...


Haggard Hawks

Why do we 'let the cat out of the bag' or 'go the whole nine yards'? What is a hackle and why might it be raised? What does it mean to 'fribble'? Or to have a 'schnapsidee'? And what are 'cupid's kettle drums'? Michael Rosen and Dr Laura Wright are joined by Paul Anthony Jones, the writer behind the popular etymology blog Haggard Hawks to talk about the origins of common idioms, the stories behind words we use every day, and the forgotten words Paul would like to see brought back into use....


Language and Gender Identity

Michael Rosen and Dr Laura Wright are joined by CN Lester, author of 'Trans Like Me: A Journey for All of Us' to talk about language and gender identity. What does it mean to be transgender and how is language being used (by and about) people who identify as transgender, non-binary or genderqueer? Producer: Mair Bosworth.


Naming Diseases

Michael Rosen and Laura Wright explore how diseases are named and the political, economic and social impact of disease names past and present. Joining them are Laura Spinney, Science journalist and author of Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World and Professor Peter Piot; Ebola co-discoverer and AIDS pioneer, currently Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and professor of global health. Producer: Sarah Addezio.


Best wishes, kind regards or none of the above?

We used to sign off letters using "yours faithfully" or "yours sincerely", then email came along and it was all "kind regards" and "best wishes". Now, it seems, we hardly sign off at all. With so many forms of written communication- email, text, Twitter, What's App- what new etiquettes are emerging, and where are 'digital natives' simply getting it wrong? Emma Gannon is author of Ctrl, Alt, Delete: How I Grew Up Online, and hosts the podcast of the same name. Producer Sally Heaven.


Michael Gets Voice Training

Vocal coaches Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher, authors of This is a Voice, give Michael Rosen a workout. They get him to read against natural pitch and intonation, which proves nearly impossible, and make him match his speaking pace to a walk around the studio. What we do with our consonants and our ability with a tongue twister also turn out to play a part in the ways in which we speak. Producer Beth O'Dea.


Hello! Is it me you're looking for? - The art of greetings

Michael Rosen and Dr Laura Wright are back with a new series of Word of Mouth, and appropriately enough they're starting with Hellos. And greetings. Former diplomat Andy Scott has greeted people in more than 60 countries, and he's written a book about his experiences called One Kiss or Two? The origins and psychology of greetings provide a rich subject and by the end of the programme they may all even reach an agreement about how many times to kiss.. Producer Beth O'Dea.