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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


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.


Pub Names

From The Red Lion to the Bucket of Blood, how did your local get its name? Michael Rosen asks Word of Mouth's resident linguist Dr Laura Wright about her research into pub names. And guest Eddie Gershon explains how the JD Wetherspoon pub chain goes about naming new pubs. Produced by Mair Bosworth.


Language and Our Genes with Dr Steve Jones

Michael Rosen and Dr Laura Wright talk to geneticist Steve Jones about how language is used to talk about genetics, and how genetics influences language. Producer Sally Heaven.


Autism and Communication

Michael Rosen finds out what the rest of society can learn about communication from people on the autism spectrum, by getting an insight into a different worldview. He meets Alis Rowe and Helen Eaton from the Curly Hair project. Producer Sally Heaven.


Wild Words

The writer Robert Macfarlane (author of Landmarks, The Old Ways, The Wild Places and Mountains of the Mind) believes that the language we use to talk about nature is itself at risk of becoming an endangered species. A 2016 research paper by Cambridge University conservationists found that eight-to 11-year-old schoolchildren were 'substantially better' at identifying common Pokemon characters than common species of British wildlife. Over the past 10 years, Macfarlane has been gathering a...


Are we all speaking football?

Lifelong Arsenal supporter Michael Rosen talks football clichés with Adam Hurrey.


Malorie Blackman on Language

Malorie Blackman, author of Noughts and Crosses, talks in depth to Michael Rosen about language: the writing that has shaped her and how she's used language in her own influential work. Her lifelong love of reading was fostered by the libraries she went to as a child. If she had to choose between being a reader and being a writer, she says, she'd choose being a reader.. Producer Beth O'Dea.


Eat My Words: How to Describe Food Flavours

Michael Rosen and Laura Wright ask Great British Menu judge Andi Oliver and author of The Flavour Thesaurus Niki Segnit how they describe the flavours of food. Niki describes coriander and lime as "the wooh woohs in 'Sympathy for the Devil' - completely and utterly indispensable". But grapefruit, on the other hand, is "standoffish".. She brings a cheese and a mystery item into the studio for Michael and Laura to taste and then try to put into words. Simile and metaphor, comparision,...


David Walliams Special

David Walliams talks in depth to Michael Rosen about how he writes his children's books like Mr Stink and The Boy In The Dress and how he switches modes to write comedy like Little Britain. His acute awareness of language developed from a young age, and he was influenced by the books he read then, from Roald Dahl to James Bond, and the comedy scripts he studied, from Monty Python and Rowan Atkinson. He talks about the real-life conversation that inspired Carol Beer, the "computer says no"...


Game On: The Language of Video Games

With 99% of 8-15 year olds playing video games, Michael Rosen & Dr Laura Wright explore how gaming is influencing language and storytelling. From terms like 'epic fail' and 'levelling up' entering education and politics to sophisticated developments in interactive storytelling taking on the cinema and film industry. Narrative paramedic, Rhianna Pratchett and Associate Professor in Games Research, Esther MacCallum Stewart guide us through the world and language of gamers. There will be...


The Postbag Edition

Michael Rosen and Dr Laura Wright answer listeners' questions from the Word of Mouth inbox and postbag. They're joined by guests, Katherine Fry and Rowena Kirton, authors of the book 'Grammar for Grown-Ups' to talk about everything from your grammar gripes to queries about why everyone seems to be using or abusing the word ''literally' lately. Producer: Sarah Addezio.


Cucks, snowflakes and virtue signalling: the new US political lexicon

Michael Rosen and Dr Laura Wright interview the eminent US linguist George Lakoff about the new political words coming out of the US right now, mainly from the alt-right, and the effectiveness of Trump's use of language. George Lakoff is the former Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. His thesis is that people's lives are significantly influenced by the central metaphors they use, whatever their political beliefs, and...


Jacqueline Wilson talks to Michael Rosen about language

Writer Jacqueline Wilson talks to Michael Rosen about her love of language and how she came up with the idea of Tracy Beaker. She describes her imaginative life as a child, walking along telling stories to herself under her breath, fascinated by words. She can trace her interest in writing real and believable children to the books that she loved as a child, from Little Women to Lolita.. Producer Beth O'Dea.


How Countries Got Their Names

Michael Rosen and Dr Laura Wright find out how countries - including this one - got their names, and what they mean. Why isn't Greenland green? How is Venezuela like a Little Venice? And what's the only state in the world named after a woman? With Professor Richard Coates. Producer Beth O'Dea.


Frenchified: The Influence of French on English

Michael Rosen & Dr Laura Wright find out how much of our language comes from French roots, from Anglo-Norman onwards. A Sunday lunch menu from The Ritz is food for thought, and Dr Richard Ashdowne explains the surprising history behind many words we think of as English, with the help of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Producer Beth O'Dea.


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