Word Matters Podcast

Introducing the Word Matters Podcast

A show for readers, writers, and anyone who ever loved their English class.

From the editors at Merriam-Webster, Word Matters is a show for readers, writers, and anyone who ever loved their English class.

Hosted by Emily Brewster, Neil Serven, Ammon Shea, and Peter Sokolowski.

Produced in collaboration with New England Public Media.

Download the episode here.


(intro music – “Build Something Beautiful” by Tobias Voigt)

EMILY BREWSTER, HOST: Hello everyone. I’m Emily Brewster, host of Word Matters, a new language podcast from Merriam-Webster, in collaboration with New England Public Media. I’ll be joined by fellow Merriam-Webster editors Neil Serven, Ammon Shea, and Peter Sokolowski in exploring the captivating, convoluted creature that is the English language.

(teaser clips)

NEIL SERVEN, HOST: We’ve been taught the fact that it’s a wrong word, we’ve been taught the reason for objectivity, we have not really been given an organic reason to dislike the word, other than we’ve been told to dislike it. PETER SOKOLOWSKI, HOST: Yeah, and people very selectively apply logic to language. It’s very convenient, it’s great when it works, but of course language isn’t logical.

EMILY: Words catch on, words work, when they have a function. And this word seems to be doing what it’s meant to do.

AMMON SHEA, HOST: The only problem with this of course it that it is not at all true. PETER: You’re telling me he didn’t coin all those words? AMMON: No, Shakespeare did not coin all those words.

NEIL: This is what I’m kind of curious about: what is the difference between dinner and supper?

EMILY: In theory, there should be nothing wrong with than being a preposition, right? In theory? AMMON: Yeah, I don’t think so but I feel like you’ve imparted to me a vague sense of unease that I’ll carry about with me. EMILY: Really? AMMON: Yeah. EMILY: Wow.

PETER: If you look just a little bit past our own lifetimes there are words like miraculous, or fabulous, or fantastic, and if you think about them literally miraculous means “involving a miracle,” fabulous means “about a fable,” and fantastic means “about fantasy,” and yet those are all words that have all kind of taken on what you might call a diluted meaning from their original meaning.

AMMON: One of the roles of the lexicographer, in addition to defining words, is to occasionally deliver some hard, potentially unwelcome truths.


EMILY: Join us as we examine the perplexities, sift through the gray areas, and relay the peculiar stories that we’ve discovered in our work with the English language. If you love words, appreciate the complexities of language, or are just curious about the conversations that happen behind the scenes in the world of dictionary-making, Word Matters is the show for you. Subscribe now to Word Matters: A Conversation About Words with Merriam-Webster Editors at Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

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