Spectacular Vernacular

They Might Be Linguists

Slate’s new language podcast talks to John Linnell of They Might Be Giants about his new project in an unexpected language.


Episode Notes

Welcome to Spectacular Vernacular, Slate’s new podcast about language! In our inaugural episode, hosts Ben Zimmer and Nicole Holliday marvel at Zaila Avant-garde’s historic win at Scripps National Spelling Bee. They also chat with They Might Be Giants’, John Linnell, about creating his new pandemic project in Latin. And finally, they do some fun language puzzles, and you can play along at home.

Do you have any language questions or fun facts to share? Email us at spectacular@slate.com. You can also use that email address to let us know if you’d like to take part in a future episode, where we’ll bring in listeners for some challenging wordplay.

You can listen to John Linnell’s new EP here.

Produced by Jasmine Ellis and Cheyna Roth.


About the Show

Linguist Nicole Holliday and Wall Street Journal language columnist Ben Zimmer discuss the ways language is changing, talk to scholars and writers, and set and solve word puzzles.

All episodes


  • Ben Zimmer is a linguist, lexicographer, and all-around word nut. He is the language columnist for the Wall Street Journal and a contributing writer for the Atlantic.

  • Nicole Holliday is an assistant professor of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on variation, intonation, and language in society.