Spectacular Vernacular

Interrupting to Show We Care

A closer look at the interrupt-y conversational style that’s gone viral on TikTok.


Episode Notes

On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, hosts Nicole Holliday and Ben Zimmer recap the recent New Ways of Analyzing Variation conference for sociolinguistics. They also interview Deborah Tannen, a professor of linguistics at Georgetown University and best-selling author about conversational style. And finally, Barry Lam, host of Slate’s philosophy podcast Hi-Phi Nation stops by for some wordplay. We hope you paid attention in your philosophy classes for this next quiz! You could win a year’s membership to Slate Plus.

Do you have any language questions or fun facts to share? Email us at spectacular@slate.com.

Produced by Jasmine Ellis.

Here are some notes and references from this week’s show:

NWAV 49 (the 49th annual meeting of New Ways of Analyzing Variation)

Tweet by Cindy Noir (@Ebonie_QT) that inspired people to record Memojis code-switching between “home voices” and “work voices” 

Ben’s 2011 New York Times essay, “Twitterology: A New Science?”

Twitter’s new Academic Research track 

Deborah Tannen’s recent New York Times essay on cooperative overlapping, “In Real Life, Not All Interruptions Are Rude” 

Sari Rachel discussing cooperative overlapping on TikTok 

Deborah Tannen’s 2005 book, Conversational Style 

Barry Lam’s philosophy podcast, Hi-Phi Nation 


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.

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  • 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.