Spectacular Vernacular

Dialects vs. Languages

And how the difference relates to Ukraine.


Episode Notes

On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, Nicole and Ben talk about the difference between a dialect and a language as they revisit a prior conversation about Ukraine. They also interview Will Shortz, crossword puzzle editor at the New York Times, about how he got into the world of puzzles. And finally, our hosts are in the hot seat for a wordplay quiz set by the puzzle master himself. You don’t want to miss this! 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:
Cambridge Language Surveys, “The Slavic Languages” (including Russian, Ukrainian, Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian) 
Phillip M. Carter, “Long before shots were fired, a linguistic power struggle was playing out in Ukraine”Information on the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (April 1-3)
Register here for the ACPT’s non-competitive virtual event  
Ben’s article on how Stephen Sondheim popularized cryptic crosswords in the U.S.  
Ben, Nicole, and Will compete in Webster’s War of the Words, a fundraiser for the Noah Webster House


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.