Back in ‘Lexicon Valley’

December 13, 2013
Slate’s podcast about language is back from its four-month hiatus.
Slate’s podcast about language makes even the most arcane linguistic matters fun and fascinating.

After a long four-month hiatus, one of my favorite podcasts, Lexicon Valley, is finally back.

This smart, witty show about “the mysteries of English” started on Slate in February and offered up episodes on everything from swearing to grammar scolds to gender-neutral pronouns. Co-hosts Michael Vuolo and Bob Garfield played off each other wonderfully: Vuolo acted as the inquisitive scholar, while Garfield lobbed in objections and asides like a profane curmudgeon.

But then, in early August, silence. Vuolo, who edits the show, wanted time to spend with his new baby, begin a new job at Slate and get the Lexicon Valley blog up and running.

Now, with all that accomplished, the show came back this week with a typically fascinating episode about an artificially constructed language called loglan. (Its bizarre inventor hoped to rule out all linguistic ambiguity.)

Vuolo said Lexicon Valley was off the air a little longer than planned because he hadn’t anticipated wanting to spend so much time with his new son. “Somehow, my experience with other people’s children led me to believe that 10 minutes a day was about right,” he says. “Boy was I wrong.”

Fans won’t notice much difference in the revived weekly podcast. (You’ll need to tell iTunes to start downloading new episodes again.) Vuolo hopes to hire an intern, but his favorite part of the show is still doing the research for each episode himself. “In another life,” he says, “I’ll set up a cot in the Library of Congress and read academic journals all day.”

Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.
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Lauren McEwen | December 13, 2013