Science Friday and WNYC Studios

Language Evolves: It’s Literally Fine

Language Evolves: It’s Literally Fine

If you read the title of this episode and cringed, you’re not alone. At Merriam-Webster, editors and lexicographers receive countless letters grousing about the addition of certain words to the dictionary. And here at Science Diction, we get our fair share of emails pointing out our linguistic missteps.  But the more you dig into the origins of words, the more you notice that when it comes to language, “correctness” is a slippery concept. In fact, some of our most beloved English words - nickname! newt! - were born of mistakes.  In this episode, Merriam-Webster lexicographers Emily Brewster and Peter Sokolowski explain the mistake-ridden origins of our words, how language evolves, and how wrong becomes right. Plus, we answer a listener question about the most exported word in the English language. Guests:  Emily Brewster is a Senior Editor and Lexicographer at Merriam-Webster.  Peter Sokolowski is a Lexicographer at Merriam-Webster. Credits:  Science Diction is produced by Johanna Mayer and Senior Producer and Editor Elah Feder. Daniel Peterschmidt composed our music, and they mastered this episode. Nadja Oertelt is our Chief Content Officer.

Duration: 26 min

Release Date:

Share part or all of the audio of this episode