Patrick Cox

Language Editor

The World in Words

Patrick Cox is The World's language editor and host of the podcast The World in Words.

At The World, I switch between editing and reporting, broadcasting and podcasting, in-depth series and tweeting.  Words connect what I do. On a good day they are intelligible.

Since 2008, I have been running The World's language desk and hosting a podcast called The World in Words. Before that, I reported on politics and culture, contributing to series on global obesity, the mental scars of Hiroshima and others.

London is my home town, Cambridge, MA, my adopted hometown. I have also lived in Alaska, California, Denmark and Moldova. 

Because of my job, I am sometimes mistakenly taken to be some kind of linguistic expert— by people who have not been exposed to my spelling or grammar. Despite that, I speak reasonable Danish, poor Chinese and atrocious French. I can read menus and follow soccer commentary in a few other languages.

Follow Patrick Cox on Twitter.

The World in Words podcast is on Facebook and iTunes

Linguist Thomas Wier and Udi activist Alexander Kavtaradze at a memorial to Zinobi Silikashvili, the founder of the village of Zinobiani, Georgia. The inscription includes both Caucasian Albanian (Udi) and Georgian script.

Udi, a dying language with its own alphabet, sees a revival in this small Georgian town

Udi is a language with its own ancient alphabet and an unlikely grammatical feature that some linguists believe is unique. Now, researchers in Georgia are trying to preserve the language from possible extinction.

Udi, a dying language with its own alphabet, sees a revival in this small Georgian town
Customers walk into the Dedaena Bar in Tbilisi past a QR code notice

Georgia’s proxy war with Russia has linguistic ripple effects

Georgia’s proxy war with Russia has linguistic ripple effects
French-speaking Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, has abandoned dwellings are everywhere due to storms, erosion, and rising sea-levels.

Storms and rising sea levels threaten to wipe out French language in Louisiana’s bayou country

Storms and rising sea levels threaten to wipe out French language in Louisiana’s bayou country
Julie Sedivy and other family members visiting her father’s family gravesite in his village of Moravská Nová Ves.

‘Memory speaks’: How to reclaim your mother tongue without having to relearn it from scratch

‘Memory speaks’: How to reclaim your mother tongue without having to relearn it from scratch
A broadcast studio at Radio Haiti

Radio Haiti finds a new home with a trilingual archive at Duke University

Radio Haiti finds a new home with a trilingual archive at Duke University
Taiwan-born artist Wen-hao Tien (left) started inviting people from around the world to teach her songs from their homelands as part her exhibit on immigration experiences at an art center in Boston, Massachusetts. 

Learning through singing: This artist wants you to teach her a song in your native language

Is it easier to sing than speak in a foreign language? Taiwan-born artist Wen-hao Tien has put that question to the test as part of a new exhibit about the immigrant experience in Boston, Massachusetts.

Learning through singing: This artist wants you to teach her a song in your native language
Pardis Mahdavi (center) gathers with other family members based in the US.

The tiny but mighty hyphen: Does it unite or divide?

Some Americans, like Pardis Mahdavi, feel caught between two worlds. Her parents immigrated to the US from Iran, and she's never really felt completely at home in either country. So now, she's adopted a hyphenated identity.

The tiny but mighty hyphen: Does it unite or divide?
Venezuelan American Joanna Hausmann is pictured with her mom, Ana Julia Jatar. In quarantine, Hausmann has turned to her family for material.

Two comedians reshape their acts during lockdown

A public health crisis. An economic crisis. And no live shows. It's these challenges and more that stand-up comedians Joanna Hausmann and Joe Wong are navigating during the pandemic.

Two comedians reshape their acts during lockdown
This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (round blue objects), also known as the novel coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19, emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab which was isolated from a patient in the US. 

Fires, orchestras, parachutes. Some other ways to describe coronavirus — besides war.

If you think the war metaphor is being overused, you’re not alone. But why is this kind of rhetoric such a go-to for world leaders? And should we consider other metaphors? 

Fires, orchestras, parachutes. Some other ways to describe coronavirus — besides war.
A midshot of a woman in front of a bookshelf

The Netherlands to immigrants: Speak Dutch

Large-scale migration from Morocco to the Netherlands started in the 1960s under a guest worker program. But when Dutch officials realized that families from Morocco and elsewhere weren’t returning to their homelands, they tried to get them to learn Dutch. When that only partially worked, attitudes hardened.

The Netherlands to immigrants: Speak Dutch
Polyglot Susanna Zaraysky holds a printout of her brain scan from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology polyglot test. 

Is the polyglot brain different? MIT researchers are trying to find out.

Susanna Zaraysky, speaker of nine languages, seems to be able to pick up French or Portuguese almost overnight. In reality, it’s not so effortless — but is she cognitively predisposed to attaining fluency in so many languages? We follow her to an MIT lab where researchers put her through a series of tests.

Is the polyglot brain different? MIT researchers are trying to find out.
Chinese sci-fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth is coming to Netflix.

The sci-fi of another language

In the West, we are used to sci-fi written by English-speakers who dream up English-speaking utopias and dystopias. Often in the final reel, humanity is saved by English-speaking heroes. So what should we expect from China's newly-thriving sci-fi scene?

The sci-fi of another language
Yes or No

When an American says 'sure' to a Brit, does it mean yes or no?

When American Lynne Murphy says "sure" to her British husband, he thinks she means "not really."

When an American says 'sure' to a Brit, does it mean yes or no?
Ira Lightman at a poetry reading in Manchester, UK, at an event organized by Poets and Players. Lightman moonlights as a poetry plagiarism detective. 

This poetry detective tracks down word thieves. But are they all plagiarists?

Ira Lightman is a hero to some in the literary world, a villain to others.

This poetry detective tracks down word thieves. But are they all plagiarists?
Scientist Joshua Miele demonstrates a virtual wireless Braille keyboard attached as an input device to an Android phone.

Will blind people use Braille in the future?

Some people believe technology will render Braille obsolete and that blind people will choose talking apps and audiobooks over embossed dots. But Braille has been written off many times before and each time, it has come back stronger.

Will blind people use Braille in the future?