The World in Words

The World in Words

A podcast about languages and the people who speak them.

Activists of the Svoboda (Freedom) Ukrainian nationalist party hold torches as they take part in a rally to mark the 105th year since the birth of Stepan Bandera, one of the founders of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), in Kiev. The portra

There’s powerful history in the slurs that Ukrainians and pro-Russian separatists are slinging at each other

Neighbors in eastern Ukraine are splitting between those who support Ukraine’s government and separatists who want to join with Russia. And if you listen carefully to the insults they are hurling back and forth, you can hear the echoes of history.

For your next cocktail, would you prefer ‘The Bitter Taste of Calm’ or ‘Seven Days in the Grave’?

Multilingual mixologist Joaquin Simo is steeped in cocktail culture. For his concoctions, the names are borrowed from foreign languages, overheard phrases and racehorses.

Zara Gladman prepares to become Lady Alba

In Scotland’s independence referendum, Lady Alba is voting ‘Naw!’

What’s the best way to campaign for Scottish independence? Create a fictional opponent who expresses souped-up, pro-British slogans to the tune of a Lady Gaga song.

Here’s what we lost when we stopped writing letters

British blogger Shaun Usher has been collecting remarkable letters from around the globe and throughout history — and publishing them on his blog. Now, he’s collected some of the best in his book, Letters of Note.

The history of invisible ink is finally out in the open

Author Kristie Macrakis got interested in invisible ink a few years ago while researching the Stasi, East Germany’s secret police. Now she’s written a history of steganography, or “hidden writing.”

In eastern Ukraine, you don’t want to be caught speaking English these days

Last week, Toronto Star reporter Mitch Potter was approached by a group of angry Pro-Russia separatists in the eastern Ukraine town of Slovyansk. He thought he was going to be kidnapped as a foreign journalist. Then, he spoke French.

I have been given three Chinese names. Which one should I use?

Language editor Patrick Cox can’t decide between three Chinese names given to him by Chinese friends and colleagues. The first uses clever wordplay, the second adheres to fortune telling conventions, and the third looks and sounds majestic.

Shi Zhi's English name is Yes, as his T-shirt proclaims.

‘Hello, my name is Yes,’ and other English names in China

China may be experiencing a golden age of memorable English names. Millions of young Chinese are giving themselves English names of all shapes and sizes. But there’s also evidence that the trend may be peaking.

Pregnant clockwise in Chinese, Georgian, Portuguese, Thai, Afrikaans,  Albanian, Hebrew, Spanish, Russian.

Do the words we use to describe pregnancy reveal our feelings toward it?

In Russian, the word for “pregnant” can mean “burdensome.” In Chinese, “pregnant” appears to imply “happiness.” But be careful reading too much meaning into these words, say linguists.

Some of the top names from the autograph collection of Randy Kaplan. He launched his collection in 1996, with the autograph of Bill Clinton, and has gathered 130 autographed baseballs to date.

To get the autographs of top world leaders, you need commitment, courage and chutzpah

Between them, Randy Kaplan and Zoltan Marian have collected more than 2000 autographs of heads of states, royals and popes. They share a kind of ethical code, but differ when it comes to who will they include in their collections.