language

Ravid Kahalani

The music industry loves to label bands in categories like folk, funk, or jazz, but Ravid Kahalani, founder of Yemen Blues, proudly calls his ensemble "just good music."

"The way kids speak today, I'm here to tell you." Over the course of history, every aging generation has made that complaint, and it has always turned out to be overblown. That's just as well. If the language really had been deteriorating all this time, we'd all be grunting like bears by now.

Of the 3 million students identified as gifted in the U.S., English Language Learners are by far the most underrepresented. And nobody knows that better than 17-year-old Alejandra Galindo.

"It's just kind of hard to not see people who look like me in my classes," she says. "I'm a minority in the gifted world."

Before she was a writer, Sara Baume set out to be a visual artist.

"First and foremost I see; I see the world and then I describe it ..." she says. "I don't know another way to write. I always anchor everything in an image."

Baume's process works — a review in The Irish Times called her debut novel a "stunning and wonderful achievement by a writer touched by greatness."

Baume loves words, and she loves fitting words together so they flow like poetry.

Maegan Tintari / Creative Commons

I once slipped on a banana peel in my crowded high school cafeteria when I was sixteen years old. I was navigating the busy lunch room in my almost six-inch platform shoes and my breezy spring dress, when the peel sent me flying -  before ungraciously landing me on my back with my dress over my face. I was never so embarrassed - or uncomfortable in a pair of shoes.

In his new documentary, Connecticut journalism professor and newspaper columnist Frank Harris III spotlights what is unarguably one of the most controversial words in America: the n-word.

When Melissa Adams and her sister were growing up in Lynwood, near Compton, Calif., their black father and Mexican mother taught them to be proud of all aspects of their identity: They were black, and they were Mexican.

Author Neil Gaiman has always been fascinated by dreams. As he sees it, dreams are what differentiate people from one another.

"None of us exist in a world that is the same world that any of the rest of us live in," Gaiman explains to Fresh Air's Sam Briger. "The world that's important is the world behind each of our eyes, which is something that none of the rest of us can access."

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The New York Times  and Washington Post are adding new forms of address and pronouns for people who haven't chosen a single gender. Research indicates that ending a text with a period seems insincere. Dictionaries are throwing open their doors and letting in all kinds of slangy words that have been living on the internet. 

Lindsay Zier-Vogel / The Love Lettering Project

When was the last time you sent a letter? Not an email, but a real, tangible piece of mail? If your answer is "not recently," you’re not alone.

Except for the occasional birthday or holiday card, most of us haven’t sent -- or received -- good, old-fashioned snail mail in a very long time. 

Anonymous Inmate / Permission by Ron Jenkins

Dante's painful journey through the nine circles of hell in "Dante’s Inferno" defies description: "If I had verses harsh and grating enough to describe this wretched hole…"

Yet this is the most alluring section of the "The Divine Comedy," in the most enduring poem of all time. Dante Alighieri was a 14th century poet and politician who wrote his epic poem about sin and redemption upon his permanent exile from his beloved city of Florence.

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Connecticut students who learn English as a second language drop out of high school at a rate higher than any other New England state, according to an analysis by the New England Secondary School Consortium

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Speaking on NBC's "Today" show Tuesday, actor Charlie Sheen revealed he is HIV-positive and has spent millions trying to hide it. This hour, we take a closer look at the words Sheen used in discussing his actions and illness. 

©Signed, Sealed & Undelivered Team, 2015. Courtesy of the Museum voor Communicatie, The Hague, The Netherlands

Deadbeat husbands, horrible bosses, and unplanned pregnancies are just a few of the topics written about in a recently-rediscovered chest found in the Netherlands containing hundreds of late-17th century letters.

A researcher at Yale is examining this "postal treasure trove," which is packed with all sorts of historical artifacts. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Next Wednesday marks the beginning of the Latino & Iberian Film Festival at Yale. This hour, we learn more about it with festival director Margherita Tortora. 

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Colum McCann was assaulted in New Haven last summer while attending a conference on empathy. He was knocked unconscious and suffered physical and emotional injuries that lingered long after the attack.

Caitlin Mitchell

We had a great show planned for you today with two great authors. But, sometimes life is crazier than the fiction we talk about and today, we ended up with two great authors, but only one we expected. 

Sloane Crosley pays homage to Guy de Maupassant in her debut novel about three old friends searching for an elusive necklace as a way out of their quarter-life crisis, yet unable to share their deepest thoughts with their closest friends. 

Colum McCann was supposed to join us but was unable at the last minute. Instead, you'll hear from him next week. 

But, that left Colin with a lot of time on air by himself. He got to vamp for the last half hour like he hasn't been able to do since he started working at WNPR. He kind of liked it, especially when author David Mitchell dropped in for a surprise chat. You can't make up this stuff.

Flickr user comedynose / Creative Commons

America has seen a renaissance in storytelling of various forms, especially on the radio. This hour, we talk with two producers who are telling very different kinds of stories. Joe Richman has been putting tape recorders in the hands of people for nearly two decades as part of his Radio Diaries series heard on NPR. He's speaking at Quinnipiac University this week.

Walking With Dante

Sep 28, 2015
Freeparking :-I / Creative Commons

"Dante's Inferno" is the most famous section of Dante Aligheri's 14,000 line epic poem, The Divine Comedy. But it's only the first part of Dante's long pilgrimage through the afterlife. He first enters the circles of hell, filled with beasts and sinners doomed to the Inferno for crimes like gluttony, lust, and treason. 

Spokane Focus / Creative Commons

Joyce Carol Oates has been writing since before she could read, making "books" by drawing and coloring characters in her tablet. She preferred upright chickens and cats in confrontational poses and tried hard to make her books look like the ones read by adults.  

She's wanted to be a writer since inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Those books changed her life and by extension, ours. 

The White House announced Sunday that President Obama is changing the name of North America's highest peak.

Mount McKinley — named after William McKinley, the 25th president, who served in the White House until his assassination in 1901 — is returning to its traditional Alaska Native name, Denali.

Obama will make a public announcement of the name change in Anchorage Monday, during a three-day visit to Alaska.

McFreshCreates / Flickr Creative Commons

If you know how to read, you're probably pretty good at recognizing words. But, new words like "egg corn," "crema" and "slendro" are challenging our concept of what makes a word.  Yet these very words were recently added to Merriam-Webster's unabridged online dictionary.

alamosbasement / Creative Commons

School starts next week, and soon kids will begin trickling into classrooms across Connecticut. They’ll sit down behind desks in classrooms and study English, science, math, history -- and then maybe a bit of Spanish, or French, or even Chinese.

Dragons Rule!

Aug 20, 2015
William O'Connor - William O'Connor Studios

She who controls the dragon controls the world.

Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion are the most recent dragons to capture our attention, thanks to "Game of Thrones," the wildly popular HBO hit that's placed dragons front and center in our imagination.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Internally, NPR has debated when and where it is appropriate to swear. If the President of the United States says the N-word, should it be bleeped on the radio? Can a public radio host swear on a podcast? There are lots of questions about offensive language in 2015, with so many different mediums and changing social norms.

We also discuss news that Vice President Joe Biden might be looking for a promotion to the Oval Office.

Finally, is Yelp in a "death spiral"?

Which Writers Get Museums?

Jul 7, 2015
Flickr Creative Commons

Mark Twain has many literary sites; yet Henry James has none. You can visit Edith Wharton's house but not Shirley Jackson's. You can walk where Wallace Stevens walked but you can't buy a ticket to go through his front door. And can you believe there's no single museum devoted to all American writers-- yet?

New England is about to get two great new writers’ museums: The Dr. Seuss museum in Springfield, Massachusetts and-- if we're lucky-- the Maurice Sendak Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Today we look at who gets a writer's house and why-- and what sort of experience we’re looking for when we make pilgrimages to the desks of our literary heroes.

alto maltés / Creative Commons

Esperanto was first published in 1887 by Polish-Jewish ophthalmologist L.L. Zamenhof. His goal was to create a neutral language; one that would foster peace and harmony across national borders. 

Poetry readers, prepare yourselves for a passing of the laurels. The Library of Congress announced in the wee hours Wednesday that the next U.S. poet laureate will be California writer Juan Felipe Herrera. He will be the first Latino poet to be appointed to the position.

"This is a mega-honor for me," Herrera said in the announcement, "for my family and my parents who came up north before and after the Mexican Revolution of 1910 — the honor is bigger than me."

McFreshCreates / Creative Commons

If you know how to read, you're probably pretty good at recognizing words. But, new words like "egg corn," "crema" and "slendro" are challenging our concept of what makes a word.  Yet these very words were recently added to Merriam-Webster's unabridged online dictionary.

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