Ben Yagoda, Evan Davies and me

I'm afraid to say that this is more of me not getting around to blogging. So many things on the list, but my day job has been taking over my nights.

But several people have asked to hear the interview with me and Ben Yagoda from Radio 4's Today Programme (AmE program, of course), aired earlier today. Though I'd thought you could to listen to radio (but not TV) from abroad on BBC iPlayer, apparently you cannot (or cannot anymore).  It's here as a video, as social media makes it easier to post videos than to post mp3s, and is a .mov file. I hope your computer's media player can play it. The title's rather biased representation of who's on is courtesy of Better Half, who originally posted this on his Facebook feed. Since we're in different time zones at the moment, I haven't got the power to wake him up and make him change it.

By the way, after these years of protecting BH's privacy by giving him a pseudonym, I find I don't want to any more. Instead I want to introduce you to him. His first novel is released in the UK in September and in the US in October, and you can click through those places to read (a little) more about it. Yay, Phil!


  1. The radio iplayer is still working perfectly fine here in the Netherlands, but I don't know about the US or other countries.

    Could you tell us at (roughly) what time in the programme you were on? I see the programme's 3 hours long, so it would be useful to know for those who'd prefer to listen on the iplayer, without having to wade through David Cameron holding forth on Europe and such like. Here's the link: Today with Lynne

    I notice podcasts are also available for a few topics from the programme, but apparently you weren't important enough :-(

  2. I can confirm that the iPlayer works for radio from the US, both in general and for this program(me) via bas janssen's link. I look forward to listening!

  3. This played just fine here (Boston); nice segment, and fun to hear your and Ben's voices. And congratulations to the former "BH"! I look forward to reading the novel (as long as no serial killers or vampires are involved).

  4. It's fine in Australia too.

  5. @Lynne:

    I notice a few English influences in your pronunciation -- such as lack of T-lenition. Do your US friends and relatives ever accuse you of sounding English?

    I ask because I (ex-Brit in the US) get the same thing in reverse, even though my accent remains at least 95% English :)

    1. If you can use iPlayer, great. It's about 1 hour 45 mins in. It will expire in 6 days though. The recording here won't.
      My accent is irregularly affected by my time here. I'm sometimes asked in the US whether I'm British, which Englishpeople find outrageously amusing.

      What surprised me was how many Americsnisms I used. Can you spot them?

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  7. Generally speaking, the iPlayer for Radio is accessible outside the UK but TV is blocked.

    If you really want to hear this item on the iPlayer, you need to navigate from the link to the individual programme. I got there by selecting Radio Stations then Radio Four then YESTERDAY (Of course, from tomorrow it will be WED) then 6.00am Today.

    Move the play indicator to just before 1:44:00. If you want the introduction, try 1:43:23.

  8. The only American-speech markers to stand out for me were pronunciations. Obvious and predictable things like status.

    One pronunciation sort of spreads into the lexical. The expression usually spelled kinda is for me a sort of apologetic discourse marker attached before a word — the way some speakers attach if you will after a word. For the sense 'variety of' I personally must use the fuller form KIGHN duhv (ˈkaɪndəv).

  9. Lynne:

    Regarding your accent:I think you would be a highly unusual person if you failed to pick up (or decide to use for the sake of clarity) some aspects of the southeastern British accent after living and working there for so long.

    A friend of mine from central New Jersey served in the Air Force. He was stationed in Alabama, and when his tour was over and he came home, he imported a modified southern accent. He lost it eventually.

    By the way, try reading Betty Botter with a British "T"; the nursery rhyme's a bit(b)of a tongue-twister for Americans.

    Good luch to BH!

  10. Thank you for the link and thank UniSussex twitter sort who provided it via email. I didn't hear anything strikingly Americanism-ish in your speech in the piece, but I was really struck by the pronunciation of "house" in the prior bit while zeroing in on your part. It rhymed with "mice" in my dialect and I really didn't know what the hell he was talking about at first. (re: your comments about pronunciation divergence-amen!)

  11. Random observations from an American:

    1) I spent years working in bookselling and the phrase "one-off" was commonly used to describe any book published as a solo effort by an author known for writing books as part of a series. At the time I had no idea it was considered a Britishism. Certainly no one who used it ever suggested as much.

    2) I take issue with Yagoda's claim that the Harry Potter novels have successfully introduced "ginger" into American English. Among the well-educated (including journalists) it probably helped, but I've little doubt I could walk out my front door and quickly interview half a dozen New Yorkers who know ginger only as a spice. (Ron Weasley's frequent use of the insults "git" and "prat" haven't helped those words penetrate American English, either.)

    3) Never heard the term "hard man"; didn't even know it *was* a term. To quote Dr. Johnson when accosted by an exasperated woman wondering why a word she knew wasn't in his dictionary: "Ignorance, madam. Sheer ignorance."

    4) Lynne: the only bona fide Americanism I spotted was your use of the suffix -wise (at 3:21) when you said "pronuciationwise". I believe this suffix can be traced directly to Billy Wilder's 1960 comedy "The Apartment", where it was used repeatedly to reflect the penchant for linguistic fads among those working in advertising; it ultimately prompts Shirley MacLaine, when she breaks off her affair with married ad executive Fred MacMurray, to utter the signature line "That's the way it crumbles, cookiewise." It's more than a little ironic that this tongue-in-cheek usage, intended to poke fun at a business known to invent and discard language at will, has persisted, at least in American English, for over half a century.

    Enjoyed the interview immensely and wish it had been 4 times as long. But perhaps, Lynne, you feel otherwise.

  12. Tough guy has been around for a long time in British English. Perhaps too long. For me it suggests a combination of aggression, ruthlessness and ability to withstand pain. The more recent hard man suggests (to me, that is) something more: an absence of feeling, an extra degree of callousness. Tending towards the strength of psychopath.

    We did use to say You're a hard man, Joe. But that was with two full stresses on hard and man. And it suggested lack of feeling more than aggression. The new hard man expression is, I think, stressed like tough guy with only secondary stress on the second word.

  13. I heard the Today programme 'live' - it was good to hear Lynne's voice with its educated English accent - all those hard Ts. My cup of tea went cold while I caught up on the topics of going missing and 'ginger', which we have already discussed on this blog.

    I was reminded of the latter when I met a young American woman last week whose given name is Ginger - she said it had no connotations about hair colour for her family, just a spice. In fact, in the UK I have always referred to red-heads until I met a colleague who referred to himself as ginger - pre-emptively I believe!

    As to hard man, I agree with David Crosbie (above) but I would add that I hear the words in an Irish accent in my head. Could even be American-Irish?

  14. I (Bostonian) second Dick Hartzell. Harry Potter came and went, and it led some of us to understand a different meaning for the word "ginger" - it didn't however make us start using it. But now I do know where Ginger Baker's nickname came from.

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  16. that is totally NOT an acceptalbe nickname for california within california haha

  17. I half expected -- even though I've never seen Star Wars -- that kind-of backwards speak Mr Yagoda would... ;)

  18. This is a bit late. I've been away.

    If 'Ginger' isn't used in the US, what do you call a ginger cat?

  19. Dru

    A Google Advanced Search for ginger cat seems not to have succeeded in reducing the hits to US sites. However this site looks American enough.

    Several of the comments use a ginger and gingers meaning 'ginger-haired person' and 'ginger-haired people'. The sentiment is imported from Britain, but is the countable noun an American thing?

  20. But 'ginger cat' is not in the AmE lexicon like it is in the BrE one. I'd bet that you'd mostly find it as a specialist term and/or a recent import. Till I moved to the UK, I just called them 'orange'.


  21. Dru said...
    "If 'Ginger' isn't used in the US, what do you call a ginger cat?"

    In the pets discussion forums I participate in, which are primarily populated by North Americans, they are called red.

  22. Does anyone know how "ginger" first came to refer to red or reddish things? The ginger root, as used in cooking, is a pale yellow on the inside and a kind of dirty light brown on the outside.

  23. There are two other posts on 'ginger', where these discussions might have a better home, or where the answers to the questions might be found..

    And when it was Word of the Year:


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AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)