Why We Love…The Allusionist

As anybody who has ever read any of my scripts would know: I can be a bit wordy. Some would say “super super pretentious”. My method for writing a lot of things is basically: monologues first, everything else, after. On the upside this means that it’s piss-easy to find pieces suitable for audition as can just send one of the auditions over and it’s easy for them to record on their own. On the downside it does occasionally make it seem like all my characters have suddenly appeared from a Diablo Cody film (side note: watched God Bless America yesterday and it had a brilliant line: “fuck Diablo Cody, she’s the only stripper with too much self esteem”).

The other downside is that it can occasionally provide slip-ups for actors. I’ve rejected people’s auditions based solely on a mispronunciation of a film title. And at least once per film I have to explain what a word is. My favourite was when I put the word “defenestration” in a script, actor didn’t know what it meant so in the next draft I put the complete etymology of the word in the script. See what I mean about me being pretentious?

So why am I saying all this? Simple, because of my predilection towards pretentious monologues and obscure words, I’m interested in language. I like finding out how words work and interact with each other. How changing one word can effect the whole flow of a sentence. Sadly most people don’t agree with this so the chances of there being a long running series about language on BBC2 is slim (ok, there was the Stephen Fry show but that was a while ago). As such you have to go to other sources. Enter, the world of podcasting.

The Allusionist is a podcast about language (as you can probably guess from my self-celebratory rant above). Hosted by Helen Zaltzman, (perhaps better known from the Answer Me This podcast), it’s a joyful ride through the history of words you know, the truth behind words you think you know, and the definitions of words you probably don’t. It describes itself as “small adventures in language” which is pretty accurate. Zaltzman has a genuine love for the subject and a warm wit that shines throughout, whether she’s talking about werewolves, baby talk or penis’s, she never wavers and you end up leaving each episode entertained as well as educated. Let’s face it, language can be a tricky subject to make interesting, but she makes it fascinating so you’re never bored whilst listening.  For example, my new favourite fact is that “Tory” comes from the Irish for robber/bandit. I’m sure you’ve already made a joke about that in your head. The average episode is about 13 minutes long so you get through them remarkably quickly.

So yeah, that’s that, The Allusionist is available on iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher and TuneIn. Listen, I doubt you’ll regret it. Or just go to the website and read the transcripts here: http://www.theallusionist.org/transcripts/

Where To Start:

  1. Episode 1: not only is the first episode always a good place to start, this episode is specifically about puns, so you can see why it had a special place in my heart.
  2. Episode 4: Lots of swearing, lots of laughs.

Also Listen To

  1. Answer Me This. Helens other podcast, her and Olly Mann (alongside Martin The Soundman) answer user-requested questions. A lot funnier than I’m making it sound.
  2. Skeptics With A K. The Merseyside Skeptic Society discuss everything in the world of skepticism. Very funny, very interesting, and very useful for telling people exactly why homeopathy is balls.
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