How the rapid evolution of words affects us with language historian Anne Curzan

Language used to evolve slowly back when we were far-flung. Wide-spread human contact was made through one civilization taking over another. That’s drastically different, today. New words can take over the planet in literally minutes. While that speed is incredible, it’s even more so when you stop and think about the fact that new words and analogies are little shift our points of view— gay vs same-sex, criminals vs justice-involved, murder vs honor-killing. While new words flow like rapids, filling new spaces or displacing old ideas, and as English becomes a global platform— our human experience is shaped and reshaped within even within our own lifetime .    

Anne Curzan studies the history of English, the evolution of slang and it’s migration over time. She’s the author of several books on language including her latest, “Fixing English: Prescriptivism and Language History” as well as co-hosting “That’s What They Say” on Michigan’s NPR. 

If you’re a language nerd like me, and even if you’re not, you’ll find the quick conversation that Anne and I had super interesting. It for sure will have you stop and think next time you hear a someone on the news use a word like “friendly fire” 

  • Art credit: Two Little Fruits
  • Music credit: DeVotchKa, How it ends