The first programme about Metaphor, is itself built on an extended marine metaphor – that language is shaped, like a coastline, by a flow of metaphors, which erode, break down and eventually become part of everyday speech and writing. There’s a world of difference between metaphor in every day speech and in poetry, but the same process – a transfer of meaning from the concrete to the abstract is in operation. The programme also illustrates how dependent the English language is on Metaphor, with the help of a Greek removals firm. Quotations [1st September 2008]
The second programme, about Quotations, their uses and misuses, gets inside the heads of those who compile quotation dictionaries as well as those who use and abuse them, and reveals why Wittgenstein is unquotable. There is also discussion of the value of misquotations, and an amazing and frank confession from a compiler, which we cannot divulge here. Compilers of dictionaries of quotations can be quite powerful, conferring greatness on quite small bits of text. And sometimes, chance remarks get star quotes status. At least, this is what they say. And they would say that, wouldn’t they? Cliché [8th September 2008]
Basically, this one’s about Cliché. Right? It looks at how cliché operates for good and bad. Using forensic techniques known only to Radio 4 producers, we have tracked down That Parrot. The sick one much used in football talk. It makes its first appearance at a fancy dress party on a transatlantic liner, before World War One. We kid you not. You couldn’t make it up. Also the remarkable history of the dog’s bollocks, possibly the world’s first self-cancelling cliché. And the cliché crisis, that affected the writing of Flaubert, Joyce and Eliot and helped shape modern language and culture. At the end of the day.
So Wrong It's Right [11th August 2009]
Stephen examines how 'wrong' English can become right English. For example, nowadays, more people use the word 'wireless' in a computer context than in a radio one. With help from a lexicographer, an educationalist, a Times sub-editor and a judge, Stephen examines the way in which usage changes language. He applauds the council leader who claimed the services provided by her local authority should be seen as strawberry-flavoured and castigates attempts at banning government jargon like step change and synergie. Banning words is fruitless; he favours blue sky thinking, and strawberry flavouring.
Speaking Proper [18th August 2009]
Stephen investigates what nowadays counts as 'speaking proper'. It may be that elocution classes for children are being replaced with 'presentation skills' courses for adults, but we still see effective communication as the key to success. Stephen announces a field day for pedants in his investigation into what nowadays counts as 'speaking proper'. Hallo! [25th August 2009]
Stephen says 'goodbye' with a programme about 'hallo', and how it came to be one of the world's favourite words.
Note: These programs were recorded during the live broadcast of the series. All six programs are uploaded in separate archives. The audiobook version with Season 1 (including Current Puns) can be found here:
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