Episode 14: Style Changes for the New Year

Happy New Year! There are style changes for the Washington Post, and Paul Brians offers his own perspective.

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The Post drops the ‘mike’ — and the hyphen in ‘e-mail’ by Bill Walsh
World Wide Web
company names with apostrophes
they/their (singular)
collective plural



Episode 13: The Solstice and Celestial Terms

It’s the winter solstice here in the northern hemisphere, and this week the conversation gets celestial.

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center around/center on
earth, moon
Also note this celestial event, mentioned in verse in the comic strip Frazz.

Episode 12: The Magi(c) of Christmas

In the spirit of the Christmas season, Paul Brians calls on his background as a scholar of the Bible and discusses some of the important language in the story of Christmas. Do you know the religious tradition of the Magi? The difference between miracle and magic? Listen to find out.

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Opening music (Paul Brians’ favorite recording of “We Three Kings”)
The Gift of the Magi,” by O. Henry
Zoroastrianism (Zarathustrianism)
Google search: The Slaughter of the Innocents
Google search: The Miracle of Christmas
Google search: The Magic of Christmas


Episode 11: Steam—Not for Punks Only

This week Paul Brians discusses how the word steam has persisted well past the steam age. It’s a family podcast, so things don’t get too steamy!

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We Haven’t Run Out of Steam Yet,” by Paul Brians
Photographs Bainbridge Island from the Virginia V steamer, by Paul Brians
The City of Lost Children
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (graphic novel)
Le Voyage Extraordinaire, Tome 1 (on Amazon UK)
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel


Episode 10: Commas (Inspired by Mary Norris)

This week we discuss the introduction to Mary Norris’s book, Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen. From there we talk about peculiarities of commas in The New Yorker, basic guidelines for comma usage, and everyone’s favorite: The Oxford Comma.

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Learning to Love the House Style,” by Mary Norris
Paul Brians’ entry on commas
The Oxford Comma
Dr. Howard