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Podcast Special: Words. Prof. Geoffrey Nunberg on “A**holes, a Powerful, Colorful Term; Wordcatcher Phil Cousineau Shares Words from His New Book



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Explicit Language! Prof. Geoffrey Nunberg’s new book, Ascent of the A-Word: Assholism, the First Sixty Years. Phil Cousineau shares many words from his new collection, The Painted Word.Nunberg is a linguist and a professor at the UC Berkeley School of Information.  His deep exploration of the origins and usage of one of our most commonly used epithets is interesting and entertaining.

In our discussion of this fascinating word, we use it frequently, so please don’t listen if you are easily offended.  Nunberg traces the history of “a-hole” back to World War II and describes and even charts the rise of its usage in literature, movies and speech.  He is quite conversant with almost all forms of popular culture, and we touch on Clint Eastwood, Steve Jobs, Donald Trump, Ann Coulter and Larry David’s cringe-inducing character in Curb Your Enthusiasm.  Nunberg’s website is here.

Cousineau joins us at about 44:30, after we clean out our ears with a little ditty from Mary Poppins.  He’s a word lover with an expansive vocabulary, and shares his fascination with the derivation and evolution of many terms.  He explains a number of new or obscure words, which often lead to other words, and those digressions are as interesting as the stuff in the book.  Check out the full story on Cousineau here.