I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately: New Yorker short stories are perfect for the commute!
But my all-time favourite podcast so far is Stephen Fry on language.
You can immerse yourself in Fry’s orotund voice (in the most flattering sense of the adjective) as in a warm bath. I love that velvety timbre, that assured delivery — slightly world-weary but always gentlemanly, the unexpected choice of words that turns out to be perfect, and his sheer delight in “the juicy joy of language.” He speaks about the way today’s English has grown from its earliest origins and gathered words here and there over the centuries from a myriad sources. He likens it to the architectural landscape of today’s England: a base of Roman ruins, with medieval cathedrals built on top, with Georgian squares and Victorian railway stations and twentieth century housing projects and corporate headquarters. So we end up with a language that can be “glass and concrete sentences next to half-timbered Elizabethan phrases.”
You should be able to find this podcast (or “podgram,” to use his word) on iTunes, but searching for it is not all that intuitive. It’s easier to go to Fry’s website and click on Series 2, Episode 3, Language.