If you're the kind of intellectual -- ahem, nerd -- who enjoys correcting other people's grammar and lecturing strangers about proper word choice, you'll find a kindred spirit in Slate's Senior Producer, Mike Vuolo, whose podcast about language, Lexicon Valley, champions your kind. Alternatively, if you find the aforementioned activities insufferable and consider yourself a linguistic layman (or laywoman), Vuolo's co-host, Bob Garfield is your entry into this particular valley.
"From pet peeves, syntax, and etymology to neurolinguistics and the death of languages," Lexicon Valley has something to offer even the least linguistically inclined listener. For starters, the podcast notably examines generational shifts such as the use of the word "so" and vocal creaks among Millennials; the political implications of language, particularly in the labeling and defining of undocumented illegals and how geography, and even altitude, affect language development.
And because no lexicon is complete without it, a disclaimer states in the beginning of the podcast, that Lexicon Valley contains explicit language, making this informative podcast edgier than most. They even offer a brief history of swearing starting with the Romans all the way up to modern usage of the term "asshole."
Representing two different generations, Vuolo and Garfield -- or Mikey and Bobby as they are known to each other -- form a dynamic duo on Lexicon Valley, mixing traditional radio and innovative podcasting. While Garfield often takes the role of crotchety co-host, Vuolo sardonically reminds us that unlike Garfield, he is not only the co-host but also the show's producer, editor, researcher and creator.
The hosts' wry exchanges serve not only to entertain but also to break down the complex concepts and research regarding language acquisition and evolution presented by linguists and other experts. Without Garfield, only linguists and those like Vuolo, who have developed specialized knowledge could casually listen to Lexicon Valley. But as it is, we can all benefit from Vuolo's interests, thirty minutes at a time.
Vuolo and Garfield first came together in the seven years that Vuolo produced NPR's On the Media, which Garfield co-hosts with Brooke Gladstone. In 2011, On the Media said goodbye to Vuolo by featuring an early episode of Lexicon Valley.
According to the On the Media team, "Mike was a brilliant producer and a real mensch, but he was also a language obsessive who wrote crossword puzzles on the side and always knew just what you meant to say and how to correctly say it." Meaning, Lexicon Valley, which is categorized in Apple's iTunes as a "language course," was always his destiny.
After a four month hiatus in 2012, in which Vuolo welcomed his son into the world, Lexicon Valley has returned with new content much to its dedicated fans' avail. Because if ever there was a podcast that encouraged listeners to write in, it would be Lexicon Valley, whose anal retentive target audience often cannot help itself.
Endearingly, many of the iTunes reviews showcase particular rhetorical devices discussed in the show. With five stars, the user, Onraita, said with litotes or understatement, "This podcast is not only not uninteresting, it is also not poorly produced, nor is the range of topics limited or unoriginal. I am not disinclined to listen to each upcoming episode with relish."
With less than fifty episodes, Lexicon Valley's dedicated following augurs a bright future, and many more linguistic lessons for the Vuolo and Garfield in each of us.
Listen to Lexicon Valley on Slate.