GETTING CURIOUS | How Can We Be More Effective With Language? 


Have you ever wondered what’s up with double negation, the history of gender neutral pronouns, or why swearing is taboo? Then get ready for this week’s guest, linguist Anne Curzan! Anne and Jonathan talk about how the English language has evolved since the 1300s and how our words are SO powerful because of their central role in our identities and communities. Plus, we talk about how to be a more generous speaker, listener, and caretaker of language.

Anne Curzan is the Dean of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan, where she also teaches courses on the history of English, English grammar, language and gender, and the dynamics of conversations. She is a trained linguist and historian of the English language. Her TEDx talk at UM called “What makes a word ‘real’?” has over 2 million views on the national TED site. She earned her B.A. in linguistics from Yale University and her Ph.D. in English language and literature from the University of Michigan. Her book “Says Who?: A Kinder, Funner Usage Guide for Everyone Who Cares About Words” came out on March 26th.

You can follow Anne on Instagram at @annecurzan and find more information about her book on Penguin Random House.

Follow us on Instagram @CuriousWithJVN to join the conversation. Jonathan is on Instagram @JVN.

Transcripts for each episode are available at

Find books from Getting Curious guests at

Our senior producers are Chris McClure and Julia Melfi. Our editor & engineer is Nathanael McClure. Production support from Julie Carrillo, Anne Currie, and Chad Hall.

Our theme music is “Freak” by QUIÑ; for more, head to

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Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness