Words & Languages

On April 1, scientists will officially restart their search for gravitational waves after a year spent making improvements to massive twin detectors. Discoveries should soon start rolling in, and when they do, there's a good chance the news will be translated into a Native American language called Blackfoot, or Siksika.

Poncie Rutsch / KUNC

Leasing an apartment or home has never been an easy process, but imagine navigating a househunt with limited English skills. Every showing requires a translator, or really, anytime you have to communicate with a landlord; for example, when something breaks.

Miscommunications are easy, which is one reason why One Morgan County, a nonprofit in Fort Morgan, Colorado, hosted a meeting to help untangle the rights and responsibilities of tenants.

“There’s issues on both sides of this,” says executive director Michaela Holdridge. “And we really figured this would be a good time to discuss this, and say ‘OK, what is your understanding of your rights as a tenant?’”

Courtesy of Buntport Theater

The difference between 'theatre' and 'theater' doesn't seem like a big deal now, but back in the mid-1800s those could have been fighting words.

Excising Britain from our cultural lexicon was all the rage back then. While Noah Webster was busy American-izing the dictionary, riots were cropping up to get British actors off the stage and the word 'theatre' off the marquee.

"But it never left completely," said the University of Northern Colorado's Head of Theatre Education Mary Schuttler.

Look around and you'll find that both forms of the word are common – and, according to Schuttler, who teaches 'theatre' history – both are correct.

Superweed? Scientists Define A Controversial Concept

Apr 29, 2015
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s... a superweed?

If you’ve paid any attention to the debate concerning the adoption of genetically-engineered crops, you’ve heard of superweeds. They’re those nasty, hearty weeds that cross-breed with GMO corn to resist herbicide applications. Or, um...they’re new, special weeds, able to outcompete other pesky plants with undetermined magic properties, right? No, they’re the result of an over-reliance on a particular weed management strategy.

But which is it? That’s been the problem.

Jim Hill / KUNC

If you heard someone was planning to kill a baby, your first reaction might be to call 911. If you heard someone wanted to prevent unwanted pregnancy, you might applaud that work.

Yet both of terms are used by activists to refer to the same act: abortion.

Word choice shapes how we perceive an issue. As Colorado gears up for a debate over another contested ethical issue – proposed legislation granting a terminally ill patient the ability to take life-ending drugs prescribed by his or her doctor – those involved say the words used to describe the act will have an important role in how it is perceived.

Translating from one language to another is a tricky business, and when it comes to interpreting between a doctor and patient, the stakes are even higher.

Consider the story of 18-year-old baseball player Willie Ramirez.

It's the best show that you're probably not watching.

As FX's The Bridge ends its ratings-challenged second season Wednesday, it has told a sprawling story about two detectives — one in El Paso, Texas, and one in Juarez, Mexico — pursuing a Mexican drug cartel.

This year, much of the story has centered on reluctant hero and Mexican police detective Marco Ruiz, who's chasing cartel boss Fausto Galvan. Almost all of those moments are filmed in Spanish, helping flesh out characters who tend to remain mere stereotypes in other shows.

Grace Hood / KUNC

Here at KUNC, the news hosts you hear on the radio can sometimes find themselves on the front lines of deciphering grammar questions and intercepting mistakes. There are simple errors like "who" versus "whom" to correct. Then there are questions that are puzzling and more complicated. Which is exactly where Morning Edition Host Erin O'Toole and I found ourselves.

We're sure it's like this in every workplace.

Ammon Shea, author of Reading the OED, has just come out with a new book about words — words like "dilapidated," "balding" and "lunch." Shea says those words were once frowned upon, as were more than 200 other words he has compiled.