The Allusionist

Adventures in language with Helen Zaltzman.

Eine durchschnittliche Folge dieses Podcasts dauert 20m. Bisher sind 178 Folge(n) erschienen. Dieser Podcast erscheint jede zweite Woche.

Gesamtlänge aller Episoden: 2 days 16 hours 1 minute


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161. Sentiment

Empathy and kindness can be noble concepts in themselves, but as terms are thrown around enough to have become buzzwords, and in the process lose some of their meaning and purpose. Audiomakers Sandhya Dirks and Julia Furlan, and academic and podcaster Hannah McGregor, discuss the value and pitfalls of appealing to the emotions.

Find out more about this episode and get extra information about the topics therein at, where there's also a transcript...



160. Coward

“Anxiety is the parrot sidekick that rides on my shoulder and occasionally squawks warnings in my ear,” says Tim Clare, poet and podcaster and author of the book Coward: Why We Get Anxious & What We Can Do About It. We talk about anxiety, cowardice, magic bullets vs silver bullets, the scary Bible, and seagulls.

Content note for discussion about mental health, unsurprisingly, and colonial and military harmful practices...



159. Bufflusionist

Grab your stake and crucifix pendant, we're going vampire-hunting! Well, vampire-etymology-hunting. The podcast Buffering the Vampire Slayer, which recaps the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode by episode, invited me to answer their listeners' questions of language that the show had provoked...


 2022-08-20  40m

158. Creature Quiz

There's lots of fun etymology of creatures and a lot of fun etymology derived from creatures, and now it is gathered into this fun playalong quiz about animal etymologies!

There's an interactive answer sheet at, plus more information about various animals and etymologies, and as always the full dictionary entry for the randomly selected word...


 2022-08-05  24m

Tranquillusionist: Australia's Big Things

This is the Tranquillusionist, in which I, Helen Zaltzman, say a load of deliberately boring words to distract your interior monologue from whatever dystopian stew it is in. Today: a list of the Big Things of Australia.

The Allusionist is on tour in Australia with the new live show Your Name Here, all about eponyms. Before you get too tranquil, visit for dates and tickets to the remaining shows in Australia and the upcoming ones in Aotearoa New Zealand...


 2022-07-19  30m

157. Queerbaiting

The term 'queerbaiting' has evolved from meaning entrapment to marketing ploy to drawing "queer audiences into a piece of media that has no intention of actually meaningfully exploring queerness" says Leigh Pfeffer, host and producer of the podcast History Is Gay. Leigh tracks where the word's various incarnations came from, and why it should not be confused with 'queer coding'.

This episode contains some swears...


 2022-06-25  27m

156. Rainbow Washing

From whitewash (the paint) we got whitewashing (the covering up of misdeeds) and from there greenwashing, redwashing, bluewashing, purplewashing, pinkwashing - and now rainbow washing, where companies will put Pride flags all over products and posts during the month of June, but behind the scenes will not necessarily be useful - and sometimes they'll be anti-useful...


 2022-06-11  25m

155. The Tiffany Problem

The name Tiffany has been around for some 800 years. But you can't name a character in a historical novel 'Tiffany', because people don't believe the name is old. Science fiction and fantasy author Jo Walton coined the term "The Tiffany Problem" to express the disparity between historical facts and the common perception of the past.

Find out more information about the topics in this episode at theallusionist...


 2022-05-28  20m

154. Objectivity

Couple of easy straightforward questions for us to chew on: 1. What is ‘objectivity’ supposed to mean? And 2. does it exist? Lewis Raven Wallace, a journalist and audiomaker fired from his public radio job over his blog post entitled ‘Objectivity is dead and I'm okay with it’, considers the principals and practice of objectivity, and what might be fairer ones.

Find out more information about the topics in this episode at theallusionist...


 2022-05-14  30m

153. In Character

Chinese is one of the oldest still-spoken languages in the world. But when technologies arrived like telegraphy and computing, designed with the Roman alphabet in mind, if Chinese wanted to be able to participate then it had to choose between adapting, or paying a heavy price. And sometimes both were inevitable...


 2022-04-18  37m