Word of Mouth

Word of Mouth airs at 2 pm Monday through Thursday, weeknights at 9 pm, and noon on Sunday.

Word of Mouth is the sound of new ideas, hosted by Virginia Prescott, and produced by Taylor Quimby, and Logan Shannon. Our Senior Producer is Maureen McMurray

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6.25.15: The Lost Art of Surrender & Still Dreaming

Jun 25, 2015
Jan Jacobsen via Google Images Creative Commons / http://www.worldpeace.no/THE-WHITE-FLAG.htm

“From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever…” from Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce to General Lee, the act of surrender has a noble past. We look at the history of surrender in warfare and discover why waving the white flag has become increasingly rare. Then, we talk to two filmmakers who set up cameras at an assisted living facility for artists whose performing days are far behind them. Their new documentary follows the cast of residents as they rehearse for a public performance of a Shakespearean classic. 

Listen to the full show. 

6.24.15: Trolls, Back to the Future & Gray Hair

Jun 24, 2015
Darrell Miller via Flickr Creative Commons / https://flic.kr/p/biFVsZ

Internet trolls – they shame, threaten, bully…and help sell ads!  A researcher infiltrates a trolling network and the cycle of harassment. Plus, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of back to the future, the billion dollar film franchise that repurposed the Delorian, reinvented time travel, and gave us the hoverboard. And from Rihanna to lady gaga – dyed gray hair is a hot fashion trend. Feminist statement or a passing fad? 

Erin Pettigrew / flic.kr/p/2g3FZG

New Hampshire's 'Hands Free' law goes into effect on July 1st -- and many consumers have already adapted to the new policy. There's also a nifty little device you probably already have in your car, or on your desk, right now: the ballpoint pen. While it may not cause a window-shattering ruckus these days, it's still in daily usage. And finally, while a quiet hurricane season is predicted for this year, there's one place that's guaranteed to see category 5 winds this year: a new Florida laboratory with the power to create artificial hurricane conditions.

Jes via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/5UU5vB

With a beak like a parrot, venom strong enough to dissolve flesh, and eight writhing tentacles, the octopus is among the most mystifying and alien of creatures.

On today’s show, a naturalist reaches across half a billion years of evolution to find the soul of an octopus. Then, from playing catch in the backyard to taking junior to his first ball game, baseball is a bonding tradition--and cliché--for many American men. We’ll look at the father-son relationship through the lens of baseball. 

Will Marlow via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/ccwMsS

Aphonia, flop sweat, mic fright. Call it what you will, stage fright can be crippling for some performers. On today’s show: a pianist delves into the history of performance anxiety, and her own struggle to overcome it

Then, between recent spikes in bicycle commuters and bike-friendly infrastructure, arguments over who owns the road are commonplace, but hardly new. We’ll take a look at the bicycle’s fraught history with pedestrians, automobiles and even horse-drawn carriages.  

White House Photograph Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Library

Before Carter versus Ford, presidential debates weren’t considered a necessary part of the election process, but today, the debate stage is like the Roman Coliseum.

On today’s show, we’ll look at the history of zingers, gaffes, and memorable moments from behind the podium. Then, with a pool of candidates growing at a near exponential rate, debate planning has become a headache for the GOP. We’ll look at how party leaders and the media could take advantage of the enormous field.

Sarah Neufeld grew up playing the violin, but she never really approached the instrument in the classical sense. To her, the violin was just a different kind of guitar. When Colin Stetson picks up the saxophone, the once familiar brass woodwind sounds unfamiliar. Together, the duo push the sonic boundaries of their traditional instruments.

Joe Parks via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/j3To1u

With a beak like a parrot, venom strong enough to dissolve flesh, and eight writhing tentacles, the octopus is among the most alien-looking of creatures.

On today’s show, a naturalist explores animal consciousness through the eyes of the incredible octopus. Plus, classical instruments through the eyes of musical rebels, Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufield of Arcade Fire. 

Shandi-lee Cox via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/9kWmqX

Jurassic World opened this weekend to big crowds but mixed reviews from the scientific community. On today’s show a paleoartist takes issue with the film’s inaccurate depiction of dinosaurs.

Then, from tips for Hollywood filmmakers, to tips for aspiring comics, a comedy insider, and former editor of The Onion, explains what it takes to earn a living making people laugh.

©John Conway / johnconway.co

When Jurassic Park was released in theaters back in 1993, the scientific community was in shock. Happy shock, that is. For once, Hollywood got the science part—mostly­­—right. Long thought to be lumbering beasts, who slogged around the earth, Jurassic Park ushered in a new era of understanding when it came to dinosaurs: they were actually fast and smart.

Caroline Jones via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/dEoHxx

Recruiting players from other countries is fairly common in the arena of professional sports, but in the world of chess, luring one of the top players to the U.S. was a clandestine operation. On today’s show, the U.S. Chess Federation makes a bold move and lands the number two player in the world.

Then, in April, a Louisiana high school principal outraged the public by forbidding a female student from wearing a tux to her prom. Later in the show we’ll break down gender norms for a brief history of unisex fashion.

Thomas Hawk via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/gYYzoZ

There’s plenty of evidence that drug use during pregnancy can harm the fetus, but should using illicit substances while pregnant be a criminal offense? On today’s show, an unfiltered look at what happens when expectant mothers are jailed for drug use.

Then, from Mexican cartels to Isis, the rise in kidnappings globally adds up to a 1.6 billion dollar “hostage industry”. Later in the show a journalist attends “Hostage Camp”, where wealthy travelers learn how to survive a kidnapping.  


Just about anything can be outsourced these days from customer service to personal tax filing, but what if you need help with a creative project, say a radio story? We asked NHPR's Sean Hurley to relinquish his creative control and utilize a website called Fiverr, an online marketplace where people offer a wide range of services starting at just five dollars.


As new contenders join the 2016 presidential race, the flood of stump speeches and political spin can be overwhelming. On today’s show we’ll talk to a comedy writer who has mastered the art of translating deliberately deceptive double-speak: from politics, to real-estate, to food.

Plus, we’ll hear about a class action lawsuit against blue moon, charging that the self-described “artfully crafted” brew is not really a craft beer.

Logan Shannon / NHPR

“Birthday suit”, “in the buff”, “wearing nothing but a smile”. On today’s show we’ll explore the progressive-era origins and continuing tensions over what it means to take it all off.

Plus, discovering the secret to happiness has inspired a robust self-help industry and pre-occupied philosophers since the days of Aristotle and Epicurus. Contemporary philosopher Frederic Lenoir shares some practical advice from the world’s great minds.

You can see and hear Caitlin Schneider's full list of unexplained sounds over at Mental Floss

Sometimes unexplained sounds have a perfectly logical scientific explanation, other times, no matter how logical the explanation may be, you still don't believe it. The following sounds are unexplained, but there are theories about their origin. We invite you to speculate wildly.

Paul L. Dineen via flickr Creative Commons / https://flic.kr/p/ebu1fU

“Birthday suit”, “in the buff”, “wearing nothing but a smile.” Call it what you will, on today’s show we’ll strip bare the American nudism movement and we’ll explore the progressive-era origins and continuing tensions over what it means to take it all off.

Then, we’ll hear about two young men who embarked on a bold crime spree, stealing thousands in gold and weapons. The hitch? It all went down in a video game. 

Serge Melki via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/e85iBR

From the loyal dog to the house cat to the horse, domestication has bridged the gap between wild animals and humans. On today’s show, the evolutionary advantages of domestication, and how we got from wildcat to the purring kitten of a zillion video memes.

Then, from playing catch in the backyard to taking junior to his first ball game, baseball is a bonding tradition, and cliché, for many American men. We’ll look at the father-son relationship through the lens of baseball.

CHUNSAM South Korea | Photograph by Brian Skerry | / National Geographic

All of the photography featured in the slide show are from the June issue of National Geographic magazine. You can find more photos from Tim Zimmermann's feature article, "Born to Be Wild" at National Geographic's website.

Since its debut, Kickstarter has raised nearly 2 billion dollars and successfully crowd funded more than 85,000 campaigns. On today’s show, we’ll hear about a successfully funded Kickstarter which failed to deliver that takes “dissatisfied customer” to a whole new level.

Plus, huge crowds flock to see dolphins in aquariums and zoos across the world, but life in captivity is a far cry from their natural habitat. Later in the show we’ll examine the complicated process of returning dolphins to the ocean. 

Sue via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/w9jdX

We’ve all heard the saying “seeing is believing”, but does it ring true in a photoshopped-world? On today’s show we’ll try to find the answer to this question: why are we so easily duped by viral images:

Then, take the Talented Mr. Ripley, add several more aliases, and a dash of gruesome, and you get Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter. Writer Walter Kirn talks about being swindled by a man masquerading as a scion of the Rockefeller family, who was really a cunning imposter and a murderer.

Plus, a look back at one of the greatest hoaxes in American history, the Giant Indian of Cardiff.

julierohloff via Flickr Creative Commons

With the weather warming up across New England, people are heading for the coast. Today Word of Mouth hits the high seas. First we'll ponder the unfathomable push and pull of the open ocean. Then, we’ll speak to an artist who created the world’s first submerged sculpture park, his underwater gallery not only attracts art-lovers, but serves as an artificial reef. Plus, farmed fish now exceeds beef production. Have fish farmers learned from the mistakes of the meat industry?

Penn State via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/qFn5HA

Millennials are often painted as entitled, selfie-snapping narcissists, but do they deserve the “kids these days” label?  On today’s show we’ll attempt to transcend the generation gap with a strong defense of the youngsters.

Then, we celebrate graduation season with author George Saunders, whose 2013  commencement address at Syracuse University contained a simple message: “be kinder”. The speech went viral, became a short film, and a book. He’ll explain why it rippled out far beyond that group of graduates.  

5.25.15: Happy Memorial Day

May 25, 2015
Peter Miller via flickr Creative Commons| / flic.kr/p/aezcJU

Each Memorial Day, the country comes together to remember the fallen – but history hasn’t always been so kind. When President Lincoln was assassinated, many people publically celebrated his death, and not just in the south. On today’s show, the myth of a country united in mourning. Plus, a look at why some important historical events go altogether unremembered – like the sinking of The Sultana, America’s deadliest maritime disaster. And a Vietnam veteran says thank you to the comrade who saved him – not from bullets, but from himself.

Logan Shannon / NHPR

With thousands of empty luxury apartments in China’s new cities, desperate measures are being taken to lure buyers. On today’s show, we’ll explore the booming business of renting foreigners as props to give these ghostly city centers an air of international glamour.   

Then we hit the pitch for an inside look at the world’s greatest sports rivalry, between the Pakistan and Indian cricket teams, and what it reveals about the complicated relationship between the nations.

Leveling The Playing Field: Digital Games & Children

May 21, 2015
amanda tipton via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/c8fYHA

In 1983 Ronald Reagan gave a speech at Disney’s Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida extolling his new found understanding of the virtues of video games: “I recently learned something quite interesting about video games.

Joseph McKinley via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/e6Cw1P

Worried that your kids are spending too much time playing video games? On today’s show we look at how video games can not only level the demographic playing field, but help kids learn and potentially, heal. Plus, discovering the secret to happiness has inspired a robust self-help industry and pre-occupied philosophers since the days of Aristotle and Epicurus. Contemporary philosopher Frederic Lenoir shares some practical advice from the world’s great minds.

Davide Zanchettin via flickr Creatiev Commons / flic.kr/p/h261VQ

We’ve heard the claim before – low-income urban kids aren’t getting to spend enough time in the woods.  But what if outdoor education isn’t just about where you live – but how you’re being raised?

On today’s show, our station wide series The First Decade continues, with a look at environmental education. Plus, a bee researcher explains two new studies that offer increasing evidence that a common form of pesticide is harmful to wild bees. And, Dr. Kanye West?  We discuss the function and failures of honorary degrees.  

Make Your Own Bee Hotel

May 20, 2015
Farrukh via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/a3XVAo

After our interview with Dave Goulson author of A Buzz in the Meadow and A Sting in the Tailwe asked him what else we could do to help bees, aside from planting bee-friendly gardens. He mentioned making a "bee hotel." We often think of honeybee hives buzzing with activity, and while communal living is a trait for some bees, other bees are more solitary and they like to nest in holes. Often these holes are left behind by wood boring insects in tree trunks. These days, those holes become harder for bees to come by; the bee equivalent of a housing shortage. For these types of bees, it's a nice gesture to provide them with a place to stay. 

The Educational Benefits Of Time Spent Outdoors

May 20, 2015
Logan Shannon / NHPR

We’ve heard the claim before – low-income, urban kids aren’t provided the opportunity to spend enough time in the woods learning about the natural world in a hands-on environment.  But what if outdoor education isn’t just about where you live and what’s around – but is also a product of parenting, classroom based school standards, and an increasingly limited freedom to explore?