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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Alex Proimos via Flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/crwVJd

Is authenticity really essential to educational and scientific value? Now, advanced 3D printing gives museum curators the option of keeping rare artifacts safely kept away -- while providing no less science or history to visitors. On today's show, we talk about 3D printing at the Smithsonian. Then, a job you probably didn't know existed:  a costume historian, a woman who makes mannequins for museums to show historic textiles on. But she's also somewhat of a dress detective. And finally, a British rock band that has been together for nearly 40 years -- no breakup, no scandal, no drug addiction. It's the Mekons, the coolest band you may have never heard of. 

Kim Benson via Flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/qHFLaX

Just about every creation of comedian Bill Cosby's has become radioactive in light of accusations of rape and assault by nearly 50 women. Yet, only one of those alleged assaults can still be prosecuted, due to statute of limitation laws that prevent older cases from going to trial. On today's show, we talk about statute of limitation laws, to better understand the sexual assault cases against Bill Cosby. Then, a look at the first use of the "PMS Defense" in a court of law. And finally we discuss how for one woman, party crashing led to a career as a writer, talk show host, and activist -- but for another type of crasher, the story takes a much different turn.

The Walking Show

Jul 14, 2015

Even as a child, Charles Dickens was an avid, sometimes compulsive walker. So much so, he once wrote, “If I could not walk far and fast, I think I should just explode and perish.” Today’s show is all about walking, from the ancient origins of labyrinths, to the early 20th century phenomenon known as pedestrianism, to its ongoing benefits in a world built for cars. 

Marius Watz via Flickr CC / //flic.kr/p/2xBqFt

Fifty-five years ago, Harper Lee’s novel To Kill A Mockingbird gave the nation a glimpse of the deep south. Soon afterwards the author and the town that inspired the classic book disappeared from public imaginations. Today, we take a look at the conflicted history of a town that produced two great American authors. Then, the skill, planning, and access required to successfully dupe the art world easily captivates the public imagination. We’ll explore the meticulous effort behind some of the greatest art frauds. And, few people realize the danger works of art can face while safely housed inside a museum – from docents.

7.10.15: Words, Words, Words

Jul 10, 2015
Logan Shannon / NHPR

Today’s show is all about words –written, spoken, or spelled – starting with the emotional, and surprisingly partisan debate over whether to continue teaching cursive. Later in the show we’ll explore the art of inventing new words and languages. And, how do you spell stereotype? We’ll discuss the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which has been won by an Indian American student every year since 2007.  

Alan Levine via Flickr Creative Commons / https://flic.kr/p/yeux

Nationally, only 17% of students who enter community college seeking a bachelor’s degree reach that goal within six years. Today, we learn about a new program in Orlando, Florida that aims to solve the problem of community college attrition. Then, you’re locked in a dark cell with a group of strangers – there’s a zombie on the loose and you’re running out of time…oxygen…and solutions. It’s not a video game, this is real life…and you paid to be there. Welcome to the new trend in adventure recreation: the escape room.  

"Family watching television 1958" by Evert F. Baumgardner - National Archives and Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons / http://bit.ly/1D0HxEN

Television is dead! Long live television! Despite predictions of its demise, a new golden age of tv is hitting its stride. Today, three critics weigh in on what’s on, who’s cutting the cable cord, and where the business of TV is headed. We’ll also get some thoughts on what’s worth watching, including the summer’s most divisive offering, True Detective. Then, it’s Ramadan. If you didn’t know that, you aren’t alone…American retailers are ignoring the growing Muslim market at their peril.

Seattle Municipal Archives via Flickr Creative Commons / https://flic.kr/p/7N6MpX

Social media has killed nostalgia, and iPhones are ruining summer camp. On today's show, we explore how social media has replaced that shoe box in the closet that keeps the past hidden and contained. Then, machines take over for humans and slog through the dirty work, leaving people free to do whatever they choose in a world without work. We talk about what a post-job society might look like, and how we might prepare for it. But meanwhile, the number of older Americans working is on the rise. 

bulbocode909 via Flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/b7u4np

This week, South Carolina’s senate debates whether the Confederate flag should be removed from public view at the state capitol. We're looking at the film that helped resuscitate the confederacy after the Civil War – D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation. Then, when NBC canceled Hannibal earlier this summer, fans hardly had time to complain before rumors began to circulate about the show being picked up by one of the online streaming services now keeping shows alive long after networks give up on them. Finally, a Supreme Court case that was overshadowed by an historic slate of decisions. A California farm challenged a Depression-era law that allows the government to forcibly appropriate food crops to control prices.

7.05.15: Celebrating the American Legacy

Jul 3, 2015
Logan Shannon for NHPR

Historians often interpret the Civil War in terms of important battles, and number of lives lost. But what about  food? Today, we explore a history of the war through the lens of a cookbook. Then, a man who decided to do what nobody has done in more than a century ... cross the Oregon Trail in a covered wagon. Finally, the 4th of July marks the annual Mountain Men Revival in Pinedale, Wyoming. There, dozens of rugged-looking men wearing animal skins shake off the yoke of civilization, tether their horses to trees, make camp, and join others over grilled buffalo meat.

7.2.15: Helium, Nitrate Film, & Hunting for Elements

Jul 2, 2015
Glen Van Etten via Flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/5P2Zf5

It's the stuff that makes you sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks when you inhale it, it's the gas that fills balloons at birthday parties and is used in MRI machines and nuclear reactors -- and turns out, it's an increasingly rare element. Helium. (He) On today's show, we learn that it's not here to stay. Then, a hunt for elements. The periodic table has changed a lot, especially since 1941, when researchers at the University of California Berkeley produced the first man-made element: plutonium. (Pu) And the search to make more continues. And finally, a conversation about the Nitrate Picture Show in Rochester New York, a festival that screens incredibly flammable nitrate (NO3) films. 

7.1.15: Tabloid Journalism, Oddball News, & Owls

Jul 1, 2015
eddiemcfish via Flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/4Fnau1

Here's an odd story for you: an Evangelical Christian from a TV show that celebrates traditional family values is accused of sexually molesting five young girls. That is, of course, Josh Duggar. And who broke the story? Not CNN, or the Huffington Post, but the tabloid magazine In Touch. On today's show we talk about tabloid journalism and follow it up with the idea of a monument dedicated to free speech ... you'd think it would be a welcome endeavor. Then, Man Who Allegedly Licked Toad Arrested For Trespassing, and Guy Wakes Up To Find Bear Nibbling At His Ankle: a conversation about oddball news. And finally, from the Owl and the Pussycat to Hedwig, a life with Mumble the Owl in a London apartment.

6.30.15: Pop Songs, The Steel Wheels & Mountain Men

Jun 30, 2015
RubySky Photography / www.thesteelwheels.com/photos

According to a recent analysis, pop music is getting stupider.  Today, we ask a critic whether music has to be smart to be good. Plus, Merril Garbus of tUnE-yArDs offers a firsthand look at what goes into a catchy hook. And, a member of the mountain string band Steel Wheels explains how flatpicking master Doc Watson moved him give up punk music and pick up the banjo. 

6.29.15: Crossing the Oregon Trail and Civil War Food

Jun 29, 2015
Baker County Tourism via Flickr Creative Commons / https://flic.kr/p/uxQVku

Historians often interpret the Civil War in terms of important battles, and number of lives lost. But what about  food? Today, we explore a history of the war through the lens of a cookbook. Then, a man who decided to do what nobody has done in more than a century ... cross the Oregon Trail in a covered wagon. And finally, we take a look at Overtraining Syndrome, a debilitating disease that can cause strange pain, loss of appetite, and even the symptoms of leukemia.

Logan Shannon

2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. While many of us remember the war in terms of battles and lives lost, people of the era also had to deal with the business of everyday life, including what to have for dinner. We spoke with Helen Veit, editor of Food in the Civil War Era: the South, who explained that the Civil War changed how and what Southerners ate - and how Southern cuisine never really changed back. Here are three cooking trends from the Civil War era South that you can try in your very own kitchen.

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.