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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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?   

How Scarcity Can Hijack The Brain

May 19, 2015

Studies show that growing up below the poverty line can have serious health implications, but can it have a lasting effect on the brain? We continue NHPR’s series The First Decade with a look at how scarcity can hijack a person’s neural pathways in the brain. Eldar Shafir is Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University, where he studies human behavior and decision making in the context of poverty. He is co-author of the book Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much.

dierk schaefer via flickr Creative Commons / https://flic.kr/p/5vGNkE

Studies show that growing up below the poverty line can have serious health implications, but can it have a lasting effect on the brain? On today’s show we continue NHPR’s series The First Decade by examining scarcity and how it can hijack a person’s neural pathways, affecting a child’s decision making later in life.

Then, a look at a technological issue that is threatening the livelihoods of farmers across the U.S. how the increasingly computerized nature of automobiles – and a far-reaching  copyright law –  is preventing farmers from maintaining their own equipment.

The Architecture & Design Of Affordable Housing

May 18, 2015
"Pruitt-igoeUSGS02" by United States Geological Survey - United States Geological Survey, from their website. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pruitt-igoeUSGS02.jpg#/media/File:Pruitt-igoeUSGS02.j

“We shape our dwellings, and afterwards our dwellings shape us.” Winston Churchill said that in an address to Parliament in 1944, and it remains true today. As part of our station-wide series, “The First Decade,” we’re looking at how the environmental and familial circumstances a child’s first ten years can influence – even determine -- their later lives. Today, housing, neighborhoods and the built environment.  

Tig Notaro: Comedy Meets Tragedy

May 18, 2015

When comedian Tig Notaro was diagnosed with cancer she did what most of us would never dream of doing, she went on stage and told the packed house at the Los Angeles comedy club Largo the news. her cancer diagnosis was the culmination of a long line of tragic events that happened over a very short period of time in 2012, and even though she initially thought of backing out of the gig, unsure of what her routine would be, she realized she needed to acknowledge what she was going through.

Jenny Cestnik via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/bak3Qg

Despite the fact that New Hampshire has one of the nation’s lowest poverty rates and is often rated as a top spot to raise children, indicators show that the gap between poor and wealthy families is growing.  On today’s show we join NHPR’s series, The First Decade, with a broader view of the impact of housing and neighborhoods on a child’s well-being. Then, an inside look at what really goes into designing effective affordable housing and how even the most seemingly trivial details can make or break a project.

mclcbooks via flickr Creative Commons| / flic.kr/p/9gvwfF

For some people, the day to day grind of the work week can be soul sucking, but for some, a job is more than just a paycheck, it's a passion. On today's show we'll talk to a rare book dealer who found his calling in the pages of antique books. Also today, in the early days of medicine, doctors weren't always revered by their patients. We'll hear about the so-called "Doctors Riot" that happened in 1788 New York City.

New Hampshire's Poet Laureate Is Hooked On Bach

May 12, 2015
Keene State College

Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” were first published in 1741 and consisted of an aria and 30 variations made up of 32 measures each – a sampler of Western dance music enjoyed during his time.  In her new collection, New Hampshire Poet Laureate Alice Fogel borrows that structure to invent 30 poems of 32 lines each.  The book is called “Interval: Poems Based on Bach’s Goldberg Variations.”


The Red Sox and the Yankees, Ali versus Frazier, the Boston Celtics and the L.A. Lakers. These are some of America's most notable sports rivalries, but they’ve got nothing on international cricket. On today’s show, we explore the epic sports rivalry between India and Pakistan.

Plus, everybody knows about the Titanic - so how come nobody remembers the sinking of the Sultana, the deadliest maritime disaster in American history?  We explore why some of the biggest historical events don’t take up much space in the history books. 

Matthew Stinson via flickr Creative Commons| / flic.kr/p/eTSb9

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 glamor.    

Also today, America’s population will certainly look different in 2050, but what will it sound like? A linguist suggests that to find out, you should listen to young women.

5.10.15: Happy Mother's Day

May 8, 2015
Logan Shannon / NHPR

It’s Mother’s Day weekend, time to shower mom with flowers, candy, and homemade cards.  On today’s show we’ll hear the story of Anna Jarvis, the woman who spent ten years trying to establish Mother’s Day as a holiday, and the rest of her life trying to end it.

Then, the late night TV monologue is one of few times American audiences can still share a good laugh. We’ll talk to seasoned comedy writer Jon Macks, about the one time of day when power, rather than partisanship, is the punch line.

xlibber via flickr Creative Commons / https://flic.kr/p/c6iABC

Serving today’s ultra-rich may not be so much about finicky Downton Abbey-esque table settings, but it often involves lots of unexpected duties. On today’s show, we’ll talk to a writer who enrolled at the nation’s foremost “Butler Boot Camp,” where students learn to navigate the whims and habits of today’s elite. Then, the story of Sylvester Graham and his signature snack: the graham cracker, which was borne out of philosophy that promoted chastity, temperance, and the prohibition of alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and spices. All of which could excite our animal desires. 

Karen Dalziel via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/4EZvKX

Ever heard of Philip Glass the plumber?  Kurt Vonnegut the car salesman?  On today’s show we pay homage to artists who didn’t quit their day jobs, even after hitting the big time, like poet/banker T.S. Eliot.

We'll also talk with pioneering jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton, he’s won seven Grammy awards and played alongside music legends from Stan Getz to B.B. King. Despite these accomplishments, he knows he won’t be remembered for a great solo, instead he’ll always be the guy that played with four sticks.

m01229 via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/dTC9q5

Last week, the New Hampshire supreme court unanimously upheld the death sentence for Michael Addison, who was convicted in the slaying of a Manchester police officer. On today’s show we’ll look at the bipartisan politics of the death penalty, and why fewer Americans – both Democrat and Republican – support it.

Plus, nearly 60,000 books have covered the Civil War that ended 150 years ago this month. We’ll speak to an illustrator about his new graphic novel that goes for a human-scale history from the ground up.

Warm Weather Heralds Prime Bird Watching Season

May 4, 2015
JD via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/eUKGG8

If this past winter had you longing for sunny days and spending more times outdoors, you’re certainly not alone. As northerly winds make way for the warm southerly breezes, you’ll likely notice quite a few more birds at the feeders and songbirds chirping away out of sight. Spring is prime-time for bird watching and while you may have noticed the return of the Red-winged Blackbirds back in March, and perhaps a surge in waterfowl sightings, there a plenty more feathered friends winging their way north.

Colleen P. via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/nBkdFS

It was a long hard winter – but temperatures are finally climbing and bird song is erupting across New Hampshire. Today is Bird Day and we’ll talk about the sounds of spring migration – and hear how you can keep traveling birds from flying into your windows. Plus, an amateur photographer and creator of the #WorstBirdPic Meme comes to terms with the fact that 99% of his bird photos are blurry.

And two spring traditions come together in a new project that’s just sprouted at Fenway Park: an organic rooftop garden.