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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Chris-Håvard Berge via Flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/7rv4JN

“Lying in bed right now, it's getting around 7, 7:15. I can tell by the sound of my voice I'm a little dazed...just hard to believe that I have 150 more nights. 150 more days of walking 20 miles or so...”

It was February 20th, 1992 and it was the first day of my walk across the country. Twenty snowy miles from Cambridge to Sudbury Massachusetts. I'd set my tent up in the woods beside Longfellow's famous Wayside Inn and sat in my sleeping bag with a handheld tape recorder and read what I'd just written in my journal.

This story originally aired on 9/15/2014 

For Gilda Radner, it hinged on a slight speech disorder. “I’m Baba Wawa.” For Eddie Murphy it began when he was a child and would imitate what he saw on the screen: Buckwheat.

For Josh Ruben, it all starts with a breath.

The Bad Impressions Show

Dec 31, 2014

We’ve all fumbled a first impression at some point or another. Look no further than Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Before it was published in 1814, its working title was First Impressions which probably referred to protagonist Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy’s very first encounter – which as initial impressions go, was pretty abysmal.

But who knew getting off on the wrong foot was so easy?

This show is all about bad impressions. From bungling a business meeting, to what not to wear on a first date.

Plus, a comic tells us what happens when his go-to impression loses its appeal.

Listen to the full show and Read more for individual segments.

Jeremy Brooks via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/7s2JX9

The image of the family gathered at the table for the evening meal is a durable American tradition. Only it’s a myth. On today’s show, a food historian describes how most families ate for most of American history.

Plus, researchers at Cornell offer tips on how to navigate the all you can eat buffet without gaining a pound.

Then, we move from food to booze: hard drinking writers, like Ernest Hemingway and John Cheever fortified the myth of the alcohol-soaked genius. An author who explores why writers drink, and dispels any myths about booze as muse.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

Ian Britton via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/4DHLWW

When the cold winds blow and the snow falls, there’s no more romantic and carefree way to travel than a train. Today air and interstate travel have turned these engines of American mobility into expensive relics. On today’s show, we’ll pen a love letter to riding the rails.

And the old world charm continues with the particular intimacy of handwritten letters. From the Queen’s scone recipe, to life-saving encouragement from a punk rock icon, we’ll talk to a collector of correspondence deserving a wider audience.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

When it comes to Twitter followers, Katy Perry, Justin Beiber, and President Obama hold the top spots. On today’s show: we veer off social media’s beaten path to share some hidden gems in the Twittersphere.

Then, the holidays are here! Time for family gatherings, and perhaps, some awkward conversations. We’ll tackle the art of conversation, and offers tips on how to get a good one started with anyone, anywhere.

Plus, what happens when a pro-wrestler abandons the ring for Santa’s sleigh? One of our favorites segments of 2014.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

Busting Ice Fishing Myths With The Fish Nerds

Dec 23, 2014
Word of Mouth

Think ice fishing is old fashioned? Think again! The Fish Nerds are here to tell you that modern ice fishing in New Hampshire incorporates technology, all of the creature comforts you could ever want and a generous helping of fun and camaraderie.

Listen to their conversation, with Virginia, below.

Well, it sure doesn’t have to be. Bob houses and fishing huts can accommodate a heater large enough to keep you warm while you wait for the fish to bite. Dave and Clay told us about a guy who puts a hot tub next to his bob house and stays nice and toasty all season long.

The Ferguson decision, Eric Garner protests, and immigration are all topics we avoid at the holiday table, but opinions run free on Facebook. On today’s show what do you do when your Facebook friends make racist posts?

Plus, think ice fishing is for people who like to drink and dislike their families? The fishing nerds say the times they have-a-changed…

Also today, bad taste among the British; we’ll review the UK traditions of really bad Christmas number ones.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

The Best Overlooked Books Of 2014

Dec 22, 2014

Here at Word of Mouth, we have a tradition of looking for the books that everyone might not be talking about. Joining us to highlight the best of the under the radar books of 2014 is Michele Filgate. She’s written for Salon, Vulture, The Daily Beast, and other publications. Here’s her list, with commentary, and you can also listen to her conversation about the books with Virginia, below.

the justified sinner via flickr Creative Commons / https://flic.kr/p/4NKfhs

With the countdown to Christmas now measured in hours instead of days, the online holiday deals you may have shrugged off a few weeks ago are now looking downright clickable. On today’s show we’ll discuss why those offers are often too-good-to-be-true.

Plus, a literary wrap up of 2014. We’ll venture off the best-seller list for a sampling of the best overlooked books of the year.

And a glimpse of pre-revolutionary Cuba through the story of Julian Lobo, a sugar trader and financier, considered to be Cuba’s last tycoon.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

The Technicality Show

Dec 18, 2014

We’ve all heard of a guilty person getting acquitted of crime because of a “technicality”.  What happens when a law professor discovers a judicial loophole that could make for the perfect crime?

On today’s show, it’s all about the technicalities, the loopholes, artful dodges and escapes. From how to get away with murder, to how to turn the lights off when your religion prohibits it.

Plus, the most expensive typo in American legislative history.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

Good Gig: Professional Science Geek Howard Eglowstein

Dec 17, 2014

Good Gig is a series of conversations with individuals who have landed their dream job.

Howard Eglowstein’s Good Gig involves working to encourage girls in the computer science and math areas for a company called Science Buddies.  They give kids ideas and guidance for science fair projects that deviate from the well-trod robotics and erupting volcano paths. Howard’s background in tinkering started with toy making, but he's always been a creator.

Amy via flickr Creative Commons

Sometimes considering radical medical treatments require getting over the ick factor. On today’s show, how transplanting fecal matter from one person to another has saved lives, especially for those with antibiotic resistant digestive disorders, such as clostridium difficile, or C-Diff.

Then, Christmas is next week, a festival of lights, decorated trees, parties, and for some parents, the Santa conundrum…from to elf on a shelf to carrots for Rudolph, we’ll navigate the magical world of Santa.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

Via Popular Science / bestofwhatsnew.popsci.com

For the past 27 years the editors of Popular Science have identified products and technologies designed to change our world. On today’s show we’ll review some of 2014’s groundbreaking technology.

Then, we’ve come to accept retouched images on magazine covers and billboard ads, but now the practice has moved to movies and television. We’ll take a look at the latest advancement in digital-alteration: frame-by-frame beauty work.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

Writers On A New England Stage: Anne Rice

Dec 15, 2014
© David J. Murray / ClearEyePhoto.com

NHPR and The Music Hall present Writers on a New England Stage with author Anne Rice who reinvented a genre when she published Interview with a Vampire nearly 40 years ago. Subsequent novels presented undead characters who experienced love, grief, and longing.

Logan Shannon / NHPR

Last week, a GOP staffer resigned after political Facebook faux-pas - criticizing President Obama’s daughters for dressing like teenagers. On today’s show, we’ll take a look back at the long and fraught history of judging the President’s kids.

Then, these days just about every coffee shop, bookstore, and restaurant touts a free Wi-Fi hotspot – but at what cost? We’ll find out the hidden dangers of public Wi-Fi.

Plus, the industry secret behind the robust flavor of orange juice.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

Kelsey Ohman via flickr Creative Commons

In New Hampshire, skiing is one of winter’s biggest perks and the best cure for cabin fever. The first skiers put two planks on their feet and slid down a mountain, not as a past time but as a way to hunt. On today’s show, a National Geographic reporter sets out on the trail of the earliest skiers in human history and finds himself elk hunting in the far reaches of western China where he witnesses a skiing tradition thousands of years old.

Also, a couple embarks on a medical odyssey to find relief from a devastating illness. And talking to strangers may be good for your health. The psychology behind interacting with people you don't know.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

James Mutter via flickr Creative Commons

In the last decade, cosmetic procedures performed on Asian-Americans, Hispanics and African-Americans have far outpaced those among the white population. The goal? Westernizing ethnic features.  Today we put ethnic plastic surgery on the examination table. Then, NHPR's Sean Hurley brings us the story of a secret Santa with a secret identity.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

Courtesy the WWE/Sean Hurley for NHPR

In late November, they begin to arrive. In malls, outside stores, at company parties across the country. A deluge of Santas. We don't often stop to wonder who the men are beneath the red stocking caps. And sometimes, Santa has a secret he wants to keep from us, too. 

Producer's note: While you might be tempted to read this story instead of listening to it, we recommend listening first...and reading and perusing photos later. It's worth it, we promise. 

Paolo via flickr Creative Commons

From Tesla cars to Louis Vuitton luggage to Philippe Patek watches, luxury brands are selling well. How about a $30,000 cell phone? On today’s show, we’ll learn about the new handcrafted cell phone with optional concierge service that’s become a new symbol of conspicuous consumption.

Plus, Junkyard Planet: following the billion-dollar trash trade from American dumpsters to junkyards across the globe.

And, the opening sequence of a television show is an art form unto itself. We'll get a rundown of the best ones.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Last week, a GOP staffer resigned after posting a Facebook comment criticizing the President's daughters. Today on Word of Mouth, the history of an unlikely American tradition: publicly judging the children of the White House. Also, the hidden dangers of public Wi-Fi, and the industry secret behind orange juice’s robust flavor.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

Logan Shannon / NHPR

The recent disintegration and crash of a Virgin Galactic suborbital space plane raised questions about the safety and viability of space tourism. On today’s show we consider another issue for commercial spaceflight….the psychological effects of leaving earth.

Then, we can all remember our favorite sports movies – but what about our favorite sports-based books? Bill Littlefield of NPR’s Only a Game talks about his favorite sportswriters, and reads from his new collection of athletics inspired poetry. 

Plus, a conversation with America’s only water sommelier. That’s right, water sommelier.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

Bill Littlefield's Favorite Sports Books...Right Now

Dec 4, 2014

If you're shopping for a sports fan this holiday season, Bill Littlefield host of NPR's Only a Game, has some suggestions for new titles that he considers his favorites, right now.

We can all remember our favorite sports movies – but what about our favorite sports-based books? On today’s show, Bill Littlefield of NPR’s Only A Game talks about his favorite sportswriters, and reads from his new collection of athletics inspired poetry. 

Then, we tackle another competition of sorts: passing the knowledge, the notoriously difficult test that every London cabbie has to take before he or she can get behind the wheel of a black taxi.

Plus a look at how and why the basketball shot clock came to be from Roman Mars’ podcast, 99% Invisible.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

Virtual Water Tasting With Sommelier Martin Riese

Dec 3, 2014
Martin Riese

Choosing from an expansive wine list can be a challenge, and as a result, many restaurants provide the services of a sommelier to help patrons choose. At Ray’s and Stark Bar, a restaurant at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, you can also enjoy the services of the country’s only water sommelier, Martin Riese.

Emre Ayaroglu via flickr Creative Commons

While the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs may be most familiar, the earth has experienced five great extinctions, and we may be in the midst of the sixth…right here, right now. On today’s show: a startling account of the planet's biodiversity crisis, and the role humans have played in creating it.

Plus it’s easy to condemn the office gossip – but getting the inside scoop at work might just save your career. We’ll discuss why gossip can be good for you. And, America’s only water sommelier explains why his restaurant features a 44-page water menu.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

David Malkoff via flickr Creative Commons

The recent disintegration and crash of a Virgin Galactic suborbital space plane raised questions about the safety and viability of space tourism. On today’s show, we consider another issue for commercial spaceflight: the psychological effects of leaving earth.

Then, touted as the world’s most advanced ship, Royal Caribbean’s cruise-liner Quantum of the Seas is outfitted with virtual balconies, robot bartenders, Bladerunner-esque elevators, and smart apps. While the ship’s technology is impressive, we’ll find out where it all falls short.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

National Geographic: The Covers

Dec 1, 2014
Courtesy of National Geographic

The cover of National Geographic magazine is iconic: you can pick the magazine out on the rack from just a glimpse of that particular shade of yellow. A yellow border so iconic that it acts as National Geographic's print and media logo. Inside that yellow frame is often a photographic glimpse into another world, another person's life and those photographs are what makes Nat Geo the icon it is today.

heipei via flickr Creative Commons

From the Afghan girl with startling green eyes to the ghostly wreckage of the Titanic, there’s just something about the iconic covers of National Geographic that burns into our collective memory. On today’s show: we get an insider’s view of the cover selection process.

Then, from microscopic lenses to compact cameras, the digital age has upped the ante for nature photographers and opened the door for whole new levels of disruption and manipulation. We’ll ponder the ethics of wildlife photography.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

mbeo via flickr Creative Commons

Some people spend their vacations relaxing on a beach, others visit museums and fine restaurants. On today’s show we go off the beaten path to look into nuclear tourism. A science writer visits the site of the Chernobyl disaster, and finds it not the wasteland you may expect.

Plus, from walk sign buttons that don’t reflect reality to digital signs over-estimating wait times at amusement parks, we’ll consider why technology is sometimes designed to give us the illusion of control.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

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