Podcast Idea: Improvtymology

A podcast about where words (don't) come from.

Description: The sad fact of the English language is that most words have boring etymologies. For every avocado (named after testicles) there’s a fingerstall (a combination of finger and… stall). On Improvtymology (pronounced im PROV tuh MOL uh gee), comedians vie to come up with the best fake etymologies for words whose histories could use a little zhuhzzing up. Listeners vote online after each week's episode on which improvtymology was best, and can read past improvtymologies online. At the end of each episode, host Erin McKean reveals the “real” etymology of the word, which will invariably be less fun and interesting than the ones guests made up.

Host: Erin McKean*

Executive Producer: Erin McKean **

Comps: The Allusionist meets Adventure Zone.

Sample Episode 1: “Friendship” with Nicole Byer* and Sasheer Zamata*. Nicole and Sasheer, co-hosts of a podcast called Best Friends (and best friends in real life) compete to concoct the best possible etymology of the word that ties them together: “friendship.” There might have been fried food and Viking ships involved! Who knows!

Sample Episode 2: “Chateau” with Sheng Wang* and Jena Friedman*. Sheng and Jena try to outdo each other on the origin of the word “chateau” which is literally just the French word for castle. But it could be so much more! Is it an eau for cats? A tea for ch’s? A place where Mediaeval courtesans chatted away their cat-related plots to poison the tea for the king while listening to Chaka Khan while wearing chacos and eau du chat?

Audience: People who love words but also like to laugh. You enjoy pulling out obscure etymology knowledge, but also know that language is flexible and don’t argue about singular they or correct people’s grammar on Twitter, because you’re not an asshole.


If you have a podcast idea that you’d like to see me turn into a Podcast Idea, send it my way! rose.eveleth@protonmail.com, or just reply to this email. This is the first edition of the newsletter featuring a podcast idea from someone who isn’t me! Yay! More like this to come.


Bonus Podcast From Twitter

* Hosts and guests have not signed on in any way. I’m making stuff up here!

** This newsletter is for fun. Ideas belong to their initial creator, credited here as Executive Producer. Don’t be a dick and don’t steal these ideas. If you love a show, and really want to get it made, get in touch with the person who came up with it.

Long live independent podcasts. Long live bad ideas.