Johanna Mayer is the former host of Science Diction from Science Friday, a series that digs into the scientific origin stories behind our words and language. She spends a lot of time with the Oxford English Dictionary.
Before joining Science Friday, she worked as a freelance writer and taught English in Japanese public schools for two years on the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program. In addition to her classroom duties, she once ate 52 pieces of sushi in a single sitting.
When she’s not working, she’s probably baking a fruit pie. Cherry’s her specialty, but she whips up a mean rhubarb streusel as well.
The Hot And Cold Past Of The Air Conditioner
From the 1904 World’s Fair to deadly heat waves, we’re taking a look back at more than a century of AC. This story was originally published in 2021.
The Resurrection Of The American Chestnut
A once-common food staple, this giant tree has essentially disappeared from American forests. Can we bring it back—and should we?
American Chestnut: Resurrecting A Forest Giant
The American Chestnut towered in forests, then disappeared. Now, it’s staging a comeback.
The Why Of Vocal Fry
Vocal fry has been around for ages. Why are people suddenly so bothered by it?
Vocal Fry: Why I’m Not Getting A Voice Coach
Vocal fry has been around for ages. So why are people suddenly so bothered by it?
Juggernaut: Indian Temple Or Unstoppable Force?
Jagannath Temple in India gave rise to the word “juggernaut.” But the ancient story of Jagannath is rather delightful.
Jargon: We Love To Hate It
Most people despise it. So why do we use it? And is all jargon bad?
Algebra: From Broken Bones To Twitter Feuds
When a high school student asked a question about algebra on TikTok, she unknowingly awoke an age-old debate in mathematics history.
Science Diction: Knock On Wood And Tsunami
The origin of a superstitious phrase, and a Japanese word that’s staked its place in English.