Introducing Subtitle, A New Podcast about People and Languages

Boston, Mass.October 7, 2019 — Language and how it unites and divides us is the subject of Subtitle, the first podcast launched as an affiliate of the Hub & Spoke audio collective. Co-hosted by veteran audio producers Patrick Cox and Kavita Pillay, the show is produced with the Linguistic Society of America with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Subtitle’s Season 1 trailer is available for download starting today.


Upcoming episodes of Subtitle will look at: the increasing influence of linguistics in exposing false confessions; how one man from coastal Georgia is bringing a language with roots in slavery to Harvard; the profound linguistic effects of Hurricane Katrina on a Louisiana community; and the story of a South African dictionary that barely survived apartheid and has since had to dramatically reinvent itself.

Cox, Subtitle’s founder, previously produced the beloved language podcast The World in Words, distributed by Public Radio International from 2008 to 2019.

“I have always loved audio and language,” Cox says. “When I became a radio journalist, reporting from dozens of countries for PRI’s The World, I’d always return with a handful of stories. The fun stories would be about language: the street slang of Singapore, the linguistic spats of post-apartheid South Africa, the lost words of the lost nation of Yugoslavia, the French words beloved by English speakers in Quebec.”

After winning three NEH grants and the Linguistics Journalism Award from the Linguistic Society of America for his work on The World in Words, Cox decided to strike out as an independent and start a new language podcast.

“We care deeply about language, whether it’s apostrophe abuse, speech discrimination, or the sweetness of a mother tongue,” Cox says. He says Subtitle will tell the stories of people with linguistic passions: comedians, writers, researchers, speakers of endangered languages, speakers of discriminated languages, speakers of multiple languages, “and just speakers—people like you and me.”

Kavita Pillay, the co-host and co-producer of Subtitle, is a documentary filmmaker and radio journalist whose work has been supported by LEF Foundation, the Sundance Institute, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the Fulbright Scholar Program. For PRI’s The World and the BBC, she has reported on topics such as comedians in Singapore, Catholicism in Poland, and Finland's insecurity complex. She says: “My primary qualifications for reporting on language are (1) I was born and raised in Northeastern Ohio, where the myth of the General American accent runs deep, (2) I suffer from word aversion (you laugh for you know not my pain) and (3) I won my school’s 5th grade spelling bee.”

Subtitle is the ninth show in the Hub & Spoke collective, the fourth to join since mid-2019, and the first to be born as a Hub & Spoke member show. The collective supported Cox in his successful application for an NEH grant totaling nearly $200,000, which is expected to cover 80 percent of the show’s expenses over its first year. The Linguistic Society of America, as Subtitle’s fiscal sponsor, will launch a campaign to cover Subtitle’s remaining expenses through individual donations, corporate sponsorships, private foundation grants, and paid advertising.

“It’s an honor and a joy to support Patrick and Kavita as they kick off an exciting audio venture that we know all Hub & Spoke listeners are going to love,” says Wade Roush, producer of Soonish, one of the founding shows in the collective. “The project fits squarely with our mission to support high-quality nonfiction audio that’s host-centric, entertaining, educational, and independent.”

“I have always loved Patrick and Kavita’s work for The World and for The World in Words, and I’m thrilled to welcome their new project at Subtitle to the Hub & Spoke family,” said Nick Andersen, senior producer of Ministry of Ideas, another founding podcast in the collective. “If nothing else, I know I’ll selfishly learn a bunch about language and the way we all speak to each other every day.”

Members of Hub & Spoke collaborate across the collective to promote each other’s content, grow the listener base for each show, and pursue new funding opportunities. Recent episodes of Hub & Spoke shows have covered everything from the Jeffrey Epstein scandal rocking local universities in Boston to the spread of mass delusions in early Cold War America and the inadequacy of the business training offered to art-school students.

The first three shows at Hub & Spoke were The Lonely Palette, an art history podcast from Tamar Avishai; Ministry of Ideas, a history and culture show from Zachary Davis, Andersen, and managing editor Galen Beebe; and Soonish, Roush’s podcast about technology and the future. Culture Hustlers, a vox pop and interview show at the intersection of art and business from host and producer Lucas Spivey, and Iconography, a history show from producer Charles Gustine, joined in June 2018. The Constant, a show about “the history of getting things wrong” from Chicago-based playwright Mark Chrisler, joined the collective in July 2019. Open Source, a weekly conversation show hosted by Christopher Lydon and executive-produced by Mary McGrath, and Rumble Strip, Erica Heilman’s podcast featuring extraordinary conversations with ordinary people, came on board in early September 2019.

Hub & Spoke hosts will immediately begin promoting Subtitle through pre-roll and post-roll announcements on their shows.

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