Magical, Combustible Words with Phil Cousineau

Phil CousineauDo you ever find yourself a little mumblemouthed? Or do you go to the dictionary to look up a word, only to get sidetracked when other, more interesting words catch your eye? If so, you share Phil Cousineau’s dynamic relationship with words. For him they’re playthings, enchantresses, magical sounds that can stir your heart, and mementos that tell fascinating stories about the lives of the ancestors who created them. The way we use them has more power than we may realize. As Mr. Cousineau tells us, “Words matter. They’re combustible. They can convey love. They can convey political struggles. Do we call what’s happening in the Middle East, ‘building settlements,’ or do we say, ‘housing construction’? It’s combustible, the words that we choose.” You’ll love his stories of the long journeys his favorite words have taken to find their way into our lives, and the provocative nuances hidden in the origins of others. You’ll even find clues to how you can stop procrastinating, and finally finish that novel you’ve been working on, if only you can find the words. (hosted by Michael Toms)


Phil Cousineau is a writer, teacher, editor, scholar, documentary filmmaker, and storyteller. He lectures on a broad range of topics including mythology, beauty, travel, sports, and creativity. He has written or co-written fifteen documentaries, is host of the television series Global Spirit, and author of more than twenty-five nonfiction books including The Hero’s Journey: The World of Joseph Campbell (New World Library 2003), Stoking the Creative Fires (Conari Press 2008), The Oldest Story in the World: A Mosaic of Meditations on the Secret Strength of Stories (Sisphus Press 2010), and Wordcatcher: An Odyssey into the World of Weird and Wonderful Words (Viva Editions, Cleis Press 2010). To learn more about the work of Phil Cousineau go to

Topics explored in this dialogue include:

  • Why an acquaintance becomes a “companion” only after you break bread together
  • How a Philippine word made its way into American slang-via a baseball game
  • What does baseball reveal about America
  • Why a grammarian is really a magician
  • What you can do to make sure you actually finish those creative projects

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Host: Michael Toms        Interview Date: 5/18/2010              Program Number:  3358