Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words might really kill you...
In the world of language, one small word may be the difference between guilt and innocence, life or death. The analysis of words, both written and spoken, used in any way within the context of criminal investigations, interrogations and interviews, and legal and judicial proceedings is forensic linguistics.
Forensic linguistics is a relatively new area of applied linguistics that is rapidly growing in both public interest and as a legitimate crime-solving tool. Perhaps the most famous American case where language was used to catch the bad guy is that of Unibomber, Ted Kaczynski. After a reign of terror that lasted 18 years, FBI agent James Fitzgerald cracked the case by reading Kaczynski's 35,000 word manifesto and matching the unique language from the manifesto to that of letters kept by the Unibomber's brother. The first episode of Words To Kill By goes into depth about how nine common words brought down one of the FBI's most wanted.
Words to Kill By is where your favorite old cases are viewed through the new lens of linguistics and true crime buffs can try their hand at using this new area of forensics to investigate crimes world-wide.
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