This page is actually a short prelude to the whole podcast. Rather than including extended waffly introductions on every episode saying the same sorts of things over and over, I figured it made most sense to simply include all the generic information here, one time.

How do I subscribe to the en clair podcast?

All the current methods for subscribing are listed on the Listen page.

You can also subscribe to this blog (top right of every page). This will send you an email every time a new episode and its Case Notes are published.

Alternatively, if you’re into Twitter, you can follow the podcast at en clair. Or you can follow me at DrClaireH.

Who is responsible for en clair?

My name is Dr Claire Hardaker, and I’m based at Lancaster University in the North West of England, near to the coast. Three interesting facts about Lancaster:

I’m based in the Linguistics & English Language (LAEL) department which is one of the highest ranked linguistics departments in the world. And in my position here, I am a forensic corpus linguist.

What does that mean? Well, rather aptly, given this podcast’s focus on crime and intrigue, the word corpus comes from Latin, and roughly translates to body, or more accurately in this case, to a large collection. A corpus linguist, then, is someone who looks at large linguistic datasets, usually in the millions or billions of words.

A forensic linguist, meanwhile, specialises in language, crime, and the law. This can include hate-speech, plagiarism, disputed authorship, terrorist manifestos, forged suicide notes, death threats, forced confessions, contractual ambiguities, and far more besides.

When you combine a corpus linguist and a forensic linguist, you get forensic corpus linguist who looks at a large criminal or legal linguistic datasets. For example, this might be a million tweets of online abuse. It could be five text messages sent by a murderer from a victim’s phone, pretending to be that victim versus a thousand actually sent by the victim. It could be a book supposedly written by a US president, but in reality ghost-written by someone else. And so on.

What is en clair about?

En clair is a casebook of forensic linguistic cases, literary detection, and language mysteries. It also looks at codes, cryptography, undeciphered languages, and linguistic myths and legends. Each episode presents a case of linguistic intrigue or controversy from ancient history to the present day.

What is the age-appropriacy of the content?

As you can imagine, plenty of the episodes deal with crime. In some cases the subject is relatively anodyne – few people are likely to be distressed by the fine details of a Hollywood plagiarism battle. However, there are plenty of cases that feature different kinds of assault, several that involve murder, and a handful that are even darker. Each case is described with some detail – I come back to this a moment when I outline the general episode structure – but whilst I won’t needlessly dwell on grisly detail, some of the themes by themselves may prove distressing for sensitive or young listeners.

In short, I strongly advise general discretion for this whole series. If you plan on recommending these podcasts to younger audiences, or playing them in front of other people, ensure that you have carefully vetted the relevant episodes beforehand, so that you can judge for yourself whether they are age- and disposition-appropriate. I won’t repeat this warning on every episode, however, for podcasts where I think there is a much higher risk of potential distress than usual, I will state this at the start and flag up the themes that I think may be most problematic.

What kinds of cases will be covered?

I plan on producing episodes on everything from ladies of the night to Queens of England, from JK Rowling to Mark Zuckerberg, from secret military communications to serial killers, Hollywood plagiarists, online trolls, German ministers, US presidents, Twitter terrorists, beauty queens, interrogation strategies, ancient codes, undeciphered languages, corporate contracts, fake news, ghostwriters – heck, even zombies make an appearance. And there’s far more besides. The list grows ever longer and you are certainly welcome to send me suggestions for more episodes.

How are the cases researched?

As with most research – whether academic or criminal – each case is painstakingly stitched together from a range of sources. As much as possible I prefer to look at the data, legal documents, and first-hand statements from those involved, but inevitably plenty of the information is to be found in media reports and other case summaries. As a result, there is sometimes conflict in the narrative and I try to highlight where this occurs to ensure that the listener has the fairest picture I can reasonably give. Credits and references are given in the Case Notes for each podcast. See Finally… at the end for a bit more on this.

What is the general structure of an episode?

Each case follows roughly the same format – an introduction, followed by some history and context, and then we’ll get stuck into the language part. After that I’ll wrap up with where the case is at now, and where you can find more on it. My plan is to release one new episode on the first of each month, starting on the 01st of November 2018 with Case S01E01 – Derek Bentley.

Why the name en clair?

En clair is a French phrase that translates to in clear, and is used to describe transmitting a message without encrypting it first. In other words, you would say, “Send this message en clair“. By that you would mean, “Send this message in clear (or cleartext)”. By contrast you could say “Send this message en chiffre“, meaning “Send this message in cipher (or encoded or encrypted)”.


Except for those episodes where I indicate otherwise, en clair is entirely researched, narrated, and produced by me, so do let me know if you spot any errors or omissions. However, this work wouldn’t exist in its current form without the prior effort of many other excellent people. You can find acknowledgements, credits, and references for those people in the Case Notes for each episode. Also in the Case Notes, you can find data, sources, links, articles, pictures, older cases, suggested books, and far more besides.