Decoder Ring

Decoder Ring is the show about cracking cultural mysteries. In each episode, host Willa Paskin takes a cultural question, object, or habit; examines its history; and tries to figure out what it means and why it matters.

Society & Culture
Why Do So Many Coffee Shops Look the Same?
Algorithms are shaping our world, even down to latte art.
29 min
2024 Teaser
1 min
The Forgotten Video Game About Slavery
In 1992, the company behind The Oregon Trail tried to simulate Black history. It did not go well.
43 min
The Dating Manual Unlike Any Other
The Rules became a controversial bestseller and sparked instant debate. But was the advice any good?
33 min
Mailbag: The Recorder, Limos, and “Baby on Boar...
We answer your questions about the ubiquitous musical instrument, ‘80s automotive luxury, and more.
36 min
When Art Pranksters Invaded Melrose Place
In the mid-1990s, an artist collective smuggled its provocative work onto the set of the hit TV show.
37 min
The Fast Decline of the Slow Dance
The rise and fall of an awkward rite of passage.
41 min
Fall 2023 Teaser
1 min
Think Catchphrases Are Dead? Eat My Shorts.
Bless up: It’s a whole episode about “Doh!”, “Dealbreaker!” and “Did I do that?”
36 min
The Quest for a Homemade Hovercraft
With his scouting days long over, a Slate producer enlists his dad for one last merit badge.
38 min
A Brief History of Making Out
Is deep kissing a universal human behavior?
32 min
What's Really Going On Inside a Mosh Pit?
The etiquette, science and enduring appeal of a concertgoing ritual.
29 min
The Great Parmesan Cheese Debate
Is a Wisconsin version more authentic than its beloved Italian counterpart?
40 min
Summer 2023 Teaser
On the new season of Decoder Ring: Cultural mysteries about a beloved Italian cheese, the science of mosh pits and a brief history of passionate kissing.
1 min
Who Owns the Tooth Fairy?
The Tooth Fairy’s freak flag is still flying.
34 min
Why You Can’t Find a Damn Parking Spot
Parking is a mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. We can get ourselves out of it.
33 min
The Artist Who Was Both Loved and Disdained
The painter LeRoy Neiman was adored by many Americans—but not the art critics.
33 min
The Curious Case of Columbo's Message to Romani...
Why does no one remember the T.V. detective’s Cold War missive?
36 min
The Curious Case of Columbo's Message to Romani...
Was the cigar-chomping detective also a Cold War diplomat?
39 min
Spring 2023 Teaser
Decoder Ring's upcoming season.
1 min
Slate Plus Exclusive: The Making of This Season
1 min
The Mailbag Episode
From kids menus to succulents to the chicken that crossed the road, we answer your questions.
34 min
Encore: ‘You’ve Got Mail’ Got It Wrong
Who's afraid of... Barnes & Noble? The now quaint conflict that inspired the 1998 romantic comedy.
36 min
Cellino & Barnes, Injury Attorneys, 800-888-8888
Cellino and Barnes became the literal poster-men for personal injury advertising.
35 min
How Preppy Became Streetwear
Ralph Lauren’s modern Ivy style was remixed by ’Lo-Heads.
32 min