A Way with Words

Series produced by A Way with Words

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A Way with Words is a national, lively, hour-long public radio show about language, on the air since 1998. Author/journalist Martha Barnette and linguist/lexicographer Grant Barrett take listener calls about slang, grammar, old sayings, word origins, regional dialects, family expressions, and speaking and writing well. There are no carriage fees.

Learn more about the show, its hosts, and its history, and read station and listener testimonials on the A Way with Words website.


199 Pieces

Order by: Newest First | Oldest First
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An anadrome is a word that forms a whole new word when you spell it backwards. For example, the word "stressed" spelled backwards is "desserts." So...

  • Added: Apr 12, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
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Books were rare treasures in the Middle Ages, painstakingly copied out by hand. So how to protect them from theft? Scribes sometimes added a curse ...

Bought by KTSW 89.9, KVSC, WYAP, WSLR, WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Apr 05, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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We take our voices for granted, but it's truly miraculous that we communicate complex thoughts simply by moving our mouths while exhaling. A fascin...

Bought by KTSW 89.9, WYAP, KVSC, WPCA-LP, WNIN and more


  • Added: Mar 29, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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The new Downton Abbey movie is a luscious treat for fans of the public-television period piece, but how accurate is the script when it comes to the...

Bought by KVSC, KTSW 89.9, Tri States Public Radio, WNIN, KNVC Carson City Community Radio and more


  • Added: Mar 22, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 15
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For rock climbers, skiers, and other outdoor enthusiasts, the word "send" has a whole new meaning. You might cheer on a fellow snowboarder with "Se...

Bought by KTSW 89.9, WYAP, KVSC, WPCA-LP, WNIN and more


  • Added: Mar 15, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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So you've long dreamed of writing fiction, but don't know where to begin? There are lots of ways to get started -- creative writing classes, local ...

Bought by KVSC, WYAP, KTSW 89.9, WNIN, WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Mar 08, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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In Cockney rhyming slang, apples and pears is a synonym for "stairs," and dustbin lids means kids. Plus, sniglets are clever coinages for things we...

Bought by WYAP, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), Tri States Public Radio, WNIN, KNVC Carson City Community Radio and more


  • Added: Mar 02, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 13
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Unwrap the name of a candy bar, and you just might find a story inside. For instance, one chewy treat found in many a checkout lane is named after ...

Bought by KTXK, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WNIN and more


  • Added: Feb 22, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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National Book Award winner Barry Lopez had wise advice for young writers. First, read widely and follow your curiosity. Second, travel or learn a f...

Bought by WYAP, KTXK, Tri States Public Radio, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Feb 15, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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It's hard to imagine now, but there was a time when people disagreed over the best word to use when answering the phone. Alexander Graham Bell sugg...

Bought by KTXK, KTSW 89.9, WNIN, Tri States Public Radio, KNVC Carson City Community Radio and more


  • Added: Feb 08, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 15
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What kind of book do people ask for most often in prison? Romance Novels? No. The Bible? No. The most requested books by far are . . . dictionarie...

Bought by KTXK, KAWC / Border Radio - KOFA, WSLR, WYAP, WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Feb 01, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 18
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One way to make your new business look trendy is to use two nouns separated by an ampersand, like Peach & Creature . . . or Rainstorm & Egg. A tong...

Bought by WSLR, KTSW 89.9, Tri States Public Radio, WYAP, KTXK and more


  • Added: Jan 25, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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Twice a day the River Thames recedes, revealing a muddy shoreline. Hobbyists known as mudlarks stroll the surface searching for objects that have f...

Bought by WSLR, WYAP, KTSW 89.9, KMUN, WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Jan 18, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 18
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"What has a head like a cat, feet like a cat, a tail like a cat, but isn't a cat?" Answer: a kitten! A 1948 children's joke book has lots of these ...

Bought by WSLR, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Jan 12, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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Many of us struggled with the Old English poem "Beowulf" in high school. But what if you could actually hear "Beowulf" in the English of today? The...

Bought by WGHC-LP 98.3 FM Chicago, WSLR, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, KTXK and more


  • Added: Jan 05, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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Book recommendations and the art of apology. Martha and Grant share some good reads, including an opinionated romp through English grammar, a Spani...

Bought by WSLR, KTSW 89.9, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WYAP, WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Dec 29, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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The edge of the Grand Canyon. A remote mountaintop, or a medieval cathedral. Some places are so mystical you feel like you're close to another dime...

Bought by WSLR, WPCA-LP, WYAP, KVSC, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio) and more


  • Added: Dec 22, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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What's it like to hike the Pacific Crest Trail all the way from Mexico to Canada? You'll end up with sore muscles and blisters, and great stories t...

Bought by WSLR, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Dec 15, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 15
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This week on A Way with Words: Your first name is very personal, but what if you don't like it? For some people, changing their name works out grea...

Bought by WSLR, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WPCA-LP, WNIN, Tri States Public Radio and more


  • Added: Dec 07, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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Astronauts returning from space say they experience what's called the overview effect, a new understanding of the fragility of our planet and our n...

Bought by WSLR, WNIN, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WYAP, WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Nov 30, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17