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.


175 Pieces

Order by: Newest First | Oldest First
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We asked for your thoughts about whether cursive writing should be taught in schools -- and you replied with a resounding "Yes!" Here's why: Cursiv...

Bought by KTSW 89.9, WPCA-LP, Tri States Public Radio, KNVC Carson City Community Radio, KQRU FM LP and more


  • Added: Oct 26, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 14
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Asthenosphere, a geologist's term for the molten layer beneath the earth's crust, sparks a journey that stretches all the way from ancient Greece t...

Bought by KQRU FM LP, Royalton Community Radio, WYAP, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Oct 19, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 18
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If someone urges you to spill the tea, they probably don't want you tipping over a hot beverage. Originally, the tea here was the letter T, as in t...

Bought by KQRU FM LP, Royalton Community Radio, WYAP, WNIN, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio) and more


  • Added: Oct 13, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 19
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Amid court-ordered busing in the 1970s, a middle-school teacher tried to distract her nervous students on the first day of class with this strange ...

Bought by KQRU FM LP, Royalton Community Radio, WYAP, Tri States Public Radio, WCNY and more


  • Added: Oct 05, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 19
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When you had sleepovers as a child, what did you call the makeshift beds you made on the floor? In some places, you call those bedclothes and blank...

Bought by KQRU FM LP, KTXK, Royalton Community Radio, WYAP, WNIN and more


  • Added: Sep 28, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 15
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Jacuzzi and silhouette are eponyms – that is, they derive from the names of people. An Italian immigrant to California invented the bubbly hot tub ...

Bought by KQRU FM LP, KTXK, WSLR, WMMT, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio) and more


  • Added: Sep 22, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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The emotional appeal of handwriting and the emotional reveal of animal phrases. Should children be taught cursive writing in school, or is their ti...

Bought by KQRU FM LP, Tri States Public Radio, KTXK, WCMU Michigan, KTSW 89.9 and more


  • Added: Sep 15, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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Some TV commercials launch catchphrases that stick around long after the original ads. The exclamation Good stuff, Maynard! is still a compliment a...

Bought by KQRU FM LP, Tri States Public Radio, KTXK, Royalton Community Radio, WYAP and more


  • Added: Sep 08, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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If you speak both German and Spanish, you may find yourself reaching for a German word instead of a Spanish one, and vice versa. This puzzling expe...

Bought by KQRU FM LP, KTXK, Royalton Community Radio, WRFA-LP, Tri States Public Radio and more


  • Added: Sep 01, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 15
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How does social context shape our perception of language? When hiking the Appalachian Trail, a young woman from Wyoming found that fellow hikers a...

Bought by KQRU FM LP, Tri States Public Radio, KAWC / Border Radio - KOFA, Royalton Community Radio, WYAP and more


  • Added: Aug 24, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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Chances are you recognize the expressions Judgment Day and the root of all evil as phrases from the Bible. There are many others, though, some of w...

Bought by KQRU FM LP, Tri States Public Radio, KTXK, Royalton Community Radio, WYAP and more


  • Added: Aug 17, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 15
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What happens in a classroom of refugee and immigrant youngsters learning English? Their fresh approach to language can result in remarkable poetry ...

Bought by Tri States Public Radio, KTXK, KZMU Moab Community Radio, WCMU Michigan, KQRU FM LP and more


  • Added: Aug 10, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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We have books that should be on every language lover's wish list, plus a couple of recommendations for history buffs. Plus: how did the word boondo...

Bought by Tri States Public Radio, KTXK, KQRU FM LP, WCMU Michigan, WRFA-LP and more


  • Added: Aug 04, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 13
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Are there words and phrases that you misunderstood for an embarrassingly long time? Maybe you thought that money laundering literally meant washing...

Bought by Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTXK, RadioStPete Florida, WSLR and more


  • Added: Jul 27, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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An ornithologist says there's a growing movement to change the name of a pink-footed bird currently called the flesh-footed shearwater. The movemen...

Bought by Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTXK, KTSW 89.9, WSLR and more


  • Added: Jul 20, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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If you catch your blue jeans on a nail, you may find yourself with a winklehawk. This term was adapted into English from Dutch, and means "an L-sha...

Bought by Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTXK, KTSW 89.9, WSLR and more


  • Added: Jul 13, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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An artist asks strangers to write haiku about the pandemic, and gets back poetic, poignant glimpses of life under lockdown. Plus, the new book Quee...

Bought by Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTXK, WSLR, KTSW 89.9 and more


  • Added: Jul 06, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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Perfect sentences and slang that tickles your mind. A new book of writing advice says that a good sentence "imposes a logic on the world's weirdnes...

Bought by Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTXK, KTSW 89.9, RadioStPete Florida and more


  • Added: Jun 29, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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In 1971, when a new public library opened in Troy, Michigan, famous authors and artists were invited to write letters to the city's youngest reader...

Bought by Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, WSLR, KTSW 89.9, RadioStPete Florida and more


  • Added: Jun 23, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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In 1803, a shy British pharmacist wrote a pamphlet that made him a reluctant celebrity. The reason? He proposed a revolutionary new system for clas...

Bought by Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTXK, KTSW 89.9, RadioStPete Florida and more


  • Added: Jun 15, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16