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.


207 Pieces

Order by: Newest First | Oldest First
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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 WPCA-LP, KNVC Carson City Community Radio, Tri States Public Radio, KTXK, WRFA-LP and more


  • Added: Jan 24, 2022
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 13
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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 KTXK, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WSLR, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio) and more


  • Added: Jan 17, 2022
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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Diamond dust, tapioca snow, and sugar icebergs -- a 1955 glossary of arctic and subarctic terms describes the environment in ways that sound poetic...

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


  • Added: Jan 10, 2022
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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It was a dark and stormy night. So begins the long and increasingly convoluted prose of Edwards Bulwer-Lytton's best-known novel. Today the annual ...

Bought by KTXK, WSLR, WYAP, WNIN, KVSC and more


  • Added: Jan 04, 2022
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 14
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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 KTXK, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WPCA-LP, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio) and more


  • Added: Dec 27, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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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 WYAP, WSLR, WPCA-LP, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WNIN and more


  • Added: Dec 20, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 15
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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, WYAP, WNIN, WPCA-LP, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio) and more


  • Added: Dec 13, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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Enthusiastic book recommendations! Martha's savoring the biography of Alexander von Humboldt, the 19th-century explorer, polymath, and naturalist w...

Bought by KTSW 89.9, KTXK, WYAP, WNIN, WSLR and more


  • Added: Dec 06, 2021
  • 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 KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WSLR, WNIN, WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Nov 29, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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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 KTSW 89.9, KTXK, WYAP, WSLR, KVSC and more


  • Added: Nov 22, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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A documentary film called My Beautiful Stutter" follows youngsters at a summer camp specifically for stutterers. It's a place for finding acceptanc...

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


  • Added: Nov 16, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 18
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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 KTSW 89.9, KTXK, WYAP, WSLR, WNIN and more


  • Added: Nov 08, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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We use the term Milky Way for that glowing arc across the sky. But how people picture it varies from culture to culture. In Sweden, that starry ban...

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


  • Added: Nov 01, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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In the 15th century, the word respair meant "to have hope again." Although this word fell out of use, it's among dozens collected in a new book of...

Bought by KTSW 89.9, KTXK, WSLR, WYAP, KNVC Carson City Community Radio and more


  • Added: Oct 25, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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The words tough, through, and dough all end in O-U-G-H. So why don't they rhyme? A lively new book addresses the many quirks of English by explaini...

Bought by KTXK, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WSLR, WNIN and more


  • Added: Oct 18, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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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 KTSW 89.9, KTXK, WYAP, WSLR, WNIN and more


  • Added: Oct 11, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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This week on "A Way with Words": When there's no evening meal planned at home, what do you call that scramble to cobble together your own dinner? S...

Bought by KTSW 89.9, KTXK, WYAP, WSLR, WNIN and more


  • Added: Oct 04, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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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 KTSW 89.9, KTXK, WYAP, WSLR, WNIN and more


  • Added: Sep 27, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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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 KTXK, KTSW 89.9, WSLR, WPCA-LP, WNIN and more


  • Added: Sep 20, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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There was a time when William Shakespeare was just another little 7-year-old in school. Classes in his day were demanding -- and all in Latin. A ne...

Bought by KTSW 89.9, KTXK, WYAP, WSLR, WNIN and more


  • Added: Sep 13, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17