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.


189 Pieces

Order by: Newest First | Oldest First
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Our youngest listeners have questions about everything from love to one of their favorite foods. Kids ask why we might end a text with the letters ...

Bought by KQRU FM LP, Tri States Public Radio, KMXT, 90.1 WFYI Public Radio, KXCR and more


  • Added: Aug 30, 2017
  • Length: 29:45
  • Purchases: 8
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The anatomy of effective prose, and the poetry of anatomy. Ever wonder what it'd be like to audit a class taught by a famous writer? A graduate stu...

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


  • Added: Jan 21, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
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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 Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTSW 89.9, WRIR, KNVC Carson City Community Radio and more


  • Added: Jan 29, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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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 Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTSW 89.9, KNVC Carson City Community Radio, WYAP and more


  • Added: Feb 04, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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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 WSLR, Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTSW 89.9, WRIR and more


  • Added: Feb 12, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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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 Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WEZU and more


  • Added: Feb 18, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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The words we choose can change attitudes--and change lives. A swing-dance instructor has switched to gender-neutral language when teaching couples....

Bought by Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WEZU and more


  • Added: Feb 26, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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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 Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WEZU and more


  • Added: Mar 04, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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A wingnut is a handy, stabilizing piece of hardware. So why is it a pejorative term for those of a certain political persuasion? Also, is there som...

Bought by Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KVSC, KTSW 89.9, WYAP and more


  • Added: Mar 12, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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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 Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KVSC, KTSW 89.9, WYAP and more


  • Added: Mar 18, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
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Choosing language that helps resolve interpersonal conflict. Sometimes a question is really just a veiled form of criticism. Understanding the diff...

Bought by Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTSW 89.9, WRIR, WRFA-LP and more


  • Added: Mar 26, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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Questions from young listeners and conversations about everything from shifting slang to a bizarre cooking technique. Kids ask about how to talk ab...

Bought by Radio Kansas, Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, WCMU Michigan, KNVC Carson City Community Radio and more


  • Added: Mar 26, 2019
  • Length: 25:59
  • Purchases: 6
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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 Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTSW 89.9, KTXK, KNVC Carson City Community Radio and more


  • Added: Apr 02, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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This week on "A Way with Words”: The language we use to cover up our age, and covering up a secret message. Do you ever find yourself less-than-spe...

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


  • Added: Apr 09, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 10
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Hundreds of years ago, the word girl didn't necessarily mean a female child. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the term "girl" could refer to a child...

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


  • Added: Apr 15, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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Stunt performers in movies have their own jargon for talking about their dangerous work. They refer to a stunt, for example, as a gag. Across the c...

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


  • Added: Apr 22, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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Restaurant jargon, military slang, and modern Greek turns of phrase. Some restaurants now advertise that they sell "clean" sandwiches. But that doe...

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


  • Added: Apr 29, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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How do actors bring Shakespeare's lines to life so that modern audiences immediately understand the text? One way is to emphasize the names of peop...

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


  • Added: May 06, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
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In the military, if you've "lost the bubble," then you can't find your bearings. The term first referred to calibrating the position of aircraft an...

Bought by Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KVSC, RadioFreePalmer, KTSW 89.9 and more


  • Added: May 13, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 10
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The months of September, October, November, and December take their names from Latin words meaning "seven," "eight," "nine," and "ten." So why don'...

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


  • Added: May 20, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 10