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.


221 Pieces

Order by: Newest First | Oldest First
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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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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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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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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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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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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 WCNY, KTXK, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, KVSC and more


  • Added: Mar 29, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 18
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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 KTXK, KTSW 89.9, KVSC, WYAP, WSLR and more


  • Added: Apr 05, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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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...

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


  • Added: Apr 12, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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Is there something inherent in English that makes it the linguistic equivalent of the Borg, dominating and consuming other languages in its path? N...

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


  • Added: Apr 19, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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Understanding the varieties of conversational styles can mean the difference between feeling you're understood and being insulted. "High involvemen...

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


  • Added: Apr 27, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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The word "hipster" might seem recent, but it actually originated in the 1930s, and referred to jazz aficionados who were in the know about the best...

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


  • Added: May 03, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 15
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The word filibuster has a long and colorful history, going back to the days when pirates roamed the high seas. Today it refers to hijacking a piece...

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


  • Added: May 10, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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Ribbon fall. Gallery forest. You won't find terms like these in most dictionaries, but they and hundreds like them are discussed by famous writers ...

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


  • Added: May 17, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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If you speak a second or third language, you may remember the first time you dreamed in that new tongue. But does this milestone mean you're actual...

Bought by KVSC, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WNIN, Tri States Public Radio and more


  • Added: May 24, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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You may have a favorite word in English, but what about your favorite in another language? The Spanish term ojala is especially handy for expressin...

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


  • Added: Jun 01, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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Don't move my cheese! It's a phrase middle managers use to talk about adapting to change in the workplace. It comes from a popular 1990s business b...

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


  • Added: Jun 08, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 14
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One of the most powerful words you'll ever hear -- and one of the most poignant -- isn't in dictionaries yet. But it probably will be one day. The ...

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


  • Added: Jun 14, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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Imagine telling someone how to get to your home, but without using the name of your street, or any other street within 10 miles. Could you do it? W...

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


  • Added: Jun 22, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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A hundred years ago, suffragists lobbied to win women the right to vote. Linguistically speaking, though, suffrage isn't about "suffering." It's fr...

Bought by KTXK, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WPCA-LP, KNVC Carson City Community Radio and more


  • Added: Jun 28, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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People who hunt treasure with metal detectors have a lingo all their own. Canslaw means the shreds of aluminum cans left after a lawnmower ran over...

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


  • Added: Jul 05, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16