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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Have you ever offered to foster a dog or cat, but wound up adopting instead? There's an alliterative term for that. And when you're on the job, do ...

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


  • Added: Jun 25, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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When does a word's past make it too sensitive to use in the present? In contra dancing, there's a particular move that dancers traditionally call a...

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


  • Added: Jul 03, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
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Brand names, children's games, and the etiquette of phone conversations. Those clever plastic PEZ dispensers come in all shapes and sizes -- but wh...

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


  • Added: Jul 10, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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The game of baseball has always inspired colorful commentary. Sometimes that means using familiar words in unfamiliar ways. The word "stuff," for e...

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


  • Added: Jul 16, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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Martha and Grant have book recommendations, including a collection of short stories inspired by dictionaries, and a techno-thriller for teens. Or, ...

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


  • Added: Jul 23, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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The stories behind slang, political and otherwise. The dated term "jingoism" denotes a kind of belligerent nationalism. But the word's roots lie in...

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


  • Added: Jul 30, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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How do languages change and grow? Does every language acquire new words in the same way? Martha and Grant focus on how that process happens in Engl...

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


  • Added: Aug 06, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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This week on "A Way with Words": The language of political speech. Politicians have to repeat themselves so often that they naturally develop a rep...

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


  • Added: Aug 13, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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You may have heard the advice that to build your vocabulary you should read, read, and then read some more--and make sure to include a wide variety...

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


  • Added: Aug 20, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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The names of professional sports teams often have surprising histories -- like the baseball team name inspired by, of all things, trolley-car accid...

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


  • Added: Aug 27, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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How often do you hear the words campaign and political in the same breath? Oddly enough, 19th-century grammarians railed against using campaign to ...

Bought by KQRU FM LP, Tri States Public Radio, KVSC, KTSW 89.9, KAWC / Border Radio - KOFA and more


  • Added: Sep 04, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
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Sensuous words and terms of endearment. Think of a beautiful word. Now, is it simply the word's sound that makes it beautiful? Or does its appeal a...

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


  • Added: Sep 10, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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In deafening workplaces, like sawmills and factories, workers develop their own elaborate sign language to discuss everything from how their weeken...

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


  • Added: Sep 17, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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Sometimes it's a challenge to give a book a chance: How many pages should you read before deciding it's not worth your time? There's a new formula ...

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


  • Added: Sep 24, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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A stereotype is a preconceived notion about a person or group. Originally, though, the word stereotype referring to a printing device used to produ...

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


  • Added: Oct 01, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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A clever pun can make the difference between a so-so phrase and a memorable one. The phrase "the last straw" refers to an old fable about too many ...

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


  • Added: Oct 09, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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Silence comes in lots of different forms. In fact, says writer Paul Goodman, there are several kinds: There's the noisy silence of "resentment and ...

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


  • Added: Oct 15, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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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, KTSW 89.9, KNVC Carson City Community Radio, WYAP and more


  • Added: Oct 22, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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Victorian slang and a modern controversy over language and gender. In the early 1900's, a door-knocker wasn't just what visitors used to announce t...

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


  • Added: Oct 29, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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Sending someone a care package shows you care, of course. But the first care packages were boxes of food and personal items for survivors of World ...

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


  • Added: Nov 05, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7