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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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, KTSW 89.9, KNVC Carson City Community Radio, WYAP and more


  • Added: Nov 12, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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A caller with a 25-year-old parrot wonders: How much language do birds really understand? Plus, Knock-knock. Who's there? Boo. Well . . .  you can ...

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


  • Added: Nov 19, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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If you want to be a better writer, try skipping today's bestsellers, and read one from the 1930's instead. Or read something besides fiction in ord...

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


  • Added: Nov 26, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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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 WPCA-LP, Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTSW 89.9, KNVC Carson City Community Radio and more


  • Added: Dec 06, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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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, KTSW 89.9, KNVC Carson City Community Radio, WEZU and more


  • Added: Dec 10, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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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, KQRU FM LP, KTSW 89.9, KNVC Carson City Community Radio, WYAP and more


  • Added: Dec 17, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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Novelist Charles Dickens created many unforgettable characters, but he's also responsible for coining or popularizing lots of words, like "flummox"...

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


  • Added: Dec 25, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
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Clean cursing for modern times, more about communicating after a brain injury, and 1970's TV lingo with roots in the Second World War. A young woma...

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


  • Added: Jan 01, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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Echoes of the Greatest Generation, and a tasty bite of history. The language and melodies of military marching songs can connect grown children wit...

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


  • Added: Jan 07, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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This week on "A Way with Words": Grant and Martha discuss the L-word--or two L-words, actually: liberal and libertarian. They reflect different pol...

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


  • Added: Jan 14, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • 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