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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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 Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, WCMU Michigan, KNVC Carson City Community Radio, and WEZU


  • Added: Mar 26, 2019
  • Length: 25:59
  • Purchases: 5
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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
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The autocomplete function on your phone comes in handy, of course. But is it changing the way we write and how linguists study language? Also, supp...

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


  • Added: May 27, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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Why do we call a frankfurter a "hot dog"? It seems an unsettling 19th-century rumor is to blame. Also, if someone quits something abruptly, why do ...

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


  • Added: Jun 03, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 11
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This week on A Way with Words: Your first name is very personal, but what if you don't like it? For some people, changing their name works out grea...

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


  • Added: Jun 11, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
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What's the best way for someone busy to learn lots of new words quickly for a test like the GRE? Looking up their origins can help. Or record yours...

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


  • Added: Jun 17, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
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The edge of the Grand Canyon. A remote mountaintop, or a medieval cathedral. Some places are so mystical you feel like you're close to another dime...

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


  • Added: Jun 25, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 10
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Pranks, cranks, and chips. As a kid, you may have played that game where you phone someone to say, "Is your refrigerator running? Then you better g...

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


  • Added: Jul 01, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 10
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Book recommendations and the art of apology. Martha and Grant share some good reads, including an opinionated romp through English grammar, a Spani...

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


  • Added: Jul 08, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 11
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This week it’s butterflies, belly flowers, plot bunnies, foxes, and cuckoos. Also, writing advice from Mark Twain and a wonderful bit of prose from...

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


  • Added: Jul 15, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
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The Internet Archive offers a wealth of free books and other publications online, including the 1948 collection of jokes, riddles, and playground s...

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


  • Added: Jul 23, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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The only time you'll ever see the sun's outer atmosphere is during a full solar eclipse, when sun itself is completely covered. That hazy ring is c...

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


  • Added: Jul 29, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 11
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Gerrymandering is the practice of redistricting to tip the political scales. Originally, though, this strategy was called "GARY-mandering" with a h...

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


  • Added: Aug 05, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 10