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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Amid court-ordered busing in the 1970s, a middle-school teacher tried to distract her nervous students on the first day of class with this strange ...

Bought by KQRU FM LP, Royalton Community Radio, WYAP, Tri States Public Radio, WCNY and more


  • Added: Oct 05, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 19
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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 KQRU FM LP, Royalton Community Radio, WYAP, WNIN, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio) and more


  • Added: Oct 13, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 19
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Asthenosphere, a geologist's term for the molten layer beneath the earth's crust, sparks a journey that stretches all the way from ancient Greece t...

Bought by KTXK, KQRU FM LP, Royalton Community Radio, WYAP, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio) and more


  • Added: Oct 19, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 19
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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 KTXK, Royalton Community Radio, WYAP, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WNIN and more


  • Added: Oct 26, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 19
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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 KTXK, WSLR, KTSW 89.9, Royalton Community Radio, WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Nov 03, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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In the 15th century, the word respair meant "to have hope again." Although this word fell out of use, it's among dozens collected in a new book of...

Bought by WSLR, Royalton Community Radio, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WPCA-LP, WNIN and more


  • Added: Nov 09, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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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 KTSW 89.9, WNIN, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WYAP, KTXK and more


  • Added: Nov 16, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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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 WSLR, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, KTXK, WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Nov 24, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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Astronauts returning from space say they experience what's called the overview effect, a new understanding of the fragility of our planet and our n...

Bought by WSLR, WNIN, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WYAP, WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Nov 30, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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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 WSLR, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WPCA-LP, WNIN, Tri States Public Radio and more


  • Added: Dec 07, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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What's it like to hike the Pacific Crest Trail all the way from Mexico to Canada? You'll end up with sore muscles and blisters, and great stories t...

Bought by WCNY, WSLR, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio) and more


  • Added: Dec 15, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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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 WSLR, WPCA-LP, WYAP, KVSC, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio) and more


  • Added: Dec 22, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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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 WSLR, KTSW 89.9, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WYAP, WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Dec 29, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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Many of us struggled with the Old English poem "Beowulf" in high school. But what if you could actually hear "Beowulf" in the English of today? The...

Bought by WGHC-LP 98.3 FM Chicago, WSLR, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, KTXK and more


  • Added: Jan 05, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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"What has a head like a cat, feet like a cat, a tail like a cat, but isn't a cat?" Answer: a kitten! A 1948 children's joke book has lots of these ...

Bought by WSLR, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Jan 12, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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Twice a day the River Thames recedes, revealing a muddy shoreline. Hobbyists known as mudlarks stroll the surface searching for objects that have f...

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


  • Added: Jan 18, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 18
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One way to make your new business look trendy is to use two nouns separated by an ampersand, like Peach & Creature . . . or Rainstorm & Egg. A tong...

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


  • Added: Jan 25, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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What kind of book do people ask for most often in prison? Romance Novels? No. The Bible? No. The most requested books by far are . . . dictionarie...

Bought by KTXK, KAWC / Border Radio - KOFA, WSLR, WYAP, WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Feb 01, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 18
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It's hard to imagine now, but there was a time when people disagreed over the best word to use when answering the phone. Alexander Graham Bell sugg...

Bought by KTXK, KTSW 89.9, WNIN, Tri States Public Radio, KNVC Carson City Community Radio and more


  • Added: Feb 08, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 15
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National Book Award winner Barry Lopez had wise advice for young writers. First, read widely and follow your curiosity. Second, travel or learn a f...

Bought by WCNY, WYAP, KTXK, Tri States Public Radio, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio) and more


  • Added: Feb 15, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17