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.


214 Pieces

Order by: Newest First | Oldest First
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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 KQRU FM LP, Tri States Public Radio, WRIR, WUFT, KXCR and more


  • Added: Dec 21, 2017
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
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Taking a look back at some notable words and phrases from 2017: Remember path of totality? How about "milkshake duck"? Also, a committee has to cho...

Bought by KQRU FM LP, Tri States Public Radio, WUFT, KXCR, WSLR and more


  • Added: Dec 14, 2017
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 6
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Books for word lovers, plus the stories behind some familiar terms. Want a gift for your favorite bibliophile? Martha and Grant have recommendation...

Bought by KQRU FM LP, Tri States Public Radio, KXCR, WEJP-LP 107.1, WSLR and more


  • Added: Dec 07, 2017
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
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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 KQRU FM LP, KXCR, RadioFreePalmer, KREV-LP, WSLR and more


  • Added: Nov 30, 2017
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 10
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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 KQRU FM LP, Tri States Public Radio, KXCR, KREV-LP, WSLR and more


  • Added: Nov 23, 2017
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 10
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Civil War letters and the opposite of prejudice. A new online archive of Civil War letters offers a vivid portrait of the everyday lives of enliste...

Bought by KQRU FM LP, Tri States Public Radio, KXCR, WSLR, KREV-LP and more


  • Added: Nov 16, 2017
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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If you're not using a dictionary to look up puzzling words as you read them, you're missing out on a whole other level of enjoyment. Also, when you...

Bought by KQRU FM LP, Tri States Public Radio, KXCR, KREV-LP, WSLR and more


  • Added: Nov 11, 2017
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 6
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Some countries have strict laws about naming babies. New Zealand authorities, for example, denied a request to name some twins Fish and Chips.  Plu...

Bought by KQRU FM LP, Tri States Public Radio, KXCR, WSLR, WNIN and more


  • Added: Nov 03, 2017
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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Of all the letters in the alphabet, which two or three are your favorites? If your short list includes one or more of your initials, that's no acci...

Bought by KQRU FM LP, Tri States Public Radio, KNVC Carson City Community Radio, KXCR, WNJR and more


  • Added: Oct 26, 2017
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 10
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Decisions by dictionary editors, wacky wordplay, and Walt Whitman's soaring verse.  How do lexicographers decide which historical figures deserve a...

Bought by KQRU FM LP, Tri States Public Radio, KXCR, KREV-LP, WNJR and more


  • Added: Oct 19, 2017
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
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A highly anticipated children's book and the epic history behind a familiar vegetable. Fans of illustrator Maurice Sendak are eagerly awaiting the ...

Bought by KQRU FM LP, Tri States Public Radio, KXCR, KREV-LP, WSLR and more


  • Added: Oct 13, 2017
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
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Where would you find a sports commentator talking about high cheese and ducks on a pond? Here's a hint: both terms are part of what make the langua...

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


  • Added: Oct 05, 2017
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 10
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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 KQRU FM LP, Tri States Public Radio, KXCR, KREV-LP, WSLR and more


  • Added: Sep 28, 2017
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
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Our youngest listeners have questions about everything from love to one of their favorite foods. Kids ask why we might end a text with the letters ...

Bought by KQRU FM LP, Tri States Public Radio, KMXT, 90.1 WFYI Public Radio, KXCR and more


  • Added: Aug 30, 2017
  • Length: 29:45
  • Purchases: 8