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.


194 Pieces

Order by: Newest First | Oldest First
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Do you refer to your dog or cat as "somebody"? As in: When you love somebody that much, you don't mind if they slobber. In other words, is your pet...

Bought by KNCT FM, KTSW 89.9, KTAL-LP [Las Cruces Community Radio], WYAP, RADIOLEX and more


  • Added: May 02, 2022
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 18
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The word filibuster has a long and colorful history, going back to the days when pirates roamed the high seas. Today it refers to hijacking a piece...

Bought by KTAL-LP [Las Cruces Community Radio], KTXK, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio) and more


  • Added: Apr 25, 2022
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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Sure, there's winter, spring, summer, and fall. But the seasons in between have even more poetic names. In Alaska, greenup describes a sudden, dram...

Bought by KTSW 89.9, WSLR, RADIOLEX, WNIN, WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Apr 18, 2022
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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Understanding the varieties of conversational styles can mean the difference between feeling you're understood and being insulted. "High involvemen...

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


  • Added: Apr 11, 2022
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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Centuries ago, monks who took a vow of silence still had to communicate about routine matters, from gardening to equipment repair. So they develope...

Bought by KTXK, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, RADIOLEX, WSLR and more


  • Added: Apr 04, 2022
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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An anadrome is a word that forms a whole new word when you spell it backwards. For example, the word "stressed" spelled backwards is "desserts." So...

Bought by KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WSLR, RADIOLEX, KTXK and more


  • Added: Mar 28, 2022
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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Eels, orts, and Wordle! Sweden awarded its most prestigious literary award to a book about . . . eels. The Book of Eels reveals the mysterious lif...

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


  • Added: Mar 21, 2022
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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We take our voices for granted, but it's truly miraculous that we communicate complex thoughts simply by moving our mouths while exhaling. A fascin...

Bought by KTXK, KTSW 89.9, RADIOLEX, WSLR, WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Mar 14, 2022
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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Some people work hard to lose their accent in order to fit in when they move somewhere else. But others may be homesick for the sounds they grew up...

Bought by KTXK, KTSW 89.9, WSLR, KVSC, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio) and more


  • Added: Mar 07, 2022
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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For rock climbers, skiers, and other outdoor enthusiasts, the word "send" has a whole new meaning. You might cheer on a fellow snowboarder with "Se...

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


  • Added: Feb 28, 2022
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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Some college students are using the word loyalty as a synonym for monogamy. Are the meanings of these words now shifting? Plus, a biologist discove...

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


  • Added: Feb 21, 2022
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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In Cockney rhyming slang, apples and pears is a synonym for "stairs," and dustbin lids means kids. Plus, sniglets are clever coinages for things we...

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


  • Added: Feb 14, 2022
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 18
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Need a slang term that can replace just about any noun? Try chumpie. If you're from Philadelphia, you may already know this handy placeholder word....

Bought by KTXK, KAWC / Border Radio - KOFA, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WSLR and more


  • Added: Feb 07, 2022
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 19
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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 KTXK, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WSLR, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio) and more


  • Added: Jan 31, 2022
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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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 KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WSLR, WNIN, WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Jan 24, 2022
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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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 KTXK, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WSLR, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio) and more


  • Added: Jan 17, 2022
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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Diamond dust, tapioca snow, and sugar icebergs -- a 1955 glossary of arctic and subarctic terms describes the environment in ways that sound poetic...

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


  • Added: Jan 10, 2022
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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It was a dark and stormy night. So begins the long and increasingly convoluted prose of Edwards Bulwer-Lytton's best-known novel. Today the annual ...

Bought by KTXK, WSLR, WYAP, WNIN, KVSC and more


  • Added: Jan 04, 2022
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 14
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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 KTXK, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WPCA-LP, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio) and more


  • Added: Dec 27, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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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 WYAP, WSLR, WPCA-LP, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WNIN and more


  • Added: Dec 20, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 15