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.


215 Pieces

Order by: Newest First | Oldest First
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How does social context shape our perception of language? When hiking the Appalachian Trail, a young woman from Wyoming found that fellow hikers a...

Bought by KQRU FM LP, Tri States Public Radio, KAWC / Border Radio - KOFA, Royalton Community Radio, WYAP and more


  • Added: Aug 24, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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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 KQRU FM LP, Tri States Public Radio, KTXK, Royalton Community Radio, WYAP and more


  • Added: Aug 17, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 15
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What happens in a classroom of refugee and immigrant youngsters learning English? Their fresh approach to language can result in remarkable poetry ...

Bought by Tri States Public Radio, KTXK, KZMU Moab Community Radio, WCMU Michigan, KQRU FM LP and more


  • Added: Aug 10, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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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, KTXK, KQRU FM LP, WCMU Michigan, WRFA-LP and more


  • Added: Aug 04, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 13
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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, KTXK, RadioStPete Florida, WSLR and more


  • Added: Jul 27, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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An ornithologist says there's a growing movement to change the name of a pink-footed bird currently called the flesh-footed shearwater. The movemen...

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


  • Added: Jul 20, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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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, KTXK, KTSW 89.9, WSLR and more


  • Added: Jul 13, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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An artist asks strangers to write haiku about the pandemic, and gets back poetic, poignant glimpses of life under lockdown. Plus, the new book Quee...

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


  • Added: Jul 06, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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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 Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTXK, KTSW 89.9, RadioStPete Florida and more


  • Added: Jun 29, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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In 1971, when a new public library opened in Troy, Michigan, famous authors and artists were invited to write letters to the city's youngest reader...

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


  • Added: Jun 23, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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In 1803, a shy British pharmacist wrote a pamphlet that made him a reluctant celebrity. The reason? He proposed a revolutionary new system for clas...

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


  • Added: Jun 15, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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Silence comes in lots of different forms. In fact, says writer Paul Goodman, there are several kinds: There's the noisy silence of "resentment and ...

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


  • Added: Jun 08, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 15
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There was a time when William Shakespeare was just another little 7-year-old in school. Classes in his day were demanding -- and all in Latin. A ne...

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


  • Added: Jun 02, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 14
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A clever pun can make the difference between a so-so phrase and a memorable one. The phrase "the last straw" refers to an old fable about too many ...

Bought by WUOT 91.9 FM, Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTSW 89.9, Royalton Community Radio and more


  • Added: May 26, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 14
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A stereotype is a preconceived notion about a person or group. Originally, though, the word stereotype referring to a printing device used to produ...

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


  • Added: May 18, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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Sometimes it's a challenge to give a book a chance: How many pages should you read before deciding it's not worth your time? There's a new formula ...

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


  • Added: May 12, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 15
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Martha and Grant have book recommendations, including a collection of short stories inspired by dictionaries, and a techno-thriller for teens. Or, ...

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


  • Added: May 05, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 14
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The game of baseball has always inspired colorful commentary. Sometimes that means using familiar words in unfamiliar ways. The word "stuff," for e...

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


  • Added: Apr 28, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 14
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How colors got their names, and a strange way to write. The terms "blue" and "orange" arrived in English via French, so why didn't we also adapt th...

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


  • Added: Apr 21, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 13
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The adjective canine refers to dogs, and feline refers to cats. But how does English address other groups of animals? Plus, cabin fever has been ar...

Bought by Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KOJB 90.1 FM The eagle, KVSC, Royalton Community Radio and more


  • Added: Apr 13, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16