A Way with Words

Series produced by A Way with Words

Series image

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
Piece image
Cat hair may be something you brush off, but "cat hair" is also a slang term that means "money." In the same way, cat beer isn't alcoholic -- some ...

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


  • Added: Mar 30, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 14
Piece image
Vocabulary that trickles down from the top of the world. Malamute, kayak, and parka are just some of the words that have found their way into Engli...

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


  • Added: Mar 23, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 13
Piece image
Have you ever googled your own name and found someone else who goes by the very same moniker? There's a word for that: googleganger. Plus, the lang...

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


  • Added: Mar 18, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
Piece image
Funny cat videos and cute online photos inspire equally adorable slang terms we use to talk about them. When a cat leaves its tongue out, that's a ...

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


  • Added: Mar 09, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 13
Piece image
One secret to writing well is . . . there is no secret! There's no substitute for simply sitting down day after day to practice the craft and learn...

Bought by Tri States Public Radio, KTSW 89.9, KTXK, WYAP, WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Mar 02, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 14
Piece image
If you think they refer to umbrellas as bumbershoots in the UK, think again. The word bumbershoot actually originated in the United States! In Brit...

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


  • Added: Feb 24, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 14
Piece image
She sells seashells by the seashore. Who is the she in this tongue twister? Some claim it's the young Mary Aning, who went on to become a famous 19...

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


  • Added: Feb 17, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 14
Piece image
According to Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, it's important to master the basics of writing, but there comes a time when you have to strike out on y...

Bought by Tri States Public Radio, KTSW 89.9, KTXK, WYAP, WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Feb 10, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 14
Piece image
A hundred years ago, suffragists lobbied to win women the right to vote. Linguistically speaking, though, suffrage isn't about "suffering." It's fr...

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


  • Added: Feb 03, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 13
Piece image
Ever wonder whatever happened to responding to "Thank you" with the words "You're welcome"? A listener asks why so many radio interviews end with t...

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


  • Added: Jan 27, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 13
Piece image
One of the most powerful words you'll ever hear -- and one of the most poignant -- isn't in dictionaries yet. But it probably will be one day. The ...

Bought by Tri States Public Radio, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WPCA-LP, WNIN and more


  • Added: Jan 20, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 13
Piece image
You may have a favorite word in English, but what about your favorite in another language? The Spanish term ojala is especially handy for expressin...

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


  • Added: Jan 13, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 13
Piece image
The highly specialized vocabulary of people who work outdoors, like farmers and fishermen, can bring us closer to the natural world. Also, a woman ...

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


  • Added: Jan 06, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 12
Piece image
The stories behind symbols and expressions around the world. The peace symbol popular during 1960's antiwar demonstrations had been around for deca...

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


  • Added: Dec 31, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 10
Piece image
Ribbon fall. Gallery forest. You won't find terms like these in most dictionaries, but they and hundreds like them are discussed by famous writers ...

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


  • Added: Dec 16, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 12
Piece image
This week on A Way with Words: Insider knowledge and expert advice. The word "hipster" might seem recent, but it actually originated in the 1930s, ...

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


  • Added: Dec 09, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 10
Piece image
Is there something inherent in English that makes it the linguistic equivalent of the Borg, dominating and consuming other languages in its path? N...

Bought by Tri States Public Radio, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, KNVC Carson City Community Radio, WCMU Michigan and more


  • Added: Dec 02, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 10
Piece image
Books were rare treasures in the Middle Ages, painstakingly copied out by hand. So how to protect them from theft? Scribes sometimes added a curse ...

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


  • Added: Nov 18, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
Piece image
The new Downton Abbey movie is a luscious treat for fans of the public-television period piece, but how accurate is the script when it comes to the...

Bought by Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, WCMU Michigan, WYAP, KTXK and more


  • Added: Oct 28, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 10
Piece image
A second-generation Filipino-American finds that when he speaks English, his personality is firm, direct, and matter-of-fact. But when he speaks wi...

Bought by Tri States Public Radio, WRIR, KQRU FM LP, RadioFreePalmer, and KNVC Carson City Community Radio


  • Added: Dec 23, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 5