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


  • Added: Jun 25, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 10
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What's the best way for someone busy to learn lots of new words quickly for a test like the GRE? Looking up their origins can help. Or record yours...

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


  • Added: Jun 17, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
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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 Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTSW 89.9, KTXK, WYAP and more


  • Added: Jun 11, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
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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 Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KVSC, KTSW 89.9, RadioFreePalmer and more


  • Added: Jun 03, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 11
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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 Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, KTXK and more


  • Added: May 27, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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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 Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTSW 89.9, KTXK, WYAP and more


  • Added: May 20, 2019
  • 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 Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KVSC, RadioFreePalmer, KTSW 89.9 and more


  • Added: May 13, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 10
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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 Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, RadioFreePalmer, KTSW 89.9, KTXK and more


  • Added: May 06, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
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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 Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, KTXK and more


  • Added: Apr 29, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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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 Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTSW 89.9, KTXK, WYAP and more


  • Added: Apr 22, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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Hundreds of years ago, the word girl didn't necessarily mean a female child. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the term "girl" could refer to a child...

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


  • Added: Apr 15, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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This week on "A Way with Words”: The language we use to cover up our age, and covering up a secret message. Do you ever find yourself less-than-spe...

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


  • Added: Apr 09, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 10
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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 Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTSW 89.9, KTXK, KNVC Carson City Community Radio and more


  • Added: Apr 02, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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Questions from young listeners and conversations about everything from shifting slang to a bizarre cooking technique. Kids ask about how to talk ab...

Bought by Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, WCMU Michigan, KNVC Carson City Community Radio, and WEZU


  • Added: Mar 26, 2019
  • Length: 25:59
  • Purchases: 5
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Choosing language that helps resolve interpersonal conflict. Sometimes a question is really just a veiled form of criticism. Understanding the diff...

Bought by Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTSW 89.9, WRIR, WRFA-LP and more


  • Added: Mar 26, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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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 Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KVSC, KTSW 89.9, WYAP and more


  • Added: Mar 18, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
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A wingnut is a handy, stabilizing piece of hardware. So why is it a pejorative term for those of a certain political persuasion? Also, is there som...

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


  • Added: Mar 12, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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When you had sleepovers as a child, what did you call the makeshift beds you made on the floor? In some places, you call those bedclothes and blank...

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


  • Added: Mar 04, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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The words we choose can change attitudes--and change lives. A swing-dance instructor has switched to gender-neutral language when teaching couples....

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


  • Added: Feb 26, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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Jacuzzi and silhouette are eponyms – that is, they derive from the names of people. An Italian immigrant to California invented the bubbly hot tub ...

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


  • Added: Feb 18, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8