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.


207 Pieces

Order by: Newest First | Oldest First
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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 Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, WRFA-LP, WYAP, KNVC Carson City Community Radio and more


  • Added: Oct 07, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
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Unwrap the name of a candy bar, and you just might find a story inside. For instance, one chewy treat found in many a checkout lane is named after ...

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


  • Added: Sep 30, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 10
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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 Tri States Public Radio, KTSW 89.9, KQRU FM LP, KVSC, WYAP and more


  • Added: Sep 23, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 12
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It's hard to imagine now, but there was a time when people disagreed over the best word to use when answering the phone. Alexander Graham Bell sugg...

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


  • Added: Sep 16, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
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One way to make your new business look trendy is to use two nouns separated by an ampersand, like Peach & Creature . . . or Rainstorm & Egg. A tong...

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


  • Added: Sep 09, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 10
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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 Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, KVSC and more


  • Added: Sep 02, 2019
  • 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 Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, KVSC and more


  • Added: Aug 29, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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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 Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTSW 89.9, KWMR, KVSC and more


  • Added: Aug 19, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 11
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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 Tri States Public Radio, KQRU FM LP, KTSW 89.9, KVSC, WYAP and more


  • Added: Aug 13, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
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Gerrymandering is the practice of redistricting to tip the political scales. Originally, though, this strategy was called "GARY-mandering" with a h...

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


  • Added: Aug 05, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 10
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The only time you'll ever see the sun's outer atmosphere is during a full solar eclipse, when sun itself is completely covered. That hazy ring is c...

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


  • Added: Jul 29, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 11
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The Internet Archive offers a wealth of free books and other publications online, including the 1948 collection of jokes, riddles, and playground s...

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


  • Added: Jul 23, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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This week it’s butterflies, belly flowers, plot bunnies, foxes, and cuckoos. Also, writing advice from Mark Twain and a wonderful bit of prose from...

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


  • Added: Jul 15, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
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Book recommendations and the art of apology. Martha and Grant share some good reads, including an opinionated romp through English grammar, a Spani...

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


  • Added: Jul 08, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 11
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Pranks, cranks, and chips. As a kid, you may have played that game where you phone someone to say, "Is your refrigerator running? Then you better g...

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


  • Added: Jul 01, 2019
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 10
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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