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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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
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There's a proverb that goes "Beloved children have many names." That's at least as true when it comes to the names we give our pets. "Fluffy" becom...

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


  • Added: Apr 06, 2020
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 14
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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