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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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, WYAP, WEZU and more


  • Added: Sep 24, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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In deafening workplaces, like sawmills and factories, workers develop their own elaborate sign language to discuss everything from how their weeken...

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


  • Added: Sep 17, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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Sensuous words and terms of endearment. Think of a beautiful word. Now, is it simply the word's sound that makes it beautiful? Or does its appeal a...

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


  • Added: Sep 10, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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How often do you hear the words campaign and political in the same breath? Oddly enough, 19th-century grammarians railed against using campaign to ...

Bought by KQRU FM LP, Tri States Public Radio, KVSC, KTSW 89.9, KAWC / Border Radio - KOFA and more


  • Added: Sep 04, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
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The names of professional sports teams often have surprising histories -- like the baseball team name inspired by, of all things, trolley-car accid...

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


  • Added: Aug 27, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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You may have heard the advice that to build your vocabulary you should read, read, and then read some more--and make sure to include a wide variety...

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


  • Added: Aug 20, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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This week on "A Way with Words": The language of political speech. Politicians have to repeat themselves so often that they naturally develop a rep...

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


  • Added: Aug 13, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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How do languages change and grow? Does every language acquire new words in the same way? Martha and Grant focus on how that process happens in Engl...

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


  • Added: Aug 06, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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The stories behind slang, political and otherwise. The dated term "jingoism" denotes a kind of belligerent nationalism. But the word's roots lie in...

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


  • Added: Jul 30, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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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 KQRU FM LP, Tri States Public Radio, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WEZU and more


  • Added: Jul 23, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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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 KQRU FM LP, Tri States Public Radio, WRIR, KTSW 89.9, WYAP and more


  • Added: Jul 16, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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Brand names, children's games, and the etiquette of phone conversations. Those clever plastic PEZ dispensers come in all shapes and sizes -- but wh...

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


  • Added: Jul 10, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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When does a word's past make it too sensitive to use in the present? In contra dancing, there's a particular move that dancers traditionally call a...

Bought by RadioStPete Florida, KQRU FM LP, Tri States Public Radio, WSLR, WCMU Michigan and more


  • Added: Jul 03, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
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Have you ever offered to foster a dog or cat, but wound up adopting instead? There's an alliterative term for that. And when you're on the job, do ...

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


  • Added: Jun 25, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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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 KQRU FM LP, Tri States Public Radio, KTSW 89.9, WSLR, WYAP and more


  • Added: Jun 18, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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Teen slang from the South, and food words that are tricky to pronounce. High schoolers in Huntsville, Alabama, give Martha and Grant an earful abou...

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


  • Added: Jun 11, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 6
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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 KQRU FM LP, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, KNVC Carson City Community Radio, WEZU and more


  • Added: Jun 04, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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When writing textbooks about slavery, which words best reflect its cold, hard reality? Some historians are dropping the word "slave" in favor of te...

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


  • Added: May 28, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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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 KQRU FM LP, Tri States Public Radio, KTSW 89.9, WSLR, WYAP and more


  • Added: May 21, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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Secret codes, ciphers, and telegrams. It used to be that in order to transmit information during wartime, various industries encoded their messages...

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


  • Added: May 14, 2018
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8