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.


220 Pieces

Order by: Newest First | Oldest First
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"What has a head like a cat, feet like a cat, a tail like a cat, but isn't a cat?" Answer: a kitten! A 1948 children's joke book has lots of these ...

Bought by KTSW 89.9, Red River Radio Network (E. Texas/Louisiana/Arkansas/Mississippi), RadioStPete Florida, WHCP-LP Cambridge, RADIOLEX and more


  • Added: Feb 26, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 14
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In Japan, if you want to order a corndog, you ask for an Amerikan doggu (アメリカンドッグ). These types of coinages are called wasei-eigo, or "Japanese-mad...

Bought by KECG, WPCA-LP, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), KTSW 89.9, WNIN and more


  • Added: Feb 19, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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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 WPCA-LP, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WNIN, WHCP-LP Cambridge, KTXK and more


  • Added: Feb 12, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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If you're in a book club, how do you decide what books to read? There are lots of different ways, depending on your group's goals. And is it ever w...

Bought by WPCA-LP, RADIOLEX, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WHCP-LP Cambridge, WNIN and more


  • Added: Feb 05, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 18
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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 KTXK, WPCA-LP, KTSW 89.9, WNIN, WHCP-LP Cambridge and more


  • Added: Jan 29, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 18
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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 WPCA-LP, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WNIN, KTSW 89.9, WHCP-LP Cambridge and more


  • Added: Jan 22, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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What do you call a segment of an orange? These juicy pieces of fruit go by lots of different names, including section, wedge, and carpel. But they'...

Bought by KTSW 89.9, Raven Radio, WPCA-LP, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WNIN and more


  • Added: Jan 15, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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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 WPCA-LP, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WNIN, KTXK, Tri States Public Radio and more


  • Added: Jan 08, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 15
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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 KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WPCA-LP, WNIN, Raven Radio, WHCP-LP Cambridge and more


  • Added: Jan 01, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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If you skip wearing underwear, you're said to be going commando. This bit of slang originated during the Vietnam War, when U.S. commandos had compe...

Bought by KECG, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WPCA-LP, WNIN, WHCP-LP Cambridge and more


  • Added: Dec 25, 2023
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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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 KTXK, WPCA-LP, WHCP-LP Cambridge, WNIN, Red River Radio Network (E. Texas/Louisiana/Arkansas/Mississippi) and more


  • Added: Dec 18, 2023
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 14
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Crossword puzzles are a marvelous mental workout. A delightful new book about them shares plenty of crossword lore and puzzle-solving tips. Also, p...

Bought by KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WNIN, WPCA-LP, KTSW 89.9, WHCP-LP Cambridge and more


  • Added: Dec 11, 2023
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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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 CI Dolphin Radio, WPCA-LP, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WHCP-LP Cambridge, WNIN and more


  • Added: Dec 04, 2023
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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Secret signals on the job: Waitresses at some 19th-century restaurants ensured speedy drink service by communicating with a non-verbal code. One se...

Bought by WPCA-LP, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WNIN, WHCP-LP Cambridge, KTXK and more


  • Added: Nov 27, 2023
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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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 KAWC / Border Radio - KOFA, WPCA-LP, KTXK, Raven Radio, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio) and more


  • Added: Nov 20, 2023
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 15
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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 WPCA-LP, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WNIN, WHCP-LP Cambridge, KECG and more


  • Added: Nov 13, 2023
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 15
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During the late 19th and early 20th century, thousands of volunteers helped crowdsource the Oxford English Dictionary. This venerable reference wor...

Bought by CI Dolphin Radio, KTSW 89.9, KTAL-LP [Las Cruces Community Radio], WPCA-LP, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio) and more


  • Added: Nov 06, 2023
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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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 Raven Radio, KTSW 89.9, KTAL-LP [Las Cruces Community Radio], RADIOLEX, WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Oct 30, 2023
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 19
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The emotional appeal of handwriting and the emotional reveal of animal phrases. Should children be taught cursive writing in school, or is their ti...

Bought by KTAL-LP [Las Cruces Community Radio], WYAP, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WHCP-LP Cambridge, WNIN and more


  • Added: Oct 23, 2023
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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If you speak both German and Spanish, you may find yourself reaching for a German word instead of a Spanish one, and vice versa. This puzzling expe...

Bought by KTSW 89.9, KTAL-LP [Las Cruces Community Radio], WYAP, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Oct 16, 2023
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17