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.


221 Pieces

Order by: Newest First | Oldest First
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There are eight major planets, but more than a million minor ones, including asteroids. If you discover one, you get the honor of naming it. The Di...

Bought by WHCP-LP Cambridge, WSLR, WNIN, WPCA-LP, KTXK and more


  • Added: Jul 15, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 15
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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 KTSW 89.9, WHCP-LP Cambridge, WNIN, WPCA-LP, WSLR and more


  • Added: Jul 08, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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When you're distracted by trying to get the perfect photo at a wedding or fiddling with your camera during a solar eclipse, you're missing out on s...

Bought by KTXK, KVSC, WHCP-LP Cambridge, WSLR, WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Jul 01, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 13
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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 KTSW 89.9, Raven Radio, WSLR, WHCP-LP Cambridge, WNIN and more


  • Added: Jun 24, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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Language from inside a monastery. A Benedictine monk in the Episcopal Church shares terms from his world: For example, corporate prayer refers to p...

Bought by KTSW 89.9, WHCP-LP Cambridge, KTXK, WSLR, WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Jun 17, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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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 KTXK, KTSW 89.9, WHCP-LP Cambridge, WPCA-LP, WNIN and more


  • Added: Jun 10, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 15
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You may have a favorite word in English, but what about your favorite in another language? The Spanish term ojala is especially handy for expressin...

Bought by KTSW 89.9, KTXK, RADIOLEX, WHCP-LP Cambridge, WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Jun 03, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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Ribbon fall. Gallery forest. You won't find terms like these in most dictionaries, but they and hundreds like them are discussed by famous writers ...

Bought by KTSW 89.9, KAWC / Border Radio - KOFA, KTXK, WHCP-LP Cambridge, WNIN and more


  • Added: May 27, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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Books were rare treasures in the Middle Ages, painstakingly copied out by hand. So how to protect them from theft? Scribes sometimes added a curse ...

Bought by KTSW 89.9, RADIOLEX, WHCP-LP Cambridge, WPCA-LP, KTXK and more


  • Added: May 13, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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Images of birds flutter inside lots of English words and phrases, from "nest egg" and "pecking order," to proverbs from around the world--including...

Bought by KTSW 89.9, KTXK, WPCA-LP, WHCP-LP Cambridge, WNIN and more


  • Added: May 06, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 15
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The new Downton Abbey movie is a luscious treat for fans of the public-television period piece, but how accurate is the script when it comes to the...

Bought by WPCA-LP, WNIN, KTXK, KTSW 89.9, RadioStPete Florida and more


  • Added: Apr 29, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 15
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So you've long dreamed of writing fiction, but don't know where to begin? There are lots of ways to get started -- creative writing classes, local ...

Bought by KTXK, KVSC, WHCP-LP Cambridge, WNIN, WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Apr 22, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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When an international team of scientists traveled to a research station in Antarctica for six months, the language they all shared was English. Aft...

Bought by KTXK, WPCA-LP, WHCP-LP Cambridge, KPRG, WNIN and more


  • Added: Apr 15, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 15
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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 KTXK, KTSW 89.9, WHCP-LP Cambridge, WPCA-LP, WNIN and more


  • Added: Apr 08, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 15
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How can you kick the verbal habit of saying You know and um so many times in a sentence? For one thing, get comfortable with pauses. There's no nee...

Bought by KTXK, Raven Radio, KECG, WPCA-LP, WHCP-LP Cambridge and more


  • Added: Apr 01, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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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 Raven Radio, WPCA-LP, RadioStPete Florida, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), KTXK and more


  • Added: Mar 25, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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In her sumptuous new memoir, Jamaican writer Safiya Sinclair describes her escape from a difficult childhood ruled by her tyrannical father. For Si...

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


  • Added: Mar 18, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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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 KTXK, Red River Radio Network (E. Texas/Louisiana/Arkansas/Mississippi), WPCA-LP, WHCP-LP Cambridge, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio) and more


  • Added: Mar 11, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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What's the best thing to say to someone who is grieving? Choosing the right words is far less important than just showing up in the first place. Al...

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


  • Added: Mar 04, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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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 KECG, WPCA-LP, WNIN, KHOL (Jackson Hole Community Radio), KTSW 89.9 and more


  • Added: Feb 26, 2024
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 18