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.


211 Pieces

Order by: Newest First | Oldest First
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In 1971, when a new public library opened in Troy, Michigan, famous authors and artists were invited to write letters to the city's youngest reader...

Bought by WPCA-LP, WNIN, KNVC Carson City Community Radio, WCMU Michigan, WRFA-LP and more


  • Added: Sep 20, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 13
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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 WYAP, WSLR, WNIN, WPCA-LP, KNVC Carson City Community Radio and more


  • Added: Sep 13, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 15
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A librarian opens a book and finds a mysterious invitation scribbled on the back of a business card. Another discovers a child's letter to the Toot...

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


  • Added: Sep 07, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 15
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Youngsters want to know: What's the difference between barely and nearly, and what's so clean about a whistle, anyway? Plus, adults recount some mi...

Bought by KTSW 89.9, Tri States Public Radio, and RADIOLEX


  • Added: Sep 04, 2021
  • Length: 23:35
  • Purchases: 3
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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 KTXK, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WNIN, WSLR and more


  • Added: Aug 30, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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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 pe...

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


  • Added: Aug 24, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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You know that Yogi Berra quote about how Nobody ever comes here; it's too crowded? Actually, the first person to use this was actress Suzanne Ridge...

Bought by KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WSLR, WNIN, WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Aug 17, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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Throwing cheese and shaky cheese are two very different things. In baseball, hard cheese refers to a powerful fastball, and probably comes from a s...

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


  • Added: Aug 03, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 18
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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 KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WNIN, WPCA-LP, WSLR and more


  • Added: Jul 26, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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Old. Elderly. Senior. Why are we so uncomfortable when we talk about reaching a certain point in life? An 82-year-old seeks a more positive term to...

Bought by KTXK, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WPCA-LP, KNVC Carson City Community Radio and more


  • Added: Jul 19, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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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 KTXK, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, KNVC Carson City Community Radio, WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Jul 12, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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People who hunt treasure with metal detectors have a lingo all their own. Canslaw means the shreds of aluminum cans left after a lawnmower ran over...

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


  • Added: Jul 05, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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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 KTXK, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WPCA-LP, KNVC Carson City Community Radio and more


  • Added: Jun 28, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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Imagine telling someone how to get to your home, but without using the name of your street, or any other street within 10 miles. Could you do it? W...

Bought by KTXK, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WSLR, WNIN and more


  • Added: Jun 22, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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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, WSLR, WYAP, WPCA-LP and more


  • Added: Jun 14, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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Don't move my cheese! It's a phrase middle managers use to talk about adapting to change in the workplace. It comes from a popular 1990s business b...

Bought by KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WPCA-LP, WSLR, WNIN and more


  • Added: Jun 08, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 14
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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 KTXK, KVSC, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WSLR and more


  • Added: Jun 01, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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If you speak a second or third language, you may remember the first time you dreamed in that new tongue. But does this milestone mean you're actual...

Bought by KVSC, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WNIN, Tri States Public Radio and more


  • Added: May 24, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16
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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 KTXK, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WSLR, Tri States Public Radio and more


  • Added: May 17, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 17
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The word filibuster has a long and colorful history, going back to the days when pirates roamed the high seas. Today it refers to hijacking a piece...

Bought by KTXK, WYAP, KVSC, WNIN, KTSW 89.9 and more


  • Added: May 10, 2021
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 16