© 2023 WMRA and WEMC
bg-blue_0.png
WMRA : More News, Less Noise WEMC: The Valley's Home for Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Away_With.jpg
A Way With Words
Saturday at 7am

A Way with Words is an upbeat and lively hour-long public radio show and podcast about language examined through history, culture, and family. Each week, author/journalist Martha Barnette and lexicographer/linguist Grant Barrett talk with callers about slang, old sayings, new words, grammar, word origins, regional dialects, family expressions, and speaking and writing well. They settle disputes, play word quizzes, and discuss language news and controversies.

  • Ever wonder what medieval England looked and sounded like? In Old English, the word hord meant "treasure" and your wordhord was the treasure of words locked up inside you. A delightful new book uses the language of that period to create a vivid look at everyday life. Plus, a shotgun house is long and narrow with no hallway — just one room leading into the next. It's an architectural style with a long history stretching from Africa to Haiti and into the American South. And: say you accidentally cut someone off in traffic, and you know it's your fault. What's a quick, clear way to communicate that you're sorry? NO texting allowed! All that, and feaking, feather merchant, gradoo, spondulicks, echar un zorrito, tocayo and cuate, a take-off quiz, and an onomatopoeic Old English word for "sneeze." Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  • Novelist Charles Dickens and the musician Prince were very different types of artists, but they also had a lot in common. A new book chronicling their extraordinary careers becomes a larger meditation on perfectionism and creativity itself. Plus, the military origins of the term ballpark estimate. And when two people say the same thing simultaneously, why do we yell jinx!? There’s a magical story behind this word. Plus, banging-out, flip-flops and zoris, agua de calcetín, the groundhogs are making coffee, marplot, a puzzle inspired by a nerdy game show, duck duck gray duck vs. duck duck goose, piff-paff, Adam’s off ox, and lots more. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  • Do you refer to your dog or cat as “somebody”? As in: When you love somebody that much, you don’t mind if they slobber. In other words, is your pet a somebody or a something? Also, for centuries, there was little consistency in the way many English words were spelled. But long before the printing press helped to standardize spelling, powerful historical forces were already shaping how those words looked on the page. Plus, Irish words that are as handy as they are fun to say: bockety, which describes something wobbly, and segotia, a fond term for “friend.” And ship vs. yacht, rope vs. line, The New Yorker vs. the The New Yorker, evening vs. afternoon, how to pronounce hammock, a wild and woolly animal quiz, “talking cheese” in German, and an Iranian-American playwright on the challenges of learning another language. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  • In just seconds, online text generators and chatbots can produce whole paragraphs of sophisticated prose. But what do advances in artificial intelligence mean for writers? What is lost and what’s gained when machine-writing replaces the work humans have always struggled to produce? Plus, the story behind the phrase the old college try. It goes back to the early days of baseball! And: a clever poem to get you through the long winter months. Also, have beef, cut your water off, a brain teaser about common bonds, inside baseball, South Cack and South Cackalacky, the Ukrainian word for “umbrella,” kiss-me-quick and dippity-do, and the pits. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  • Sure, there’s winter, spring, summer, and fall. But the seasons in between have even more poetic names. In Alaska, greenup describes a sudden, dramatic burst of green after a long, dark winter. And there are many, many terms for a cold snap that follows the first taste of spring: blackberry winter, redbud winter, onion snow, and whippoorwill storm, to name a few. Plus, the family that plays trivia games at home may end up cheering for their teen in high-school competitions. Also, playful prayers at the dinner table: Amen, Brother Ben! Pass the butter, let’s begin! All that, plus retten up, push the envelope, with bells on, self-deprecating vs. self-depreciating, taffy pockets, pigeon pair, the end of pea time, a puzzle about pairs of words, and more. Here we go, laughing and scratching! Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  • Centuries ago, monks who took a vow of silence developed their own hand signs, with hundreds of gestures, that are still in use today. Plus, how do speakers of different languages distinguish similar shades and tints of colors such as red, yellow, and blue? It's complicated! And: you don't really need those little rivets on your blue jeans, do you? There's a word for decorative elements that no longer serve a practical purpose: skeuomorphs. All that, along with butter of antimony, vein vs. vain, sugar of lead, euchred figs, two bits, mess and gaum, an apt nickname for a garbage disposal, a quiz about family secrets, and lots more. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  • Eels, orts, and Wordle! Sweden awarded its most prestigious literary award to a book about…eels. The Book of Eels reveals the mysterious life cycle of this sea creature and its significance for famous figures from Aristotle to Sigmund Freud. Plus, what’s an ort? It’s the last bit of food left on a dinner plate — and whether or not you finish it can be a matter of manners. Also, an audio puzzle inspired by the popular game Wordle. Harder than it sounds! Plus ginnels, twittens, nerds, Not on your tintype!, piling Pelion upon Ossa, things to say after a sneeze, and a lovely poem about elevators. Ta-da! Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  • Advice about college essays from the winner of a top prize for children’s literature: Kelly Barnhill encourages teens to write about experiences that are uniquely their own, from a point of view that is theirs and no one else’s. Plus, why do we say that someone who’s fortunate has the luck of the Irish? And the latest edition of the Official Scrabble Dictionary will liven up your game! Now you can rack up points with words pranayama, fauxhawk, and even embiggen. Also, knockin’ dog, a word puzzle about knights who never were, will-o’-the-wisp and jack-o’-lantern, a ver and umbers, squidding, oligopoly, and punished water. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  • A savory Sicilian sausage roll is always a hit for the holidays. This dish goes by a long list of names that are equally delicious to say. Plus, why are those promotional quotes you see on the back of a book called blurbs? The guy who coined the word also wrote that familiar poem about being a purple cow. And, book recommendations: a sweet story about childhood in postwar London, a recent novel by a longtime prison inmate, and a theoretical physicist’s memoir about growing up in Albania, and the possibility that our universe isn’t the only one. Also, bang in sick, salts through a widow woman, how come, gumple-foisted, problems with pesky prepositions, son como uña y mugre, a variation on the swimming-pool game Marco Polo, bunking, twagging, skiving, mitching, and why you don’t want a box with five handles. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  • Some people work hard to lose their accent in order to fit in. Others may be homesick for the voices they grew up with and try to reclaim them. How can you regain your old accent? Also, a compelling book about scientific taxonomy shows how humans use language to try to divide up and impose order on the word. And Uff-dah!is an expressive word that means "Gee whiz!" or "Oy vey!" It's also handy when lifting heavy objects. Plus, pigloos, pine shatters vs. pine needles, channel fever, a quiz about common bonds, idioms involving stinginess, nicknames, possible baths, verbing nouns, East Jesus and South Burlap, and affirmative semantics with negative morphosyntax. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  • A new book about how animals perceive their environment reveals immense worlds beyond our own. A bee can see ultraviolet light, catfish have taste buds all over their bodies, and manatees use highly sensitive lips to examine nearby objects. Also, what’s the relationship between romantic novels and Romance languages? Plus, sometimes buying gingerbread isn’t just about the baked goods. In one part of the United States, buying gingerbread has to do with voter fraud! And snickelfritz, oripulation, tchotchkes, an ear-tickling quiz, mocap slang, canooper, an outfit you drive, chipping away at writer’s block, darcin, and Snookums. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  • Some college students are using the word loyalty as a synonym for monogamy. Are the meanings of these words now shifting? Plus, a biologist discovers a new species of bat, then names it after a poet he admires. Also, warm memories of how a childhood library card becomes a passport to new worlds. And: for a spell vs. cast a spell, thaw vs. unthaw, twice-cooked cabbage, a brain teaser in celebration of the great Stephen Sondheim, Dankie op’n plankie, right as rain, a turd of hurtles, a revolving s.o.b., tips for writing historical fiction, and plenty more. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices