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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.

  • She sells seashells by the seashore. Who is the she in this tongue twister? Some claim it’s the young Mary Anning, who went on to become a famous 19th-century British paleontologist. Dubious perhaps, but the story of her rise from seaside salesgirl to renowned scientist is fascinating. Also: countless English words were inspired by Greek and Roman myth. Take for example the timeless story of Narcissus and Echo. The handsome Narcissus was obsessed with his own reflection, and Echo was a nymph who pined away for this narcissistic youth until nothing was left but her voice. And … how do you write a fitting epitaph for someone you love? Plus jockey box, goody two-shoes, a quiz based on the OK boomer meme, goldbricking, barker’s eggs, lowering, nose wide open, bonnaroo, 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
  • 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 some of the experience itself. There’s a term for this: It’s called overshadowing. Plus one of Lionel Hampton’s old bandmates recalls hearing him greet fellow musicians with “How you doing, gates?” It may be because good jazz swings, and so does a gate if you give it a push! Also, what is a brickfielder? Don’t look for one in a baseball stadium. And: unta, schnuff for the “nose” at the end of a loaf of bread, a “take-off” quiz, chimping, catch a crab, vocabulary from Utah, pinking shears, steady by jerks, uncaptured, and how to pronounce in situ. Oh, my stars and garters! 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 hundred years ago, suffragists lobbied to win women the right to vote. Linguistically speaking, though, suffrage isn’t about “suffering.” It’s from a Latin word that involves voting. Plus: military cadences often include Jody calls, rhyming verses about the mythical guy who steals your sweetheart while you’re off serving the country. But just who is Jody, anyway? And, maybe you’ve resolved to read more books this year. But how to ensure your success? Maybe start by rearranging your bookshelves for easier viewing. And think of reading like physical fitness: Sneak in a little extra activity here and there, and you’ll reach your goal before you know it. Also, bless your heart, baby blue, a brain teaser about the words no and not, wall stretcher, desire path, neckdown, sneckdown, and can’t dance, and too wet to plow, and 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
  • Language from inside a monastery. A Benedictine monk in the Episcopal Church shares terms from his world: For example, corporate prayer refers to praying as a group. And did you know there’s a term of art for those annoying add-on costs when you buy tickets online? It’s called drip pricing. Plus: Why do we hear the word Perfect! when we’ve answered the most mundane of questions? Say you order chicken fajitas, and the server says “Perfect!” . . . What was so perfect about the order? All that, plus knitting slang, yuppies and hippies, mixtape vs. mixed tape, rubber jungle, as the crow flies, desire lines, mommick and mammock, mumble-squibble, squishy mail, a devilish quiz, hebdomadary, querfeldein, perrijo, and zhuzh. 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. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  • 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 word is endling, and it means “the last surviving member of a species.” The surprising story behind this word includes a doctor in a Georgia convalescent center, a museum exhibit in Australia, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, and much more. Also: how important is linguistic accuracy when it comes to a movie? Does it detract from your enjoyment if a fictional character utters a word or phrase that you suspect was not in use at that point in history? Finally: what’s the first big word you remember using — the one you just couldn’t wait to show off to your family and friends? Plus: a rhyming puzzle, fulano, in the soup, bedroom suit vs. bedroom suite, swarf, boondocks, good people, and tons 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
  • You may have a favorite word in English, but what about your favorite in another language? The Spanish term ojalá is especially handy for expressing hopefulness and derives from Arabic for “God willing.” In Trinidad, if you want to ask friends to hang out with you, invite them to go liming. Nobody’s sure about this word’s origin, although it may indeed have to do with the tart green fruit. And: a story about a traveler who finds that children in Siberia use different words to say the sound an animal makes. English speakers imitate a rooster with cock-a-doodle-doo, but in Siberia, children learn to say something that sounds like “koh-kock-a-REE!” The sounds we attribute to other creatures vary from language to language, even if they’re all the same to the animals. Plus, a brain teaser about subtracting letters, saditty, bundu, potpie, the famous bubbler, words misheard, the plural of squash, a poem about slowing down and paying attention, and a whole lot 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
  • 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 in the book Home Ground: A Guide to the American Landscape. The book is an intriguing collection of specialized vocabulary that invites us to look more closely at the natural world — and delight in its language. Also, how and why the Southern drawl developed. Plus, the phrase It’s a thing. This expression may seem new, but It’s a thing has been a thing for quite a long time. How long? Even Jane Austen used it! And: hourglass valley, thee vs. thou, bitchin’, a word game inspired by Noah Webster, Willie off the pickle boat, who did it and ran, Powder River! Let ‘er buck!, and shedloads 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
  • Is there something inherent in English that makes it the linguistic equivalent of the Borg, dominating and consuming other languages in its path? No, not at all. The answer lies with politics and conquest rather than language itself. Plus: a new baby may be lovingly placed in a giraffe and spend time in the Panda room, but where is that? And: it’s not easy to learn how to roll your Rs. In fact, even some native Spanish speakers have trouble with it. Yes, there’s a word for that, too! All that, plus a crossword-puzzle puzzle, a bug in your ear, the origin of slob, long johns vs. maple bars, mentor, stentorian, You can put your boots in the oven, but that don’t make ’em biscuits, 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
  • 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 to the first page of those books that was supposed to keep thieves away — and some were as vicious as they were creative! Also: if you spot a typo in a published book, should you contact the publisher? Maybe, but your first step is to make sure you’re right! Finally, learning another language may make you question whether you’re speaking your own correctly — but there are strategies to fix that. Plus y’all, a Venn diagram brain teaser, 11 o’clock number, pronouncing the word measure, and you’ll die bull-headed. 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
  • Images of birds flutter inside lots of English words and phrases, from “nest egg” and “pecking order,” to proverbs from around the world—including a lovely Spanish saying about how birds sense light just before dawn. Plus, how do you define “fun”? Outdoor enthusiasts divide fun into three distinct categories, the last of which is something you’ve tried once but never want to do again. And, writing and editing advice from the great Toni Morrison. Also, posing for animal crackers, madder than a peach orchard boar, placeholder words, memorizing poetry, racing for pinks, a tricky quiz about eye rhymes, I’ll be John Browned, footercootering, why some people pronounce both as “bolth,” and more. Please fill out our listener survey! It will help us understand you, our audience, which helps make the show better! https://gum.fm/words 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. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  • 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 vocabulary of the early 20th century? It may be jarring to hear the word swag, but it was already at least 100 years old. And no, it’s not an acronym. Also, a historian of science sets out to write a book to celebrate semicolons — and ends up transforming her views about language. Plus, one teacher’s creative solution to teen profanity in the classroom. Two words for you: moo cow. Also, demonyms, semicolons, neke neke, a brain teaser about the Greek alphabet, go-aheads, zoris, how to pronounce zoology, and everything’s duck but the bill. Please fill out our listener survey! It will help us understand you, our audience, which helps make the show better! https://gum.fm/words 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. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  • 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 writing groups, and books with prompts to get you going. The key is to get started, and then stick with it. And: which part of the body do surgeons call the goose? Hint: you don’t want a bite of chicken caught in your goose. Also, the nautical origins of the phrase three sheets to the wind. This term for “very drunk” originally referred to lines on a sailboat flapping out of control. Plus, a brain teaser about shortened phrases, toolies, linguistic false friends, skookum, how to pronounce the word bury, what now now means in South Africa, and a whole lot more. Please fill out our listener survey! It will help us understand you, our audience, which helps make the show better! https://gum.fm/words 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