A Way with Words — language, linguistics, and callers from all over

50 Episodes

A fun weekly radio show about language seen through culture, history, and family. Co-hosts Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett talk with callers who have questions and stories about linguistics, old sayings, word histories, etymology, regional dialects, slang, new words, word play, word games, grammar…

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Pink Slip (Rebroadcast) - 20 August 2018

August 20th, 2018


This week on "A Way with Words": The language of political speech. Politicians have to repeat themselves so often that they naturally develop a repertoire of stock phrases to fall back on. But is there any special mea…

Criss Cross Applesauce

August 13th, 2018


How do languages change and grow? Does every language acquire new words in the same way? Martha and Grant focus on how that process happens in English and Spanish. Plus, the stories behind the Spanish word "gringo" an…

Whistle Pig (Rebroadcast) - 6 August 2018

August 6th, 2018


The stories behind slang, political and otherwise. The dated term "jingoism" denotes a kind of belligerent nationalism. But the word's roots lie in an old English drinking-house song that was popular during wartime. S…

Up Your Alley - 30 July 2018

July 30th, 2018


Martha and Grant have book recommendations, including a collection of short stories inspired by dictionaries, and a techno-thriller for teens. Or, how about novels with an upbeat message? Publishers call this genre "u…

Piping Hot - 23 July 2018

July 23rd, 2018


The game of baseball has always inspired colorful commentary. Sometimes that means using familiar words in unfamiliar ways. The word "stuff," for example, can refer to a pitcher's repertoire, or to the spin on a ball,…

Copacetic (Rebroadcast) - 16 July 2018

July 16th, 2018


Brand names, children's games, and the etiquette of phone conversations. Those clever plastic PEZ dispensers come in all shapes and sizes -- but where did the word PEZ come from? The popular candy's name is the produc…

Mustard on It (Rebroadcast) - 9 July 2018

July 9th, 2018


When does a word's past make it too sensitive to use in the present? In contra dancing, there's a particular move that dancers traditionally call a gypsy. But there's a growing recognition that many people find the te…

Proof in the Pudding (Rebroadcast) - 2 July 2018

July 2nd, 2018


Have you ever offered to foster a dog or cat, but wound up adopting instead? There's an alliterative term for that. And when you're on the job, do niceties like "Yes, ma'am" and "No, sir" make you sound too formal? No…

We have an attitude — 27 June 2018

June 27th, 2018


In the 11 years Martha and I have been doing A Way with Words together, we’ve developed an attitude.

It’s a positive attitude. It’s who we really are.

It’s the attitude we take toward language, linguisti…

Mimeographs and Dittos - 25 June 2018

June 25th, 2018


How colors got their names, and a strange way to write. The terms "blue" and "orange" arrived in English via French, so why didn't we also adapt the French for black and white? Plus, not every example of writing goes …

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