Cover art for podcast A Way with Words: language, linguistics, and callers from all over

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

695 EpisodesProduced by A Way with WordsWebsite

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, family expressions, books, literature, writing, and more. Your language question… read more

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Keep Your Powder Dry (Rebroadcast) - 28 September 2020

September 28th, 2020

51:29

Jacuzzi and silhouette are eponyms – that is, they derive from the names of people. An Italian immigrant to California invented the bubbly hot tub called a jacuzzi. And the word silhouette commemorates a penny-pinching …

One Armed Paper Hanger (Rebroadcast) - 21 September 2020

September 21st, 2020

51:54

The emotional appeal of handwriting and the emotional reveal of animal phrases. Should children be taught cursive writing in school, or is their time …

Deviled Eggs - 14 September 2020

September 14th, 2020

51:46

Some TV commercials launch catchphrases that stick around long after the original ads. The exclamation Good stuff, Maynard! is still a compliment almost 40 years after it was used in a commercial for Malt-O-Meal hot …

Hair On Your Tongue (Rebroadcast) - 7 September 2020

September 7th, 2020

51:43

If you speak both German and Spanish, you may find yourself reaching for a German word instead of a Spanish one, and vice versa. This puzzling …

Play It By Ear - 31 August 2020

August 31st, 2020

51:30

How does social context shape our perception of language? When hiking the Appalachian Trail, a young woman from Wyoming found that fellow hikers assumed she was from another country, not only because of how she spoke, …

Train of Thought (Rebroadcast) - 24 August 2020

August 24th, 2020

52:09

Chances are you recognize the expressions Judgment Day and the root of all evil as phrases from the Bible. There are many others, though, some of which may surprise you: the powers that be and bottomless pit first …

Moon Palace - 17 August 2020

August 17th, 2020

51:59

What happens in a classroom of refugee and immigrant youngsters learning English? Their fresh approach to language can result in remarkable poetry -- …

Space Cadet (Rebroadcast) - 10 August 2020

August 10th, 2020

52:16

We have books that should be on every language lover's wish list, plus a couple of recommendations for history buffs. Plus: how did the word …

Howling Fantods (Rebroadcast) - 3 August 2020

August 3rd, 2020

51:38

Are there words and phrases that you misunderstood for an embarrassingly long time? Maybe you thought that money laundering literally meant washing …

Cherry Bombs (#1551)

July 27th, 2020

51:32

An ornithologist says there's a growing movement to change the name of a pink-footed bird currently called the flesh-footed shearwater. The movement …

Bottled Sunshine (Rebroadcast) - 20 July 2020

July 20th, 2020

51:38

If you catch your blue jeans on a nail, you may find yourself with a winklehawk. This term was adapted into English from Dutch, and means "an L-shaped tear in a piece of fabric." And: What's your relationship with the …

Queen Bee - 13 July 2020

July 13th, 2020

51:42

An artist asks strangers to write haiku about the pandemic, and gets back poetic, poignant glimpses of life under lockdown. Plus, the new book …

Cootie Shot (Rebroadcast) - 6 July 2020

July 6th, 2020

51:31

Perfect sentences and slang that tickles your mind. A new book of writing advice says that a good sentence "imposes a logic on the world's weirdness" and pares away options for meaning, word by word. Plus, your musician …

Navel Gazing - 29 June 2020

June 29th, 2020

51:26

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 readers, …

Ding Ding Man (Rebroadcast) - 22 June 2020

June 22nd, 2020

51:01

In 1803, a shy British pharmacist wrote a pamphlet that made him a reluctant celebrity. The reason? He proposed a revolutionary new system for …

Take Tea for the Fever (Rebroadcast) - 15 June 2020

June 15th, 2020

51:01

Silence comes in lots of different forms. In fact, says writer Paul Goodman, there are several kinds: There's the noisy silence of "resentment and …

Yak Shaving - 8 June 2020

June 8th, 2020

51:01

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 new …

Sun Dog (Rebroadcast) - 1 June 2020

June 1st, 2020

51:01

A clever pun can make the difference between a so-so phrase and a memorable one. The phrase "the last straw" refers to an old fable about too many …

Oh For Cute (Rebroadcast) - 25 May 2020

May 25th, 2020

51:01

A stereotype is a preconceived notion about a person or group. Originally, though, the word stereotype referring to a printing device used to produce lots of identical copies. If you suspect there's a connection, you're …

Coinkydink (Rebroadcast) - 18 May 2020

May 18th, 2020

51:01

Sometimes it's a challenge to give a book a chance: How many pages should you read before deciding it's not worth your time? There's a new formula to …

Up Your Alley (Rebroadcast) - 11 May 2020

May 11th, 2020

51:01

Martha and Grant have book recommendations, including a collection of short stories inspired by dictionaries, and a techno-thriller for teens. Or, …

Piping Hot (Rebroadcast) - 4 May 2020

May 4th, 2020

51:01

The game of baseball has always inspired colorful commentary. Sometimes that means using familiar words in unfamiliar ways. The word "stuff," for …

Mimeographs and Dittos (Rebroadcast) - 27 April 2020

April 27th, 2020

51:56

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 …

Cabin Fever - 20 April 2020

April 20th, 2020

51:55

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 around much longer than the current pandemic. That restless, antsy, …

Chopped Liver (Rebroadcast) - 13 April 2020

April 13th, 2020

51:56

There's a proverb that goes "Beloved children have many names." That's at least as true when it comes to the names we give our pets. "Fluffy" becomes "Fluffers" becomes "FluffFace" becomes "FlufferNutter, Queen of the …

Singing Sand - 6 April 2020

April 5th, 2020

51:56

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 …

Truth and Beauty (Rebroadcast)

March 30th, 2020

51:01

Vocabulary that trickles down from the top of the world. Malamute, kayak, and parka are just some of the words that have found their way into English …

Baby's Breath - 23 March 2020

March 23rd, 2020

51:01

Have you ever googled your own name and found someone else who goes by the very same moniker? There's a word for that: googleganger. Plus, the language of hobbyists and enthusiasts: If you're a beekeeper, you call …

Dessert Stomach - 16 March 2020

March 16th, 2020

51:01

Funny cat videos and cute online photos inspire equally adorable slang terms we use to talk about them. When a cat leaves its tongue out, that's a blep. A boop is a gentle tap on its nose. Also, when is a salamander not …

Hog on Ice - 9 March 2020

March 9th, 2020

51:01

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 from your mistakes. Plus, childhood mixups around word definitions can …

Brollies and Bumbershoots (Rebroadcast) - 2 March 2020

March 2nd, 2020

51:01

If you think they refer to umbrellas as bumbershoots in the UK, think again. The word bumbershoot actually originated in the United States! In …

Goody Two-Shoes - 24 February 2020

February 24th, 2020

51:01

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 …

Cool Your Soup (Rebroadcast) - 17 February 2020

February 17th, 2020

51:01

According to Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, it's important to master the basics of writing, but there comes a time when you have to strike out on …

Baby Blues - 10 February 2020

February 10th, 2020

51:01

A hundred years ago, suffragists lobbied to win women the right to vote. Linguistically speaking, though, suffrage isn't about "suffering." It's from …

Put on the Dog (Rebroadcast) - 3 February 2020

February 3rd, 2020

51:01

Ever wonder whatever happened to responding to "Thank you" with the words "You're welcome"? A listener asks why so many radio interviews end with the interviewee thanking the host. Also, we all knew that kid who …

Walkie Talkie - 27 January 2020

January 27th, 2020

52:33

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 …

Tiger Tail - 20 January 2020

January 20th, 2020

52:36

You may have a favorite word in English, but what about your favorite in another language? The Spanish term ojala is especially handy for expressing …

Gee and Haw (Rebroadcast) - 13 January 2020

January 13th, 2020

52:36

The highly specialized vocabulary of people who work outdoors, like farmers and fishermen, can bring us closer to the natural world. Also, a woman …

Gung Ho (Rebroadcast) - 6 January 2020

January 6th, 2020

52:32

The stories behind symbols and expressions around the world. The peace symbol popular during 1960's antiwar demonstrations had been around for …

Crusticles and Fenderbergs (Rebroadcast) - 30 December 2019

December 30th, 2019

52:35

A second-generation Filipino-American finds that when he speaks English, his personality is firm, direct, and matter-of-fact. But when he speaks with family members in Tagalog, he feels more soft-spoken, kind, and …

Clever Clogs - 23 December 2019

December 23rd, 2019

52:41

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 …

Son of a gun! - a special minicast from Grant

December 19th, 2019

6:32

Today I shoot holes in a story that just won’t die that about "son of a gun" and babies born aboard sailing ships.

 

Podcast listeners like you will …

Little Shavers - 16 December 2019

December 16th, 2019

53:54

The word "hipster" might seem recent, but it actually originated in the 1930s, and referred to jazz aficionados who were in the know about the best …

Electrifying! - a special minicast from Martha

December 12th, 2019

4:41

Martha here with a special minicast of A Way with Words. Today I want to tell you an electrifying story — and make a request for you to support A Way …

Bug in Your Ear - 9 December 2019

December 9th, 2019

52:43

Is there something inherent in English that makes it the linguistic equivalent of the Borg, dominating and consuming other languages in its path? No, …

Bun in the Oven (Rebroadcast) - 1 December 2019

December 2nd, 2019

52:59

Family words, and words about being in a family way. How many different ways ARE there to say you have a baby on the way? Sure, you can say you're pregnant, or that you're great with child. But there are lots of other …

The Black Dog - 25 November 2019

November 25th, 2019

51:12

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 …

Flying Pickle (Rebroadcast) - 18 November 2019

November 18th, 2019

51:01

How would you like to be welcomed to married life by friends and neighbors descending on your home for a noisy celebration, tearing off the labels of …

The Last Straw (Rebroadcast) - 11 November 2019

November 11th, 2019

51:01

Books for word lovers, plus the stories behind some familiar terms. Want a gift for your favorite bibliophile? Martha and Grant have recommendations, …

Beside Myself - 4 November 2019

November 4th, 2019

51:01

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 …

Hidden Treasures (Rebroadcast) - 28 October 2019

October 28th, 2019

51:01

Civil War letters and the opposite of prejudice. A new online archive of Civil War letters offers a vivid portrait of the everyday lives of enlisted …

Skookum - 21 October 2019

October 21st, 2019

51:01

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 …

Butterflies in the Stomach (Rebroadcast) - 14 October 2019

October 14th, 2019

51:01

If you're not using a dictionary to look up puzzling words as you read them, you're missing out on a whole other level of enjoyment. Also, when …

Life of Riley - 7 October 2019

October 7th, 2019

51:01

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 a family's beloved horse. And: 50 years ago in the United States, some …

Catch You on the Flip Side (Rebroadcast) - 30 September 2019

September 30th, 2019

51:01

Some countries have strict laws about naming babies. New Zealand authorities, for example, denied a request to name some twins Fish and Chips.  Plus, Halley's Comet seen centuries before English astronomer Edmund Halley …

Off the Turnip Truck - 23 September 2019

September 23rd, 2019

51:01

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 suggested answering with Ahoy! but Thomas Edison was partial to Hello. A …

Loaded For Bear - 16 September 2019

September 16th, 2019

51:01

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 tongue-in-cheek website will generate names like that for you. And: …

All Verklempt (Rebroadcast) - 9 September 2019

September 9th, 2019

51:01

SUMMARY

Of all the letters in the alphabet, which two or three are your favorites? If your short list includes one or more of your initials, that's …

Hunk Waffle (Rebroadcast) - 2 September 2019

September 3rd, 2019

51:01

Decisions by dictionary editors, wacky wordplay, and Walt Whitman's soaring verse.  How do lexicographers decide which historical figures deserve a mention or perhaps even an illustration in the dictionary? The answer …

Pants On Fire (Rebroadcast) - 26 August 2019

August 26th, 2019

51:01

A highly anticipated children's book and the epic history behind a familiar vegetable. Fans of illustrator Maurice Sendak are eagerly awaiting the publication of a newly discovered manuscript by the late author. And …

Frozen Rope (Rebroadcast) - 19 August 2019

August 19th, 2019

51:01

Where would you find a sports commentator talking about high cheese and ducks on a pond? Here's a hint: both terms are part of what make the language …

Flop Sweat (Rebroadcast) - 12 August 2019

August 12th, 2019

51:01

Gerrymandering is the practice of redistricting to tip the political scales. Originally, though, this strategy was called "GARY-mandering" with a …

Smile Belt (Rebroadcast) - 5 August 2019

August 5th, 2019

51:01

The only time you'll ever see the sun's outer atmosphere is during a full solar eclipse, when sun itself is completely covered. That hazy ring is …

Mrs. Astor's Horse - 29 July 2019

July 29th, 2019

51:01

"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 to share with kids. Plus: an easy explanation for the difference between …

A Shoo-In (Rebroadcast) - 22 July 2019

July 22nd, 2019

51:01

This week it’s butterflies, belly flowers, plot bunnies, foxes, and cuckoos. Also, writing advice from Mark Twain and a wonderful bit of prose from …

At First Blush - 15 July 2019

July 15th, 2019

51:01

Book recommendations and the art of apology. Martha and Grant share some good reads, including an opinionated romp through English grammar, a …

Noon Of Night (Rebroadcast) - 8 July 2019

July 8th, 2019

51:01

Pranks, cranks, and chips. As a kid, you may have played that game where you phone someone to say, "Is your refrigerator running? Then you better go catch it!" What's the term for that kind of practical joke? Is it a …

Gift Horse - 1 July 2019

July 1st, 2019

51:01

The edge of the Grand Canyon. A remote mountaintop, or a medieval cathedral. Some places are so mystical you feel like you're close to another dimension of space and time. There's a term for such locales: thin places. …

Naked as a Jaybird (Rebroadcast) - 24 June 2019

June 24th, 2019

51:01

What's the best way for someone busy to learn lots of new words quickly for a test like the GRE? Looking up their origins can help. Or record yourself reading the words and definitions and play them back while you're …

Had the Radish - 17 June 2019

June 17th, 2019

51:01

This week on A Way with Words: Your first name is very personal, but what if you don't like it? For some people, changing their name works out great, …

Hot Dog, Cold Turkey (Rebroadcast) - 10 June 2019

June 10th, 2019

51:01

Why do we call a frankfurter a "hot dog"? It seems an unsettling 19th-century rumor is to blame. Also, if someone quits something abruptly, why do we …

Abso-Bloomin-Lutely - 3 June 2019

June 3rd, 2019

51:15

The autocomplete function on your phone comes in handy, of course. But is it changing the way we write and how linguists study language? Also, …

Skedaddle (Rebroadcast) - 27 May 2019

May 27th, 2019

51:15

The months of September, October, November, and December take their names from Latin words meaning "seven," "eight," "nine," and "ten." So why don't their names correspond to where they fall in the year? The answer lies …

Coast is Clear (Rebroadcast) - 20 May 2019

May 20th, 2019

51:15

In the military, if you've "lost the bubble," then you can't find your bearings. The term first referred to calibrating the position of aircraft and submarines. And the phrase "the coast is clear" may originate in …

Niblings and Nieflings - 13 May 2019

May 13th, 2019

51:34

How do actors bring Shakespeare's lines to life so that modern audiences immediately understand the text? One way is to emphasize the names of people and places at certain points. That technique is called billboarding. …

Gone to Seed (Rebroadcast) - 6 May 2019

May 6th, 2019

51:35

Restaurant jargon, military slang, and modern Greek turns of phrase. Some restaurants now advertise that they sell "clean" sandwiches. But that doesn't mean they're condiment-free or the lettuce got an extra rinse. In …

Kite in a Phonebooth - 29 April 2019

April 29th, 2019

51:15

Stunt performers in movies have their own jargon for talking about their dangerous work. They refer to a stunt, for example, as a gag. Across the …

Hell's Half Acre (Rebroadcast) - 22 April 2019

April 22nd, 2019

51:38

Hundreds of years ago, the word girl didn't necessarily mean a female child. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the term "girl" could refer to a child …

Steamed Bun (Rebroadcast) - 15 April 2019

April 15th, 2019

51:36

This week on "A Way with Words”: The language we use to cover up our age, and covering up a secret message. Do you ever find yourself less-than-specific about your age? Listeners share some of their favorite phrases for …

Kids Are Asking - 11 April 2019

April 11th, 2019

26:14

Questions from young listeners and conversations about everything from shifting slang to a bizarre cooking technique. Kids ask about how to talk about finding information on the internet, how tartar sauce got its name, …

Strawberry Moon - 8 April 2019

April 8th, 2019

51:38

We asked for your thoughts about whether cursive writing should be taught in schools -- and you replied with a resounding "Yes!" Here's why: Cursive …

Charismatic Megafauna (Rebroadcast) - 1 April 2019

April 1st, 2019

51:35

Choosing language that helps resolve interpersonal conflict. Sometimes a question is really just a veiled form of criticism. Understanding the …

Spill the Tea - 25 March 2019

March 25th, 2019

51:22

If someone urges you to spill the tea, they probably don't want you tipping over a hot beverage. Originally, the tea here was the letter T, as in …

Knuckle Down (Rebroadcast) - 18 March 2019

March 18th, 2019

51:23

A wingnut is a handy, stabilizing piece of hardware. So why is it a pejorative term for those of a certain political persuasion? Also, is there …

Dirty Laundry - 11 March 2019

March 11th, 2019

51:29

When you had sleepovers as a child, what did you call the makeshift beds you made on the floor? In some places, you call those bedclothes and …

Lie Like A Rug (Rebroadcast) - 4 March 2019

March 4th, 2019

51:35

The words we choose can change attitudes--and change lives. A swing-dance instructor has switched to gender-neutral language when teaching couples. …

Keep Your Powder Dry - 25 February 2019

February 25th, 2019

51:45

Jacuzzi and silhouette are eponyms – that is, they derive from the names of people. An Italian immigrant to California invented the bubbly hot tub called a jacuzzi. And the word silhouette commemorates a penny-pinching …

One Armed Paper Hanger - 18 February 2019

February 18th, 2019

51:46

The emotional appeal of handwriting and the emotional reveal of animal phrases. Should children be taught cursive writing in school, or is their time …

Hair on Your Tongue - 11 February 2019

February 11th, 2019

51:46

If you speak both German and Spanish, you may find yourself reaching for a German word instead of a Spanish one, and vice versa. This puzzling …

Train of Thought - 4 February 2019

February 4th, 2019

51:49

Chances are you recognize the expressions Judgment Day and the root of all evil as phrases from the Bible. There are many others, though, some of which may surprise you: the powers that be and bottomless pit first …

Colonial English - 28 January 2019

January 28th, 2019

51:57

The anatomy of effective prose, and the poetry of anatomy. Ever wonder what it'd be like to audit a class taught by a famous writer? A graduate student's essay offers a taste of a semester studying with author Annie …

Pig Latin (Rebroadcast) - 21 January 2019

January 21st, 2019

52:33

This week on "A Way with Words": Grant and Martha discuss the L-word--or two L-words, actually: liberal and libertarian. They reflect different …

Whistle in the Dark (Rebroadcast) - 14 January 2019

January 14th, 2019

52:20

Echoes of the Greatest Generation, and a tasty bite of history. The language and melodies of military marching songs can connect grown children with …

Fickle Finger of Fate (Rebroadcast) - 7 January 2019

January 7th, 2019

52:14

Clean cursing for modern times, more about communicating after a brain injury, and 1970's TV lingo with roots in the Second World War. A young woman …

Stars and Garters (Rebroadcast) - 31 December 2018

December 31st, 2018

52:21

Novelist Charles Dickens created many unforgettable characters, but he's also responsible for coining or popularizing lots of words, like "flummox" …

Space Cadet - 24 December 2018

December 24th, 2018

52:09

We have books that should be on every language lover's wish list, plus a couple of recommendations for history buffs. Plus: how did the word …

Howling Fantods - 17 December 2018

December 17th, 2018

52:10

Are there words and phrases that you misunderstood for an embarrassingly long time? Maybe you thought that money laundering literally meant washing …

Cootie Shot - 10 December 2018

December 10th, 2018

51:58

Perfect sentences and slang that tickles your mind. A new book of writing advice says that a good sentence "imposes a logic on the world's weirdness" and pares away options for meaning, word by word. Plus, your musician …

Boss of Me (Rebroadcast) - 3 December 2018

December 3rd, 2018

52:54

If you want to be a better writer, try skipping today's bestsellers, and read one from the 1930's instead. Or read something besides fiction in order to find your own metaphors and perspective. Plus, just because a …

Spur of the Moment (Rebroadcast) - 26 November 2018

November 26th, 2018

51:57

A caller with a 25-year-old parrot wonders: How much language do birds really understand? Plus, Knock-knock. Who's there? Boo. Well . . .  you can …

Bottled Sunshine - 19 November 2018

November 19th, 2018

51:58

If you catch your blue jeans on a nail, you may find yourself with a winklehawk. This term was adapted into English from Dutch, and means "an L-shaped tear in a piece of fabric." And: What's your relationship with the …

Care Package - 12 November 2018

November 12th, 2018

51:57

Sending someone a care package shows you care, of course. But the first care packages were boxes of food and personal items for survivors of World War II. They were from the Committee for American Remittances to Europe, …

Hell for Leather (Rebroadcast) - 5 November 2018

November 5th, 2018

51:58

Victorian slang and a modern controversy over language and gender. In the early 1900's, a door-knocker wasn't just what visitors used to announce their arrival, it was a type of beard with a similar shape. And in the …

Ding Ding Man - 29 October 2018

October 29th, 2018

51:57

In 1803, a shy British pharmacist wrote a pamphlet that made him a reluctant celebrity. The reason? He proposed a revolutionary new system for …

Take Tea for the Fever - 22 October 2018

October 22nd, 2018

51:36

Silence comes in lots of different forms. In fact, says writer Paul Goodman, there are several kinds: There's the noisy silence of "resentment and …

Sun Dog - 15 October 2018

October 15th, 2018

51:36

A clever pun can make the difference between a so-so phrase and a memorable one. The phrase "the last straw" refers to an old fable about too many …

Oh For Cute - 8 October 2018

October 8th, 2018

51:01

A stereotype is a preconceived notion about a person or group. Originally, though, the word stereotype referring to a printing device used to produce lots of identical copies. If you suspect there's a connection, you're …

Coinkydink - 1 October 2018

October 1st, 2018

51:01

Sometimes it's a challenge to give a book a chance: How many pages should you read before deciding it's not worth your time? There's a new formula to …

Sweet Dreams (Rebroadcast) - 24 September 2018

September 24th, 2018

51:01

In deafening workplaces, like sawmills and factories, workers develop their own elaborate sign language to discuss everything from how their weekend went to when the boss is on his way. Plus, English speakers borrowed …

Gangbusters (Rebroadcast) - 17 September 2018

September 17th, 2018

51:01

Sensuous words and terms of endearment. Think of a beautiful word. Now, is it simply the word's sound that makes it beautiful? Or does its appeal …

XYZ PDQ (Rebroadcast) - 10 September 2018

September 10th, 2018

51:01

How often do you hear the words campaign and political in the same breath? Oddly enough, 19th-century grammarians railed against using campaign to …

Hang a Ralph (Rebroadcast) - 3 September 2018

September 3rd, 2018

51:01

The names of professional sports teams often have surprising histories -- like the baseball team name inspired by, of all things, trolley-car …

You Bet Your Boots (Rebroadcast) - 27 August 2018

August 27th, 2018

51:01

You may have heard the advice that to build your vocabulary you should read, read, and then read some more--and make sure to include a wide variety …

Pink Slip (Rebroadcast) - 20 August 2018

August 20th, 2018

51:01

This week on "A Way with Words": The language of political speech. Politicians have to repeat themselves so often that they naturally develop a …

Criss Cross Applesauce (Rebroadcast) - 13 August 2018

August 13th, 2018

51:01

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" and …

Whistle Pig (Rebroadcast) - 6 August 2018

August 6th, 2018

51:01

The stories behind slang, political and otherwise. The dated term "jingoism" denotes a kind of belligerent nationalism. But the word's roots lie in …

Up Your Alley - 30 July 2018

July 30th, 2018

51:01

Martha and Grant have book recommendations, including a collection of short stories inspired by dictionaries, and a techno-thriller for teens. Or, …

Piping Hot - 23 July 2018

July 23rd, 2018

51:01

The game of baseball has always inspired colorful commentary. Sometimes that means using familiar words in unfamiliar ways. The word "stuff," for …

Copacetic (Rebroadcast) - 16 July 2018

July 16th, 2018

51:01

Brand names, children's games, and the etiquette of phone conversations. Those clever plastic PEZ dispensers come in all shapes and sizes -- but …

Mustard on It (Rebroadcast) - 9 July 2018

July 9th, 2018

51:01

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 …

Proof in the Pudding (Rebroadcast) - 2 July 2018

July 2nd, 2018

51:58

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? Not …

We have an attitude — 27 June 2018

June 27th, 2018

1:01

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, linguistics, and the …

Mimeographs and Dittos - 25 June 2018

June 25th, 2018

52:25

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 …

Spicy Jambalaya - 18 June 2018

June 18th, 2018

51:58

Teen slang from the South, and food words that are tricky to pronounce. High schoolers in Huntsville, Alabama, give Martha and Grant an earful about …

A request from Martha — 13 June 2018

June 13th, 2018

1:12

A request from Martha. - 13 June 2018

Have you ever wanted to know who we really are? How Grant and I really see ourselves?

Well, for one thing, we …

Chopped Liver — 11 June 2018

June 11th, 2018

51:58

There's a proverb that goes "Beloved children have many names." That's at least as true when it comes to the names we give our pets. "Fluffy" becomes "Fluffers" becomes "FluffFace" becomes "FlufferNutter, Queen of the …

Busted Melon (Rebroadcast) - 4 June 2018

June 4th, 2018

52:25

When writing textbooks about slavery, which words best reflect its cold, hard reality? Some historians are dropping the word "slave" in favor of …

Truth and Beauty - 28 May 2018

May 28th, 2018

51:01

Vocabulary that trickles down from the top of the world. Malamute, kayak, and parka are just some of the words that have found their way into English …

Jump Steady (Rebroadcast) - 21 May 2018

May 21st, 2018

51:19

Secret codes, ciphers, and telegrams. It used to be that in order to transmit information during wartime, various industries encoded their messages letter by letter with an elaborate system--much like today's digital …

Dessert Stomach - 14 May 2018

May 14th, 2018

51:01

Funny cat videos and cute online photos inspire equally adorable slang terms we use to talk about them. When a cat leaves its tongue out, that's a blep. A boop is a gentle tap on its nose. Also, when is a salamander not …

Scat Cat (Rebroadcast) - 7 May 2018

May 7th, 2018

51:01

The dilemma continues over how to spell dilemma! Grant and Martha try to suss out the backstory of why some people spell that word with an "n." At …

Far Out, Man - 30 April 2018

April 30th, 2018

51:01

An Ohio community is divided over the name of the local high school's mascot. For years, their teams have been called the Redskins. Is that name …

Beat the Band (Rebroadcast) - 23 April 2018

April 24th, 2018

51:01

This week on "A Way with Words": This week on "A Way with Words": Can language change bad behavior in crowded places? The Irish Railway system has launched ad campaign to encourage passengers to be more generous at …

Brollies and Bumbershoots - 16 April 2018

April 16th, 2018

51:01

If you think they refer to umbrellas as bumbershoots in the UK, think again. The word bumbershoot actually originated in the United States! In …

Cool Your Soup - 9 April 2018

April 9th, 2018

51:01

According to Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, it's important to master the basics of writing, but there comes a time when you have to strike out on …

Put on the Dog - 2 April 2018

April 2nd, 2018

51:01

Why isn’t “you’re welcome” the default response to “thank you” for everyone? Plus lies that kids tell, Philadelphia lawyercowbellyskutch

Fighting Artichokes (Rebroadcast) - 26 March 2018

March 26th, 2018

51:01

What’s in a mascot name? Maybe you’re a fan of the Banana Slugs, or you cheer for the Winged Beavers. Perhaps your loyalty lies with the Fighting Artichokes. There are some strange names for sports team out there. But …

Burn Bag (Rebroadcast) - 19 March 2018

March 19th, 2018

51:01

This week on "A Way with Words": Slang from the 19th century. The slang coming out of Victorian mouths was more colorful than you might think. A 1909 …

Gee and Haw - 12 March 2018

March 12th, 2018

51:01

The highly specialized vocabulary of people who work outdoors, like farmers and fishermen, can bring us closer to the natural world. Also, a woman …

Gung Ho - 5 March 2018

March 5th, 2018

51:01

The stories behind symbols and expressions around the world. The peace symbol popular during 1960's antiwar demonstrations had been around for …

Flop Sweat (Rebroadcast) - 26 February 2018

February 27th, 2018

51:01

Gerrymandering is the practice of redistricting to tip the political scales. Originally, though, this strategy was called "GARY-mandering" with a …

Smile Belt (Rebroadcast) - 19 February 2018

February 19th, 2018

51:01

The only time you'll ever see the sun's outer atmosphere is during a full solar eclipse, when sun itself is completely covered. That hazy ring is …

Crusticles and Fenderbergs - 12 February 2018

February 12th, 2018

51:01

A second-generation Filipino-American finds that when he speaks English, his personality is firm, direct, and matter-of-fact. But when he speaks with family members in Tagalog, he feels more soft-spoken, kind, and …

Bun in the Oven - 5 February 2018

February 5th, 2018

51:01

Family words, and words about being in a family way. How many different ways ARE there to say you're have a baby on the way? Sure, you can say you're pregnant, or that you're great with child. But there are lots of …

Flying Pickle - 29 January 2018

January 29th, 2018

51:01

How would you like to be welcomed to married life by friends and neighbors descending on your home for a noisy celebration, tearing off the labels of …

Happy as Larry - 22 January 2018

January 22nd, 2018

51:01

New research shows that you may be less influenced by superstitious behavior like walking under ladders or the magic of four-leaf clovers if you're reading about it in another language. And: sometimes not cursing will …

A Shoo In (Rebroadcast) - 15 January 2018

January 15th, 2018

51:01

This week it’s butterflies, belly flowers, plot bunnies, foxes, and cuckoos. Also, writing advice from Mark Twain and a wonderful bit of prose from …

Noon of Night (Rebroadcast) - 8 January 2018

January 8th, 2018

51:01

Pranks, cranks, and chips. As a kid, you may have played that game where you phone someone to say, "Is your refrigerator running? Then you better go catch it!" What's the term for that kind of practical joke? Is it a …

Naked as a Jaybird - 1 January 2018

January 1st, 2018

51:55

What's the best way for someone busy to learn lots of new words quickly for a test like the GRE? Looking up their origins can help. Or record yourself reading the words and definitions and play them back while you're …

Hot Dog, Cold Turkey (Rebroadcast) - 25 December 2017

December 25th, 2017

52:13

Why do we call a frankfurter a "hot dog"? It seems an unsettling 19th-century rumor is to blame. Also, if someone quits something abruptly, why do we …

There's more of everything!

December 21st, 2017

1:04

Donate to help support A Way with Words all year long https://waywordradio.org/donate

...

We’ve got a curious problem here at A Way with Words. Over the last decade, we’ve grown the show from just 12 stations in four …

Brand Spanking New - 18 December 2017

December 18th, 2017

51:56

Words of the year and correcting a mispronounced name. Taking a look back at some notable words and phrases from 2017: Remember path of totality? How about "milkshake duck"? Also, a committee has to choose a new mascot …

The Last Straw - 11 December 2017

December 11th, 2017

51:56

Books for word lovers, plus the stories behind some familiar terms. Want a gift for your favorite bibliophile? Martha and Grant have recommendations, …

A gift for your language nerd!

December 8th, 2017

1:07

Donate to support A Way with Words https://waywordradio.org/donate

....

Here’s the perfect gift for your language nerd: a donation to A Way with Words.

For more than ten years we’ve been producing fun episodes about …

Skedaddle (Rebroadcast) - 4 December 2017

December 4th, 2017

51:42

The months of September, October, November, and December take their names from Latin words meaning "seven," "eight," "nine," and "ten." So why don't their names correspond to where they fall in the year? The answer lies …

Coast Is Clear (Rebroadcast) - 27 November 2017

November 27th, 2017

51:01

In the military, if you've "lost the bubble," then you can't find your bearings. The term first referred to calibrating the position of aircraft and submarines. And the phrase "the coast is clear" may originate in …

Hidden Treasures - 20 November 2017

November 20th, 2017

51:01

Civil War letters and the opposite of prejudice. A new online archive of Civil War letters offers a vivid portrait of the everyday lives of enlisted …

Butterflies in Your Stomach - 13 November 2017

November 13th, 2017

51:01

If you're not using a dictionary to look up puzzling words as you read them, you're missing out on a whole other level of enjoyment. Also, when …

Catch You on the Flip Side - 6 November 2017

November 6th, 2017

51:01

Some countries have strict laws about naming babies. New Zealand authorities, for example, denied a request to name some twins Fish and Chips.  Plus, Halley's Comet seen centuries before English astronomer Edmund Halley …

All Verklempt - 30 October 2017

October 30th, 2017

51:01

Of all the letters in the alphabet, which two or three are your favorites? If your short list includes one or more of your initials, that's no …

Hunk Waffle - 23 October 2017

October 23rd, 2017

51:01

Decisions by dictionary editors, wacky wordplay, and Walt Whitman's soaring verse.  How do lexicographers decide which historical figures deserve a mention or perhaps even an illustration in the dictionary? The answer …

Pants on Fire - 16 October 2017

October 16th, 2017

51:01

A highly anticipated children's book and the epic history behind a familiar vegetable. Fans of illustrator Maurice Sendak are eagerly awaiting the publication of a newly discovered manuscript by the late author. And …

Frozen Rope - 9 October 2017

October 9th, 2017

51:01

Where would you find a sports commentator talking about high cheese and ducks on a pond? Here's a hint: both terms are part of what make the language …

Gone to Seed (Rebroadcast) - 2 October 2017

October 2nd, 2017

52:30

Restaurant jargon, military slang, and modern Greek turns of phrase. Some restaurants now advertise that they sell "clean" sandwiches. But that doesn't mean they're condiment-free or the lettuce got an extra rinse. In …

Hell's Half Acre (Rebroadcast) - 25 September 2017

September 25th, 2017

52:17

Hundreds of years ago, the word girl didn't necessarily mean a female child. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the term "girl" could refer to a child …

Steamed Bun (Rebroadcast) - 18 September 2017

September 18th, 2017

52:30

This week on "A Way with Words”: The language we use to cover up our age, and covering up a secret message. Do you ever find yourself less-than-specific about your age? Listeners share some of their favorite phrases for …

Charismatic Megafauna (Rebroadcast) - 11 September 2017

September 11th, 2017

52:17

Choosing language that helps resolve interpersonal conflict. Sometimes a question is really just a veiled form of criticism. Understanding the …

Knuckle Down (Rebroadcast) - 4 September 2017

September 4th, 2017

52:30

A wingnut is a handy, stabilizing piece of hardware. So why is it a pejorative term for those of a certain political persuasion? Also, is there …

What Kids Know and Want to Find Out - 1 September 2017

September 1st, 2017

29:04

Our youngest listeners have questions about everything from love to one of their favorite foods. Kids ask why we might end a text with the letters xoxo, what the word "canoodle" means, and how pizza got its name. And it …

Lie Like a Rug (Rebroadcast) - 28 August 2017

August 28th, 2017

51:01

The words we choose can change attitudes--and change lives. A swing-dance instructor has switched to gender-neutral language when teaching couples. …

Pig Latin (Rebroadcast) - 21 August 2017

August 27th, 2017

51:01

This week on "A Way with Words": Grant and Martha discuss the L-word--or two L-words, actually: liberal and libertarian. They reflect different …

Whistle in the Dark (Rebroadcast) - 14 August 2017

August 14th, 2017

51:01

Echoes of the Greatest Generation, and a tasty bite of history. The language and melodies of military marching songs can connect grown children with …

Chocolate Gravy (Rebroadcast) - 7 August 2017

August 7th, 2017

51:01

Say you have an acquaintance you always see at the dog park or the playground. But one night, you run into them at the movies, and for a moment, it's confusing. Is there a word for that disorienting sense of someone or …

Fickle Finger of Fate (Rebroadcast) - 31 July 2017

July 31st, 2017

51:14

Clean cursing for modern times, more about communicating after a brain injury, and 1970's TV lingo with roots in the Second World War. A young woman …

Flop Sweat - 24 July 2017

July 24th, 2017

51:01

Gerrymandering is the practice of redistricting to tip the political scales. Originally, though, this strategy was called "GARY-mandering" with a …

Smile Belt - 17 July 2017

July 17th, 2017

51:53

The only time you'll ever see the sun's outer atmosphere is during a full solar eclipse, when sun itself is completely covered. That hazy ring is …

A Shoo-In - 10 July 2017

July 10th, 2017

51:53

This week it’s butterflies, belly flowers, plot bunnies, foxes, and cuckoos. Also, writing advice from Mark Twain and a wonderful bit of prose from …

Stars and Garters (Rebroadcast) - 3 July 2017

July 3rd, 2017

51:54

Novelist Charles Dickens created many unforgettable characters, but he's also responsible for coining or popularizing lots of words, like "flummox" …

Noon of Night - 26 June 2017

June 26th, 2017

52:38

Pranks, cranks, and chips. As a kid, you may have played that game where you phone someone to say, "Is your refrigerator running? Then you better go catch it!" What's the term for that kind of practical joke? Is it a …

Boss of Me (Rebroadcast) - 19 June 2017

June 19th, 2017

52:36

If you want to be a better writer, try skipping today's bestsellers, and read one from the 1930's instead. Or read something besides fiction in order to find your own metaphors and perspective. Plus, just because a …

Sunny Side Up (Rebroadcast) - 12 June 2017

June 12th, 2017

52:38

Baseball has a language all its own: On the diamond, a snow cone isn't what you think it is, and Three Blind Mice has nothing to do with nursery rhymes. And how do you describe someone who works at home while employed …

Naked as a Jaybird - 5 June 2017

June 5th, 2017

51:01

What's the best way for someone busy to learn lots of new words quickly for a test like the GRE? Looking up their origins can help. Or record yourself reading the words and definitions and play them back while you're …

Hot Dog Cold Turkey - 29 May 2017

May 29th, 2017

51:01

Why do we call a frankfurter a "hot dog"? It seems an unsettling 19th-century rumor is to blame. Also, if someone quits something abruptly, why do we …

Spur of the Moment (Rebroadcast) - 22 May 2017

May 22nd, 2017

51:01

A caller with a 25-year-old parrot wonders: How much language do birds really understand? Plus, Knock-knock. Who's there? Boo. Well . . .  you can …

Hell For Leather (Rebroadcast) - 15 May 2017

May 15th, 2017

51:01

Victorian slang and a modern controversy over language and gender. In the early 1900's, a door-knocker wasn't just what visitors used to announce their arrival, it was a type of beard with a similar shape. And in the …

Skedaddle - 8 May 2017

May 8th, 2017

51:01

The months of September, October, November, and December take their names from Latin words meaning "seven," "eight," "nine," and "ten." So why don't their names correspond to where they fall in the year? The answer lies …

Pop Stand (Rebroadcast) - 1 May 2017

May 1st, 2017

51:01

When it comes to learning new things, what's on your bucket list? A retired book editor decided to try to learn Latin, and ended up learning a lot about herself. There's a word for someone who learns something late in …

Coast Is Clear - 24 April 2017

April 24th, 2017

51:01

In the military, if you've "lost the bubble," then you can't find your bearings. The term first referred to calibrating the position of aircraft and submarines. And the phrase "the coast is clear" may originate in …

Punch List (Rebroadcast) - 17 April 2017

April 17th, 2017

51:01

Books for sale, books for free, and wisdom passed down through the ages. Libraries aren't just repositories for books -- they're often a great place …

Sweet Dreams (Rebroadcast) - 10 April 2017

April 8th, 2017

51:01

In deafening workplaces, like sawmills and factories, workers develop their own elaborate sign language to discuss everything from how their weekend went to when the boss is on his way. Plus, English speakers borrowed …

Gone To Seed - 3 April 2017

April 3rd, 2017

51:01

Restaurant jargon, military slang, and modern Greek turns of phrase. Some restaurants now advertise that they sell "clean" sandwiches. But that doesn't mean they're condiment-free or the lettuce got an extra rinse. In …

Hell's Half Acre - 27 March 2017

March 27th, 2017

51:01

Hundreds of years ago, the word girl didn't necessarily mean a female child. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the term "girl" could refer to a child …

Steamed Bun - 20 March 2017

March 20th, 2017

51:01

This week on "A Way with Words”: The language we use to cover up our age, and covering up a secret message. Do you ever find yourself less-than-specific about your age? Listeners share some of their favorite phrases for …

Gangbusters (Rebroadcast) - 13 March 2017

March 13th, 2017

51:01

Sensuous words and terms of endearment. Think of a beautiful word. Now, is it simply the word's sound that makes it beautiful? Or does its appeal …

XYZ PDQ (Rebroadcast) - 6 March 2017

March 6th, 2017

51:01

How often do you hear the words campaign and political in the same breath? Oddly enough, 19th-century grammarians railed against using campaign to …

Hang a Ralph (Rebroadcast) - 27 February 2017

February 27th, 2017

51:01

The names of professional sports teams often have surprising histories -- like the baseball team name inspired by, of all things, trolley-car …

Charismatic Megafauna - 20 February 2017

February 20th, 2017

51:01

Choosing language that helps resolve interpersonal conflict. Sometimes a question is really just a veiled form of criticism. Understanding the …

Knuckle Down - 13 February 2017

February 13th, 2017

51:01

A wingnut is a handy, stabilizing piece of hardware. So why is it a pejorative term for those of a certain political persuasion? Also, is there …

Lie Like A Rug - 5 February 2017

February 6th, 2017

51:01

The words we choose can change attitudes--and change lives. A swing-dance instructor has switched to gender-neutral language when teaching couples. …

Pig Latin - 29 January 2017

January 30th, 2017

51:01

This week on "A Way with Words": Grant and Martha discuss the L-word--or two L-words, actually: liberal and libertarian. They reflect different …

You Bet Your Boots (Rebroadcast) - 23 January 2016

January 23rd, 2017

51:01

You may have heard the advice that to build your vocabulary you should read, read, and then read some more--and make sure to include a wide variety …

Pink Slip (Rebroadcast) - 16 January 2017

January 16th, 2017

52:19

This week on "A Way with Words": The language of political speech. Politicians have to repeat themselves so often that they naturally develop a …

Criss-Cross Applesauce (Rebroadcast) - 9 January 2016

January 9th, 2017

52:19

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" and …

Flee Fly Flo - 2016 December 31

January 2nd, 2017

52:19

SUMMARY

Wrapping up 2016 with words from the past year and some newsy limericks. Bigly and Brexit were on lots of lips this year, as well as an …

We've come a long way!

December 30th, 2016

1:28
 In 2007, the public media organization that created A Way with Words had a problem.

They loved our …

Whistle Pig (Rebroadcast) - 26 December 2016

December 26th, 2016

52:19

The stories behind slang, political and otherwise. The dated term "jingoism" denotes a kind of belligerent nationalism. But the word's roots lie in …

Copacetic (Rebroadcast) - 19 December 2016

December 19th, 2016

52:19

Brand names, children's games, and the etiquette of phone conversations. Those clever plastic PEZ dispensers come in all shapes and sizes -- but …

Whistle in the Dark - 12 December 2016

December 12th, 2016

51:14

Echoes of the Greatest Generation, and a tasty bite of history. The language and melodies of military marching songs can connect grown children with …

Chocolate Gravy - 5 December 2016

December 5th, 2016

51:14

Say you have an acquaintance you always see at the dog park or the playground. But one night, you run into them at the movies, and for a moment, it's confusing. Is there a word for that disorienting sense of someone or …

Mustard On It (Rebroadcast) - 28 November 2016

November 28th, 2016

51:14

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 …

Fickle Finger of Fate (#1459)

November 21st, 2016

51:14

Clean cursing for modern times, more about communicating after a brain injury, and 1970's TV lingo with roots in the Second World War. A young woman …

Stars and Garters - 14 November2016

November 14th, 2016

51:14

Novelist Charles Dickens created many unforgettable characters, but he's also responsible for coining or popularizing lots of words, like "flummox" …

Proof in the Pudding (Rebroadcast) - 7 November 2016

November 7th, 2016

51:14

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? Not …

Boss Of Me - 31 October 2016

October 31st, 2016

51:19

If you want to be a better writer, try skipping today's bestsellers, and read one from the 1930's instead. Or read something besides fiction in order to find your own metaphors and perspective. Plus, just because a …

Sunny Side Up - 24 October 2016

October 24th, 2016

51:14

Baseball has a language all its own: On the diamond, a snow cone isn't what you think it is, and Three Blind Mice has nothing to do with nursery rhymes. And how do you describe someone who works at home while employed …

Spur of the Moment - 17 October 2016

October 17th, 2016

51:19

A caller with a 25-year-old parrot wonders: How much language do birds really understand? Plus, Knock-knock. Who's there? Boo. Well . . .  you can …

Hell For Leather - 10 October 2016

October 10th, 2016

51:14

Victorian slang and a modern controversy over language and gender. In the early 1900's, a door-knocker wasn't just what visitors used to announce their arrival, it was a type of beard with a similar shape. And in the …

Busted Melon (Rebroadcast) - 3 October 2016

October 3rd, 2016

51:19

When writing textbooks about slavery, which words best reflect its cold, hard reality? Some historians are dropping the word "slave" in favor of …

Jump Steady (Rebroadcast) - 26 September 2016

September 26th, 2016

51:19

Secret codes, ciphers, and telegrams. It used to be that in order to transmit information during wartime, various industries encoded their messages letter by letter with an elaborate system--much like today's digital …

Scat Cat (Rebroadcast) - 19 September 2016

September 19th, 2016

51:19

The dilemma continues over how to spell dilemma! Grant and Martha try to suss out the backstory of why some people spell that word with an "n." A lot …

Tennessee Top Hat (Rebroadcast) - 12 September 2016

September 12th, 2016

51:19

It's hard enough to get a new word into the dictionary. But what happens when lawmakers get involved? New Jersey legislators passed a resolution as …

Beat The Band (Rebroadcast) - 5 September 2016

September 5th, 2016

51:19

This week on "A Way with Words": This week on "A Way with Words": Can language change bad behavior in crowded places? The Irish Railway system has launched ad campaign to encourage passengers to be more generous at …

Fighting Artichokes (Rebroadcast) - 29 August 2016

August 29th, 2016

51:13

What's in a mascot name? Maybe you're a fan of the Banana Slugs, or you cheer for the Winged Beavers. Perhaps your loyalty lies with the Fighting Artichokes. There are some strange names for sports team out there. But …

Burn Bag (Rebroadcast) - 22 August 2016

August 22nd, 2016

51:35

This week on "A Way with Words": Slang from the 19th century. The slang coming out of Victorian mouths was more colorful than you might think. A 1909 …

Bingo Fuel (Rebroadcast) - 15 August 2016

August 15th, 2016

51:26

This week on "A Way with Words": "If you come to a fork in the road . . . take it!" Baseball legend Yogi Berra was famous for such head-scratching observations.. What most people don't realize, though, is that the …

Spit Game (Rebroadcast) - 8 August 2016

August 8th, 2016

51:35

This week on "A Way with Words": People in ancient times could be just as bawdy and colorful as we are today. To prove it, we found some graffiti …

Pop Stand - 1 August 2016

August 1st, 2016

51:26

When it comes to learning new things, what's on your bucket list? A retired book editor decided to try to learn Latin, and ended up learning a lot about herself. There's a word for someone who learns something late in …

Punch List - 25 July 2016

July 25th, 2016

51:35

Books for sale, books for free, and wisdom passed down through the ages. Libraries aren't just repositories for books -- they're often a great place …

Shakespeare's Insults (Rebroadcast) - 18 July 2016

July 18th, 2016

51:35

If you don't have anything nice to say, say it like Shakespeare: Thou unhandsome smush-mouthed mush-rump! Thou obscene rug-headed hornbeast! The …

Pebble Picker (Rebroadcast) - 11 July 2016

July 11th, 2016

51:26

Right off the bat, it's easy to think of several everyday expressions that derive from America's pastime. Including right off the bat. The Dickson Baseball Dictionary catalogues not just those contributions but also …

There Once Was A Gal From (Rebroadcast) - 4 July 2016

July 4th, 2016

51:27

Ever try to write a well-known passage in limerick form? It's harder than you think. How about this one:  "There once was a lady who's sure / All …

Shiver Me Timbers (Rebroadcast) - 27 June 2016

June 27th, 2016

51:34

This week on "A Way with Words": Careful what you criticize! Not long ago, some words that sound perfectly normal today were considered gauche and …

Sweet Dreams - 20 June 2016

June 20th, 2016

51:34

In deafening workplaces, like sawmills and factories, workers develop their own elaborate sign language to discuss everything from how their weekend went to when the boss is on his way. Plus, English speakers borrowed …

How We Roll - 13 June 2016

June 13th, 2016

51:35

If you're serious about writing a memoir, what topics should you include, and what can you leave out? And how honest can you really be about the …

Hector's Pup (Rebroadcast) - 6 June 2016

June 6th, 2016

51:34

This week on "A Way with Words": Sharing a secret language. Did you ever speak in gibberish with a childhood pal, adding extra syllables to words so …

Gangbusters - 30 May 2016

May 30th, 2016

51:34

Sensuous words and terms of endearment. Think of a beautiful word. Now, is it simply the word's sound that makes it beautiful? Or does its appeal …

XYZ PDQ - 23 May 2016

May 18th, 2016

51:34

How often do you hear the words campaign and political in the same breath? Oddly enough, 19th-century grammarians railed against using campaign to …

Hang a Ralph - 16 May 2016

May 16th, 2016

51:34

The names of professional sports teams often have surprising histories -- like the baseball team name inspired by, of all things, trolley-car …

You Bet Your Boots - 9 May 2016

May 9th, 2016

51:34

You may have heard the advice that to build your vocabulary you should read, read, and then read some more--and make sure to include a wide variety …

Eat The Grindstone (Rebroadcast) - 2 May 2016

May 2nd, 2016

51:34

The books we love as children may influence our careers more than we realize. As a child, Martha was fascinated with stories of cracking codes, and Grant loved books with glossaries--not that far from the kind of work …

Pickle Seeder (Rebroadcast) - 25 April 2016

April 25th, 2016

51:34

This week on "A Way with Words": Constructing imaginary languages and deconstructing the lingo of Hollywood. For example, would you rather live in a …

Green Eyed Monster (Rebroadcast) - 18 April 2016

April 18th, 2016

51:10

This week on "A Way with Words": We often hear that English is going to hell in a handbasket. Actually, though, linguistic handwringing about sinking standards and sloppy speech has been going on for centuries--at least …

Pink Slip - 11 April 2016

April 11th, 2016

51:35

This week on "A Way with Words": The language of political speech. Politicians have to repeat themselves so often that they naturally develop a …

Criss Cross Applesauce - 4 April 2016

April 4th, 2016

51:09

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" and …

Whistle Pig - 28 March 2016

March 28th, 2016

51:11

The stories behind slang, political and otherwise. The dated term "jingoism" denotes a kind of belligerent nationalism. But the word's roots lie in …

Idiom's Delight (Rebroadcast) - 21 March 2016

March 21st, 2016

51:10

This week on "A Way with Words": What's in a name? A recent study found that some names crop up more frequently than others in certain professions. The name William is especially common among attorneys--and graphic …

Blind Tiger (Rebroadcast) - 14 March 2016

March 14th, 2016

51:09

This week on "A Way with Words": The best way to read poetry. When you pick up a book of poems, how many do you read in one sitting? Some people devour several in a row, while others savor them much more slowly. Plus, …

Whistle Britches (Rebroadcast) - 7 March 2016

March 7th, 2016

51:11

This week on "A Way with Words: Writers and where they do their best creative work.  A new book on Geoffrey Chaucer describes the dark, noisy, smelly room where he wrote his early work. Which raises the question: What …

Copacetic - 29 February 2016

February 29th, 2016

51:11

Brand names, children's games, and the etiquette of phone conversations. Those clever plastic PEZ dispensers come in all shapes and sizes -- but …

Mustard on It - 22 February 2016

February 22nd, 2016

51:12

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 …

Proof in the Pudding - 15 February 2016

February 15th, 2016

51:10

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? Not …

Hot Mess - 8 February 2016

February 8th, 2016

51:11

Sneaky contract lingo, advice for writing well, and preserving a dying language. Say you’re scrolling through an online transaction where you're …

Noon Balloon to Rangoon (Rebroadcast) - 1 February 2016

February 1st, 2016

51:09

This week on "A Way with Words," tricks and tips for writers: Is there a word you keep having to look up in the dictionary, no matter how many times you've looked it up before? Maybe it's time for a mnemonic device. …

Catch My Fade (Rebroadcast) - 25 January 2016

January 25th, 2016

51:09

This week on "A Way with Words," reaching out in the digital age: If you're sending out party invitations, what's a sure-fire way to get hold of …

Buckle Down (Rebroadcast) - 18 January 2016

January 18th, 2016

51:11

This week on "A Way with Words": 'Tis the season for book recommendations! Martha's enjoying an armchair tour of important places in the history of our language, and Grant recommends relaxing with books that make great …

Curse of Knowledge (Rebroadcast) - 11 January 2016

January 11th, 2016

51:10

This week on "A Way with Words," it's all about terms of endearment: If your loved one is far away for a long time, you're probably tired of just saying "I miss you" over and over. For variety's sake, there are some …

An Ear For Wine (Rebroadcast) - 4 January 2016

January 4th, 2016

51:10

This week on "A Way with Words": Creative communication in a noisy world! Writing a clever 140-character tweet isn't easy. But you know what's even more impressive? Working all 26 letters of the alphabet into just one …

Electric Hootenanny (Rebroadcast) - 28 December 2015

December 28th, 2015

51:11

Bathroom walls, missing graffiti, and social media. Where have all the cute quips on bathroom stalls gone?  We wonder about the apparent decline of restroom graffiti. Are people saving their witticisms for Twitter and …

Do Me a Solid (Rebroadcast) - 21 December 2015

December 21st, 2015

51:09

This week on "A Way with Words": What's in YOUR spice rack? Say you're cooking up a pot of chili, and you need to add more of that warm, earthy, powdered spice. Do you reach for a bottle of KOO-min? KYOO-min? Or are you …

Wolf Whistle - 14 December 2015

December 14th, 2015

51:10

Gifts for book lovers. Martha recommends one for lovers of libraries and another for students of Spanish. Grant suggests some enchanting novels for young readers. When it comes to books, though, you can't always judge …

Busted Melon - 7 December 2015

December 7th, 2015

51:10

When writing textbooks about slavery, which words best reflect its cold, hard reality? Some historians are dropping the word "slave" in favor of …

Hell's Bells (Rebroadcast) - 30 November 2015

November 30th, 2015

51:09

This week on A Way with Words: The language of restaurant menus. Need a dictionary to get through a dinner menu? Research shows the longer the …

Jump Steady - 23 November 2015

November 23rd, 2015

51:11

Secret codes, ciphers, and telegrams. It used to be that in order to transmit information during wartime, various industries encoded their messages letter by letter with an elaborate system--much like today's digital …

I'll Be Sheep-Dipped (Rebroadcast) - 16 November 2015

November 16th, 2015

51:10

What a difference pronunciation makes! The United States has a Department of Defense, and an individual might take classes in self-defense. So why do football and basketball coaches say they're proud of their . . . …

Fat Buttery Words (Rebroadcast) - 9 November 2015

November 9th, 2015

51:11

This week on "A Way with Words": Teaching our children, and some advice for writers. Suppose your child is eager to tackle a difficult …

Month of Sundays (Rebroadcast) - 2 November 2015

November 2nd, 2015

51:10

This week on "A Way with Words": Modern language with very old origins. If you're on tenterhooks, it means you're in a state of anxious anticipation …

Scat Cat - 26 October 2015

October 26th, 2015

51:09

The dilemma continues over how to spell dilemma! Grant and Martha try to suss out the backstory of why some people spell that word with an "n." At …

Tennessee Top Hat - 19 October 2015

October 19th, 2015

51:11

It's hard enough to get a new word into the dictionary. But what happens when lawmakers get involved? New Jersey legislators passed a resolution as …

Beat the Band - 12 October 2015

October 12th, 2015

51:09

This week on "A Way with Words": Can language change bad behavior in crowded places? The Irish Railway system has launched ad campaign to encourage passengers to be more generous at boarding time. For example, have you …

Fighting Artichokes - 5 October 2015

October 5th, 2015

51:11

What's in a mascot name? Maybe you're a fan of the Banana Slugs, or you cheer for the Winged Beavers. Perhaps your loyalty lies with the Fighting Artichokes. There are some strange names for sports team out there. But …

Burn Bag - 28 September 2015

September 28th, 2015

51:09

This week on "A Way with Words": Slang from the 19th century. The slang coming out of Victorian mouths was more colorful than you might think. A 1909 …

Lord Love a Duck (Rebroadcast) - 21 September 2015

September 21st, 2015

51:10

This week on "A Way with Words": Someone should write a love letter to a new book called "Letters of Note." It's a splendid collection of all kinds …

Pumpkin Floater (Rebroadcast) - 14 September 2015

September 14th, 2015

51:10

This week on "A Way with Words": Your telephone is for talking, right? Or is it? We're guessing it's been a while since you sat next to a telephone waiting for it to ring. In fact, maybe you're one of those people who …

Upstairs Basement (Rebroadcast) - 7 September 2015

September 7th, 2015

51:10

This week on "A Way with Words": Giving your baby an unusual moniker may seem like a great idea at the time. But what if you have second thoughts? One mother of a newborn had such bad namer's remorse, she poured out her …

Hang a Salami (Rebroadcast) - 31 August 2015

August 31st, 2015

51:09

This week on "A Way with Words":  What's so special about the phrase Sit on a pan, Otis!? It's an example of a palindrome -- a word or phrase that's spelled the same backwards as it is forwards. This year's contest …

Hard Words Are Hard (Rebroadcast) - 24 August 2015

August 24th, 2015

51:09

This week on "A Way with Words": The SAT is changing things up, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Just because words like membranous are no longer in the verbal section doesn't mean kids aren't learning important …

Brown as a Berry (Rebroadcast) - 17 August 2015

August 17th, 2015

51:10

It used to be that you called any mixed-breed dog a mutt. But at today's dog parks, you're just as likely to run into schnugs, bassadors, and dalmadoodles. Also, if someone has a suntan, you might say he's brown as a …

Keep Your Pants On (Rebroadcast) - 10 August 2015

August 10th, 2015

51:10

This week on "A Way with Words": If everyone on the planet spoke a single language, wouldn't that make life a whole lot easier? For that matter, is a …

Springtime Twitterpation (Rebroadcast) - 3 August 2015

August 3rd, 2015

51:10

Springtime is the right time to feel twitterpated—you know, you're smitten beyond a crush. Speaking of relationships, are dog owners really owners, …

Dust Bunnies (Rebroadcast) - 27 July 2015

July 27th, 2015

51:10

This week on "A Way with Words": Is it cheating to say you've read a book if you only listened to it on tape? Over the centuries, the way we think about reading has changed a lot. There was a time, for example, when …

Sound of a Kiss (Rebroadcast) - 20 July 2015

July 20th, 2015

51:12

This week on "A Way with Words": You're at a social gathering and meet someone you'd like to know better. What do you ask to get a real conversation going? Some people lead with "What do you do?," while others avoid …

Bingo Fuel - 13 July 2015

July 13th, 2015

51:10

This week on "A Way with Words": "If you come to a fork in the road . . . take it!" Baseball legend Yogi Berra was famous for such head-scratching observations.. What most people don't realize, though, is that the …

Feeling Gruntled (Rebroadcast) - 6 July 2015

July 6th, 2015

51:11

Hyperbolic Headlines Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity!!!! Or maybe not. You've seen those breathless headlines on the internet, like "You Won't …

Spit Game - 29 June 2015

June 29th, 2015

51:10

This week on "A Way with Words": People in ancient times could be just as bawdy and colorful as we are today. To prove it, we found some graffiti …

By the Seat of Your Pants (Rebroadcast) - 22 June 2015

June 22nd, 2015

51:10

Dude! We're used to hearing the word "dude" applied to guys. But increasingly, young women use the word "dude" to address each other. Grant and Martha talk about linguistic research about the meaning and uses of "dude." …

How America Talks (Rebroadcast) - 15 June 2015

June 15th, 2015

51:09

For language lovers, it's like New Year's, Fourth of July, and the Super Bowl all rolled into one: The brand-new online edition of the Dictionary of …

Thrown for a Loop (Rebroadcast) - 8 June 2015

June 8th, 2015

51:11

We all lead busy lives--so are speed reading courses a good idea? Plus, if you hear someone speaking with a British accent, do you tend to assume they're somehow more intelligent? And some common English surnames tell …

Shakespeare's Insults - 1 June 2015

June 1st, 2015

51:12

If you don't have anything nice to say, say it like Shakespeare: Thou unhandsome smush-mouthed mush-rump! Thou obscene rug-headed hornbeast! The …

Not Quite A Boyfriend (Rebroadcast) - 25 May 2015

May 25th, 2015

51:09

If an older man and woman spend lots of time together, going to family gatherings and the like, but they're NOT dating, what do you call their …

Pebble Picker

May 18th, 2015

51:10

Right off the bat, it's easy to think of several everyday expressions that derive from America's pastime. Including right off the bat. The Dickson Baseball Dictionary catalogues not just those contributions but also …

There Once Was A Gal From - 11 May 2015

May 11th, 2015

51:10

Ever try to write a well-known passage in limerick form? It's harder than you think. How about this one:  "There once was a lady who's sure / All …

Wet Brick (Rebroadcast) - 4 May 2015

May 4th, 2015

51:11

What the fox says may be a mystery, but we do know that dogs bark differently around the world. In China, for example, they say not bow-wow but wang wang.  Also, the story behind the British tradition of scrumping. It's …

Catbird Seat (Rebroadcast) - 27 April 2015

April 27th, 2015

51:09

Online recaps of Mad Men or Breaking Bad can be as much fun as the shows themselves. So why not recap classic literature -- like, say, Dante's Inferno? A literary website is doing just that. And, you've heard about the …

Shiver Me Timbers - 20 April 2015

April 20th, 2015

51:12

This week on "A Way with Words": Careful what you criticize! Not long ago, some words that sound perfectly normal today were considered gauche and …

Hector's Pup - 13 April 2015

April 13th, 2015

51:09

This week on "A Way with Words": Sharing a secret language. Did you ever speak in gibberish with a childhood pal, adding extra syllables to words so …

Jumped Up Bald-Headed (Rebroadcast) - 6 April 2015

April 6th, 2015

51:11

What do your pronouns say about your own psychological makeup? If you use the word I a lot, does it mean you're a leader . . . or a follower? A …

I'll Be Your Boo (Rebroadcast) - 30 March 2015

March 30th, 2015

51:09

This week on "A Way with Words":  It's the language of Wisconsin: If you're nibbling on slippery Jims or sipping sweet soup, chances are you're in …

Eat the Grindstone - 23 March 2015

March 23rd, 2015

51:10

The books we love as children may influence our careers more than we realize. As a child, Martha was fascinated with stories of cracking codes, and Grant loved books with glossaries--not that far from the kind of work …

Pickle Seeder - 16 March 2015

March 16th, 2015

51:12

This week on "A Way with Words": Constructing imaginary languages and deconstructing the lingo of Hollywood. For example, would you rather live in a …

Green Eyed Monster - 9 March 2015

March 9th, 2015

51:10

This week on "A Way with Words": We often hear that English is going to hell in a handbasket. Actually, though, linguistic handwringing about sinking standards and sloppy speech has been going on for centuries--at least …

Blind Tiger - 2 March 2015

March 2nd, 2015

51:09

This week on "A Way with Words": The best way to read poetry. When you pick up a book of poems, how many do you read in one sitting? Some people devour several in a row, while others savor them much more slowly. Plus, …

Idiom's Delight - 23 February 2015

February 23rd, 2015

51:10

This week on "A Way with Words": What's in a name? A recent study found that some names crop up more frequently than others in certain professions. The name William is especially common among attorneys--and graphic …

Whistle Britches - 16 February 2015

February 16th, 2015

51:11

This week on "A Way with Words: Writers and where they do their best creative work.  A new book on Geoffrey Chaucer describes the dark, noisy, smelly room where he wrote his early work. Which raises the question: What …

Noon Balloon to Rangoon - 9 February 2015

February 9th, 2015

51:09

This week on "A Way with Words," tricks and tips for writers: Is there a word you keep having to look up in the dictionary, no matter how many times you've looked it up before? Maybe it's time for a mnemonic device. …

Above Your Raisin - 2 February 2015

February 2nd, 2015

51:09

This week on "A Way with Words," slang online and jargon in the workplace: There's a new kind of hamburger menu that involves pixels, not pickles. …

Monkey's Wedding (Rebroadcast) - 26 January 2015

January 30th, 2015

51:11

It's the art of constructive feedback: If you're a teacher with a mountain of papers to grade, you may find yourself puzzling over which kinds of notes in the margins work best. Martha and Grant discuss strategies for …

Writerly Insults (Rebroadcast) - 19 January 2015

January 19th, 2015

51:21

A query letter from SlushPile Hell, the blog of a curmudgeonly literary agent, reads, "Have you ever wished you had represented the author of the …

Mr. Can't Died (Rebroadcast) - 12 January 2015

January 12th, 2015

51:21

This week on "A Way with Words": You pick up what you think a glass of water and take a sip, but it turns out to be Sprite. What's the word for that sensation when you're expecting one thing and taste something else? …

Drop A Dime (Rebroadcast) - 5 January 2015

January 5th, 2015

51:21

This week on "A Way with Words": Why call it a doggy bag when it's really for your husband? This week on "A Way with Words": Why call it a doggy bag when it's really for your husband? Grant and Martha talk about the …

That Old-Book Smell (Rebroadcast) - 29 December 2014

December 29th, 2014

51:37

This week on "A Way with Words": You walk into a used bookstore, or pull down an old volume at the library, and there it is: The smell of old books. …

Catch My Fade - 22 December 2014

December 22nd, 2014

51:37

This week on "A Way with Words," reaching out in the digital age: If you're sending out party invitations, what's a sure-fire way to get hold of …

An Urgent Need from A Way with Words

December 21st, 2014

1:10

Give Now! http://waywordradio.org/donate

 

Dear friends and listeners, 

As we near the end of our biggest year yet, we must raise $75,000 to cover the remainder of this season. We need your help to reach that amount …

Buckle Down - 15 December 2014

December 15th, 2014

51:39

This week on "A Way with Words": It's time for book recommendations! Martha's enjoying an armchair tour of important places in the history of our language, and Grant recommends relaxing with books that make great …

Curse of Knowledge

December 8th, 2014

51:39

This week on "A Way with Words," it's all about terms of endearment: If your loved one is far away for a long time, you're probably tired of just saying "I miss you" over and over. For variety's sake, there are some …

Polyglot Problems (Rebroadcast) - 1 December 2014

December 1st, 2014

51:39

This week on "A Way with Words": Say you're in line at the drugstore. Does it bother you if the cashier says, "Next guest"? In department stores and coffeeshops, does the term "guest" suggest real hospitality -- or just …

Ride the Merry Go Round (Rebroadcast) - 24 November 2014

November 24th, 2014

51:38

A pint-sized mad scientist, a green-haired girl with a contagious sense of wonder, and a 10-year-old detective. They're all characters in the books …

Bouncy House of Language (Rebroadcast) - 17 November 2014

November 17th, 2014

51:40

Some people proudly embrace the label cancer survivor, while others feel that's not quite the right word. Is there a better term for someone who's battled cancer? Writers and listeners share the best sentence they've …

An Ear For Wine - 10 November 2014

November 10th, 2014

51:40

This week on "A Way with Words": Creative communication in a noisy world! Writing a clever 140-character tweet isn't easy. But you know what's even more impressive? Working all 26 letters of the alphabet into just one …

Electric Hootenanny - 3 November 2014

November 3rd, 2014

51:40

Bathroom walls, missing graffiti, and social media. Where have all the cute quips on bathroom stalls gone?  We wonder about the apparent decline of restroom graffiti. Are people saving their witticisms for Twitter and …

Do Me a Solid - 27 October 2014

October 27th, 2014

51:40

This week on "A Way with Words": What's in YOUR spice rack? Say you're cooking up a pot of chili, and you need to add more of that warm, earthy, powdered spice. Do you reach for a bottle of KOO-min? KYOO-min? Or are you …

Hell's Bells - 20 October 2014

October 20th, 2014

51:40

This week on A Way with Words: The language of restaurant menus. Need a dictionary to get through a dinner menu? Research shows the longer the …

I'll Be Sheep Dipped - 13 October 2014

October 13th, 2014

51:40

What a difference pronunciation makes! The United States has a Department of Defense, and an individual might take classes in self-defense. So why do football and basketball coaches say they're proud of their . . . …

Fat Buttery Words - 6 October 2014

October 5th, 2014

51:40

This week on "A Way with Words": Teaching our children, and some advice for writers. Suppose your child is eager to tackle a difficult …

Month of Sundays - 29 September 2014

September 22nd, 2014

51:40

This week on "A Way with Words": Modern language with very old origins. If you're on tenterhooks, it means you're in a state of anxious anticipation …

On The Shoe Phone (Rebroadcast) - 22 September 2014

September 22nd, 2014

51:40

First names like "Patience," "Hope," and "Charity" are inspired by worthy qualities. But how about "Be-courteous" or "Hate-evil"? The Puritans …

Got Your Six (Rebroadcast) - 15 September 2014

September 14th, 2014

51:40

Starting this year, Scripps National Spelling Bee contestants not only have to spell words correctly. A controversial new rule means they'll have to …

A Hole to China (Rebroadcast) - 8 September 2014

September 8th, 2014

51:40

Have a question about objective pronouns? Whom ya gonna call? Wait--is that right? Or would it be "who ya gonna call"? "Whom" may be technically …

Whistling Dixie (Rebroadcast) - 1 September 2014

September 1st, 2014

51:40

SUMMARY

 

Today's most popular dog names are Max and Bella. In the Middle Ages, though, dogs would answer to names like Amiable. Or Nosewise. Or even …

Gnarly Foot (Rebroadcast) - 25 August 2014

August 24th, 2014

51:40

It's the Up Goer Five Challenge! Try to describe something complex using only the thousand most common words in English. It's a useful mental …

Bump and Grind (Rebroadcast) - 18 August 2014

August 18th, 2014

51:40

Remember a few years ago when Amazon introduced that mysterious device called a Kindle? People worried that electronic readers would replace …

Gracious Plenty (Rebroadcast) - 11 August 2014

August 11th, 2014

51:40

When somebody sneezes, you say, Bless you or Gesundheit. But suppose that person coughs. Are you supposed to say something--or are they?  Plus, Mexican standoffs, gracious plenty, linguistic false friends, southpaw vs. …

Cute As a Button (Rebroadcast) - 3 August 2014

August 3rd, 2014

51:40

Did you ever wonder why we capitalize the pronoun "I," but not any other pronoun? There's a reason, and it may not be what you think. Also, the romantic story behind our term "halcyon days," the origin of the phrase …

South End of a Chicken (Rebroadcast) - 28 July 2014

July 28th, 2014

51:40

Are your nightstand books all over the place? Why not stack 'em into a bookmash? A bookmash is a kind of found poetry formed from book titles! And we …

Little Pitchers (Rebroadcast) - 21 July 2014

July 20th, 2014

51:40

Can reading poetry make you a better writer? Grant and Martha discuss how reading poetry improves your prose. Also, how linguists guess where you come from based on how you speak. And what do you call someone who picks …

Kissed Her on the Stairs (Rebroadcast) - 14 July 2014

July 13th, 2014

51:40

SUMMARY

Do Americans use the same sign language as the Brits? And what do Japanese people use instead of "umm?" Grant and Martha cover language shifts …

A Dancer Who Walks for a Living (Rebroadcast) - 7 July 2014

July 6th, 2014

51:40

You dream of writing the great American novel, but to make ends meet, you spend your days writing boring corporate reports. There's a difference between writing for love and writing for a living—or is there? And does a …

Lord Love a Duck - 30 June 2014

June 29th, 2014

51:40

This week on "A Way with Words": Someone should write a love letter to a new book called "Letters of Note." It's a splendid collection of all kinds …

Now You're Cooking with Gas - 23 June 2014

June 23rd, 2014

51:40

This week on "A Way with Words": Some of us can't go anywhere without a book or something to read. And one fast food joint hears you: Chipotle is now printing the work of famous writers on their paper cups. Speaking of …

Pumpkin Floater - 16 June 2014

June 15th, 2014

51:40

This week on "A Way with Words": Your telephone is for talking, right? Or is it? We're guessing it's been a while since you sat next to a telephone waiting for it to ring. In fact, maybe you're one of those people who …

Upstairs Basement - 9 June 2014

June 9th, 2014

51:40

This week on "A Way with Words": Giving your baby an unusual moniker may seem like a great idea at the time. But what if you have second thoughts? One mother of a newborn had such bad namer's remorse, she poured out her …

Make a Train Take a Dirt Road (Rebroadcast) - 2 June 2014

June 1st, 2014

51:40

Remember the classic films Dogumentary and $3000? Those were their working titles, before they became Best In Show and Pretty Woman. We look at how …

The One Who Brung You (Rebroadcast) - 26 May 2014

May 26th, 2014

51:40

You've been reading a book but you're just not into it. How do you quit it, guilt-free? How do you break up with a book? Also, what do you ask for when you go through the grocery checkout line: bag, sack, or something …

Fake English (Rebroadcast) - 19 May 2014

May 14th, 2014

51:25

Everyone knows you don't start a sentence with "But." But why? We sort out the confusion over this little word. Also, how voice recognition …

Hang a Salami - 12 May 2014

May 12th, 2014

51:25

This week on "A Way with Words":  What's so special about the phrase Sit on a pan, Otis!? It's an example of a palindrome -- a word or phrase that's spelled the same backwards as it is forwards. This year's contest …

Hard Words Are Hard - 5 May 2014

May 4th, 2014

51:25

This week on "A Way with Words": The SAT is changing things up, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Just because words like membranous are no longer in the verbal section doesn't mean kids aren't learning important …

Brown As a Berry - 28 April 2014

April 27th, 2014

51:25

It used to be that you called any mixed-breed dog a mutt. But at today's dog parks, you're just as likely to run into schnugs, bassadors, and dalmadoodles. Also, if someone has a suntan, you might say he's brown as a …

Can of Worms (Rebroadcast) - 21 April 2014

April 20th, 2014

51:25

What do you call a guy with a bald pate? A chrome dome? Maybe the lucky fellow is sporting a solar panel for a sex machine. Also, which would you …

Nothing to Sneeze At - 14 April 2014

April 13th, 2014

51:25

This week, forensic linguists use what they know about speech and writing to testify in courtrooms. And get out your hankies! Martha and Grant are talking about the language of … sneezing. And what do you call it when …

Keep Your Pants On - 7 April 2014

April 6th, 2014

51:25

This week on "A Way with Words": If everyone on the planet spoke a single language, wouldn't that make life a whole lot easier? For that matter, is a …

Springtime Twitterpation - 31 March 2014

March 31st, 2014

51:25

Springtime is the right time to feel twitterpated—you know, you're smitten beyond a crush. Speaking of relationships, are dog owners really owners, …

Dust Bunnies - 24 March 2014

March 24th, 2014

51:25

This week on "A Way with Words": Is it cheating to say you've read a book if you only listened to it on tape? Over the centuries, the way we think about reading has changed a lot.There was a time, for example, when …

Sound of a Kiss - 17 March 2014

March 17th, 2014

51:25

This week on "A Way with Words": You're at a social gathering and meet someone you'd like to know better. What do you ask to get a real conversation going? Some people lead with "What do you do?," while others avoid …

Blow a Gasket - 10 March 2014

March 10th, 2014

51:25

The Pope is tweeting in Latin! But can an ancient language adapt to a world of selfies and hashtags? Speaking of the future, cars are now talking to …

Dog-and-Pony Show (Rebroadcast) - 3 March 2014

March 2nd, 2014

51:25

Remember getting caught sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G? Grant and Martha wax nostalgic on some classic schoolyard rhymes. What do you call your …

Good Juju (Rebroadcast) - 24 February 2014

February 24th, 2014

51:25

Imagine a time when heroin was marketed for the whole family. It really happened. Also, how Twitter, M&M's, and Hallmark cards got their names. …

Feeling Gruntled - 17 February 2014

February 17th, 2014

51:25

Hyperbolic Headlines Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity!!!! Or maybe not. You've seen those breathless headlines on the internet, like "You Won't …

The Big Cheese - 10 February 2014

February 9th, 2014

51:25

Is it time to replace the expression "the mentally ill"? Some argue that it's is stigmatizing and doesn't reflect the diversity of the human condition. And why do we say "put on your shoes and socks"? After all, it's …

By the Seat of Your Pants - 3 February 2014

February 2nd, 2014

51:25

Dude! We're used to hearing the word "dude" applied to guys. But increasingly, young women use the word "dude" to address each other. Grant and Martha talk about linguistic research about the meaning and uses of "dude." …

How America Talks - 27 January 2014

January 26th, 2014

51:25

For language lovers, it's like New Year's, Fourth of July, and the Super Bowl all rolled into one: The brand-new online edition of the Dictionary of …

Polyglot Problems (Rebroadcast) - 20 January 2014

January 20th, 2014

51:25

This week on "A Way with Words": Say you're in line at the drugstore. Does it bother you if the cashier says, "Next guest"? In department stores and coffeeshops, does the term "guest" suggest real hospitality -- or just …

Ride the Merry-Go-Round (Rebroadcast) - 13 January 2014

January 13th, 2014

51:25

A pint-sized mad scientist, a green-haired girl with a contagious sense of wonder, and a 10-year-old detective. They're all characters in the books …

Bouncy House of Language (Rebroadcast) - 6 January 2014

January 6th, 2014

51:25

SUMMARY

Some people proudly embrace the label cancer survivor, while others feel that's not quite the right word. Is there a better term for someone who's battled cancer? Writers and listeners share the best sentence …

On the Shoe Phone (Rebroadcast) - 30 December 2013

December 30th, 2013

51:46

First names like "Patience," "Hope," and "Charity" are inspired by worthy qualities. But how about "Be-courteous" or "Hate-evil"? The Puritans …

Thrown for a Loop - 23 December 2013

December 22nd, 2013

51:56

We all lead busy lives--so are speed reading courses a good idea? Plus, if you hear someone speaking with a British accent, do you tend to assume they're somehow more intelligent? And some common English surnames tell …

Sexy Prunes - 16 December 2013

December 15th, 2013

51:25

You're in a business meeting. Is it bad manners to take out phone to send or read a text? A new study suggests that how you feel about mid-meeting texting differs depending on your age and sex. Grant and Martha offer …

Not Quite a Boyfriend - 9 December 2013

December 9th, 2013

51:25

If an older man and woman spend lots of time together, going to family gatherings and the like, but they're NOT dating, what do you call their …

Got Your Six (Rebroadcast) - 2 December 2013

December 2nd, 2013

51:25

Starting this year, Scripps National Spelling Bee contestants not only have to spell words correctly. A controversial new rule means they'll have to …

Wet Brick - 25 November 2013

November 24th, 2013

51:25

What the fox says may be a mystery, but we do know that dogs bark differently around the world. In China, for example, they say not bow-wow but wang wang.  Also, the story behind the British tradition of scrumping. It's …

Catbird Seat - 18 November 2013

November 17th, 2013

51:25

Online recaps of Mad Men or Breaking Bad can be as much fun as the shows themselves. So why not recap classic literature -- like, say, Dante's Inferno? A literary website is doing just that. And, you've heard about the …

Jumped Up Bald-Headed - 11 November 2013

November 11th, 2013

51:25

What do your pronouns say about your own psychological makeup? If you use the word I a lot, does it mean you're a leader . . . or a follower? A …

I'll Be Your Boo - 4 November 2013

November 3rd, 2013

51:25

This week on "A Way with Words":  It's the language of Wisconsin: If you're nibbling on slippery Jims or sipping sweet soup, chances are you're in …

Monkey's Wedding - 28 October 2013

October 28th, 2013

51:25

It's the art of constructive feedback: If you're a teacher with a mountain of papers to grade, you may find yourself puzzling over which kinds of notes in the margins work best. Martha and Grant discuss strategies for …

Writerly Insults - 21 October 2013

October 20th, 2013

51:25

This week on "A Way with Words": Sure, it's scary to send your writing to a literary agent. But pity the poor agent who must wade through hundreds of terrible query letters a week! One of them shares excerpts from those …

Mr. Can't Died - 14 October 2013

October 14th, 2013

51:25

This week on "A Way with Words": You pick up what you think a glass of water and take a sip, but it turns out to be Sprite. What's the word for that sensation when you're expecting one thing and taste something else? …

Drop a Dime - 7 October 2013

October 6th, 2013

51:25

This week on "A Way with Words": Why call it a doggy bag when it's really for your husband? This week on "A Way with Words": Why call it a doggy bag when it's really for your husband? Grant and Martha talk about the …

That Old-Book Smell - 30 September 2013

September 29th, 2013

51:25

This week on "A Way with Words": You walk into a used bookstore, or pull down an old volume at the library, and there it is: The smell of old books. …

A Hole to China (Rebroadcast) - 23 September 2013

September 22nd, 2013

51:25

Have a question about objective pronouns? Whom ya gonna call? Wait--is that right? Or would it be "who ya gonna call"? "Whom" may be technically …

Whistling Dixie (Rebroadcast) - 16 September 2013

September 16th, 2013

51:25

Today's most popular dog names are Max and Bella.  In the Middle Ages, though, dogs would answer to names like Amiable. Or Nosewise. Or even . . . …

Gnarly Foot (Rebroadcast) - 9 September 2013

September 8th, 2013

51:25

It's the Up Goer Five Challenge! Try to describe something complex using only the thousand most common words in English. It's a useful mental …

Bump and Grind (Rebroadcast) - 2 September 2013

September 1st, 2013

51:25

Remember a few years ago when Amazon introduced that mysterious device called a Kindle? People worried that electronic readers would replace …

Gracious Plenty (Rebroadcast) - 26 August 2013

August 26th, 2013

51:25

When somebody sneezes, you say, Bless you or Gesundheit. But suppose that person coughs. Are you supposed to say something--or are they?  Plus, Mexican standoffs, gracious plenty, linguistic false friends, southpaw vs. …

Cute As a Button (Rebroadcast) - 19 August 2013

August 19th, 2013

51:25

Did you ever wonder why we capitalize the pronoun "I," but not any other pronoun? There's a reason, and it may not be what you think. Also, the romantic story behind our term "halcyon days," the origin of the phrase …

South End of a Chicken (Rebroadcast) - 12 August 2013

August 11th, 2013

51:25

Are your nightstand books all over the place? Why not stack 'em into a bookmash? A bookmash is a kind of found poetry formed from book titles! And we …

Pie in the Sky (Rebroadcast) August 3, 2013

August 5th, 2013

51:26

Looking for a book to read with the kids, or maybe a guide to becoming a better writer? Why are leg cramps called charley horses? And where’d we get a phrase like pie in the sky? If you happen to be tall, you’ve no …

Little Pitchers (Rebroadcast) - 29 July 2013

July 28th, 2013

51:41

Can reading poetry make you a better writer? Grant and Martha discuss how reading poetry improves your prose. Also, how linguists guess where you come from based on how you speak. And what do you call someone who picks …

Kissed Her on the Stairs (Rebroadcast) - 22 July 2013

July 22nd, 2013

51:32

Do Americans use the same sign language as the Brits? And what do Japanese people use instead of "umm?" Grant and Martha cover language shifts across …

A Dancer Who Walks for a Living (Rebroadcast) - 15 July 2013

July 14th, 2013

51:19

You dream of writing the great American novel, but to make ends meet, you spend your days writing boring corporate reports. There's a difference between writing for love and writing for a living—or is there? And does a …

Make a Train Take a Dirt Road (Rebroadcast) - 8 July 2013

July 5th, 2013

51:25

Would some Hollywood classics still have been box-office hits if they'd stuck with their original names? Take Anhedonia, which later became Annie …

Polyglot Problems - 1 July 2013

June 24th, 2013

51:25

This week on "A Way with Words": Say you're in line at the drugstore. Does it bother you if the cashier says, "Next guest"? In department stores and coffeeshops, does the term "guest" suggest real hospitality -- or just …

Ride the Merry-Go-Round - 24 June 2013

June 23rd, 2013

51:25

A pint-sized mad scientist, a green-haired girl with a contagious sense of wonder, and a 10-year-old detective. They're all characters in the books …

Bouncy House of Language - 17 June 2013

June 16th, 2013

51:25

Some people proudly embrace the label cancer survivor, while others feel that's not quite the right word. Is there a better term for someone who's battled cancer? Writers and listeners share the best sentence they've …

The One Who Brung You (Rebroadcast) - 10 June 2013

June 9th, 2013

51:25

You've been reading a book but you're just not into it. How do you quit it, guilt-free? How do you break up with a book? Also, what do you ask for when you go through the grocery checkout line: bag, sack, or something …

On the Shoe Phone - 3 June 2013

June 2nd, 2013

51:25

First names like "Patience," "Hope," and "Charity" are inspired by worthy qualities. But how about "Be-courteous" or "Hate-evil"? The Puritans …

Fake English (Rebroadcast) - 27 May 2013

May 26th, 2013

51:25

Everyone knows you don't start a sentence with "But." But why? We sort out the confusion over this little word. Also, how voice recognition …

Can of Worms (Rebroadcast) - 20 May 2013

May 19th, 2013

51:26

What do you call a guy with a bald pate? A chrome dome? Maybe the lucky fellow is sporting a solar panel for a sex machine. Also, which would you …

Got Your Six - 13 May 2013

May 12th, 2013

51:21

Starting this year, Scripps National Spelling Bee contestants not only have to spell words correctly. A controversial new rule means they'll have to …

Nothing to Sneeze At (Rebroadcast) - 6 May 2013

May 5th, 2013

51:21

This week, forensic linguists use what they know about speech and writing to testify in courtrooms. And get out your hankies! Martha and Grant are talking about the language of … sneezing. And what do you call it when …

Gone Pecan (Rebroadcast) - 29 April 2013

April 29th, 2013

51:21

How did the word "gay" go from meaning "happy" to "homosexual"? Martha and Grant discuss the evolution of this word. Also, why are elementary schools …

Dog-and-Pony Show (Rebroadcast) - 22 April 2013

April 22nd, 2013

51:45

Remember getting caught sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G? Grant and Martha wax nostalgic on some classic schoolyard rhymes. What do you call your …

Good Juju (Rebroadcast) - 15 April 2013

April 12th, 2013

51:45

Imagine a time when heroin was marketed for the whole family. It really happened. Also, how Twitter, M&M's, and Hallmark cards got their names. …

What is a Hipster (Rebroadcast) - 8 April 2013

April 7th, 2013

51:45

Get out your skinny jeans and pass the PBR! Martha and Grant discuss the definition of the word hipster. Also, what happens when you pull a brodie? …

A Hole to China - 1 April 2013

March 31st, 2013

51:44

Have a question about objective pronouns? Whom ya gonna call? Wait--is that right? Or would it be "who ya gonna call"? "Whom" may be technically …

Crazy Crossword Clues (Rebroadcast) - 25 March 2013

March 24th, 2013

51:44

Should youngsters learn cursive handwriting in school? Plus, someone can be ruthless, but can that same person be ruthful? Which word refers to …

Whistling Dixie - 18 March 2013

March 17th, 2013

51:45

Today's most popular dog names are Max and Bella.  In the Middle Ages, though, dogs would answer to names like Amiable. Or Nosewise. Or even . . . …

Gnarly Foot - 11 March 2013

March 11th, 2013

51:25

It's the Up Goer Five Challenge! Try to describe something complex using only the thousand most common words in English. It's a useful mental …

Bump and Grind - 4 March 2013

March 3rd, 2013

51:25

Remember a few years ago when Amazon introduced that mysterious device called a Kindle? People worried that electronic readers would replace …

Two Shades of Grey (Rebroadcast) - 25 February 2013

February 24th, 2013

51:25

You've probably noticed how work always seems to expand to fill the time given to complete it. But did you know there's a term for that? Also this week, the New England exclamation So don't I!, gray vs. gray, stories in …

Raining Cats and Dogs (Rebroadcast) - 18 February 2013

February 17th, 2013

51:25

Get out your umbrellas -- it's raining pitchforks and . . . bullfrogs? This week, it's odd expressions that mean "a heavy downpour." Also, holistic …

Gracious Plenty - 11 February 2013

February 10th, 2013

51:25

When somebody sneezes, you say, Bless you or Gesundheit. But suppose that person coughs. Are you supposed to say something--or are they?  Plus, Mexican standoffs, gracious plenty, linguistic false friends, southpaw vs. …

Cute As a Button - 4 February 2013

February 3rd, 2013

51:25

Did you ever wonder why we capitalize the pronoun "I," but not any other pronoun? There's a reason, and it may not be what you think. Also, the romantic story behind our term "halcyon days," the origin of the phrase …

South End of a Chicken - 28 January 2013

January 27th, 2013

51:26

Are your nightstand books all over the place? Why not stack 'em into a bookmash? A bookmash is a kind of found poetry formed from book titles! And we …

Like a Bad Penny (Rebroadcast) - 21 January 2013

January 20th, 2013

51:26

What did you call the cliques in your high school? Were you a member of the nerds, the jocks, or maybe the "grits" or the "heshers"? Also, what's the …

The Horse You Rode In On (Rebroadcast) - 14 January 2013

January 13th, 2013

51:26

What colorful language do you use to when you're angry and  tempted to use a four-letter word? There's a difference between cursing and cussing: It …

The Shank of the Evening (Rebroadcast) - 7 January 2013

January 7th, 2013

51:26

What time is it if it's "the crack of chicken"? And when exactly is the "shank of the evening"? How do you pronounce the word spelled H-O-V-E-R? Did Warren G. Harding really coin the word normalcy? Also, a name game, …

Rock, Paper, Scissors (Rebroadcast) - 30 December 2012

December 30th, 2012

51:40

Does the thought of going without your cellphone fill you with separation anxiety? Grant and Martha coin some monikers for this modern-day phobia. Also, what's the best way to win at the game of Rock, Paper, Scissors? …

Clean As a Whistle - 24 December 2012

December 24th, 2012

51:41

Finding that special bottle of wine can be tough, and even tougher if you're not fluent in winespeak. "Strawberries, rhubarb, and hints of leather are present in the nose." Say what? We discuss the sometimes baffling …

Help support A Way with Words today

December 21st, 2012

0:39

This year, generous gifts from people like you made a difference:


We're producing more new episodes than ever. We're taking our mission into …

Pie in the Sky - 17 December 2012

December 16th, 2012

51:26

Looking for a book to read with the kids, or maybe a guide to becoming a better writer? Plus, why are leg cramps called charley horses? And where'd we get a phrase like "pie in the sky"? If you happen to be tall, you've …

Little Pitchers - 10 December 2012

December 10th, 2012

51:26

Can reading poetry make you a better writer? Grant and Martha discuss how reading poetry improves your prose. Also, how linguists guess where you come from based on how you speak. And what do you call someone who picks …

Kissed Her on the Stairs - 3 December 2012

December 2nd, 2012

51:26

Do Americans use the same sign language as the Brits? And what do Japanese people use instead of "umm?" Grant and Martha cover language shifts across …

Mute Point (Rebroadcast) - 26 November 2012

November 26th, 2012

51:26

What do you call it when you roll through a stop sign without ever coming to a complete stop? A California stop, a Michigan stop -- or something …

A Dancer Who Walks for a Living - 19 November 2012

November 18th, 2012

51:26

You dream of writing the great American novel, but to make ends meet, you spend your days writing boring corporate reports. There's a difference between writing for love and writing for a living—or is there? And does a …

Make a Train Take a Dirt Road - 12 November 2012

November 11th, 2012

51:26

Remember the classic films Dogumentary and $3000? Those were their working titles, before they became Best In Show and Pretty Woman. We look at how …

The One Who Brung You - 5 November 2012

November 5th, 2012

51:26

You've been reading a book but you're just not into it. How do you quit it, guilt-free? How do you break up with a book? Also, what do you ask for when you go through the grocery checkout line: bag, sack, or something …

Fake English - 29 October 2012

October 28th, 2012

51:26

Everyone knows you don't start a sentence with "But." But why? We sort out the confusion over this little word. Also, how voice recognition …

Can Of Worms - 22 October 2012

October 21st, 2012

51:26

What do you call a guy with a bald pate? A chrome dome? Maybe the lucky fellow is sporting a solar panel for a sex machine. Also, which would you …

Nothing to Sneeze At - 15 October 2012

October 15th, 2012

51:26

This week, forensic linguists use what they know about speech and writing to testify in courtrooms. And get out your hankies! Martha and Grant are talking about the language of … sneezing. And what do you call it when …

Gone Pecan - 8 October 2012

October 7th, 2012

51:26

How did the word "gay" go from meaning "happy" to "homosexual"? Martha and Grant discuss the evolution of this word. Also, why are elementary schools …

Dog-and-Pony Show - 1 October 2012

September 30th, 2012

51:26

Remember getting caught sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G? Grant and Martha wax nostalgic on some classic schoolyard rhymes. What do you call your …

Good Juju - 24 September 2012

September 23rd, 2012

51:26

Imagine a time when heroin was marketed for the whole family. It really happened. Also, how Twitter, M&M's, and Hallmark cards got their names. …

The Uncanny Valley (Rebroadcast) - 17 September 2012

September 16th, 2012

51:26

Do you ever wonder why the almost-human characters that appear in video games can seem downright creepy? That disturbing sensation is called "the uncanny valley." Speaking of creepy, do you know someone with a morbid …

Kissing Games (Rebroadcast) - 10 September 2012

September 10th, 2012

51:26

What's the best way to help your child learn to speak a foreign language? One option is an immersion school, where teachers avoid speaking English. …

The Rubber Match - 3 Sept. 2012 (rebroadcast)

September 3rd, 2012

51:26

SHOW SUMMARY



Survey time! Do you call that kind of cap a beanie, a toboggan, or a stocking hat, or something else? What about rubber-soled athletic …

Strange Spelling Bee Words (Rebroadcast) - 27 August 2012

August 26th, 2012

51:26

Why do spelling bees include such bizarre, obsolete words like cymotrichous? And why is New York called the Big Apple? Also, the stinky folk medicine …

The Secret Language of Gibberish (Rebroadcast) - 20 August 2012

August 19th, 2012

51:26

What do pigs have to do with piggyback rides? Martha and Grant have the answer. They also get a lesson from a listener in the fine art of speaking gibberish. And what's the correct way to pronounce the name of the nut …

By Jingo (Rebroadcast) - 13 August 2012

August 12th, 2012

51:26

If your friend says she's coming to town "Sunday week," exactly when should you expect to see her? And what do you call those typographical symbols …

Like a Boss (Rebroadcast) - 6 August 2012

August 6th, 2012

51:26

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's . . . "witches knickers"? Well, what do YOU call those stray plastic bags littering the landscape? Also, what it means to do something "like a boss," how to hyphenate correctly, and why …

A Murmuration of Starlings (Rebroadcast) - 30 July 2012

July 30th, 2012

51:26

If you've ever eaten Flavor-Crisp Chicken, it was probably served with JoJo potatoes. And speaking of fried chicken, ever wonder why colonel isn't …

Not the Thongs You're Thinking Of (Rebroadcast) - 23 July 2012

July 22nd, 2012

51:26

Is it cool for parents to use their children's slang? What's wrong with the term "illegal alien"? Grant and Martha discuss possible alternatives. The …

The Whole Kit and Caboodle (Rebroadcast) - 16 July 2012

July 16th, 2012

51:26

Nothing brightens up an email like an emoticon. But is it appropriate to include a smiley face in an email to your boss? Also, what do time …

Why Do Auctioneers Talk So Fast (Rebroadcast) - 9 July 2012

July 8th, 2012

51:26

Why do auctioneers talk so fast?  Martha and Grant discuss the rapid-fire speech of auctioneers, and how it gets you to bid higher. Also, why so many …

Things Parents Say (Rebroadcast) - 2 July 2012

July 2nd, 2012

52:08

Ever drop a reference that just makes you sound, well, of a certain age? Grant and Martha discuss slang that's often lost on a younger or older …

What's a Hipster?

June 24th, 2012

52:06

Get out your skinny jeans and pass the PBR! Martha and Grant discuss the definition of the word hipster. Also, what happens when you pull a brodie? …

Crazy Crossword Clues - 18 June 2012

June 17th, 2012

51:26

Should youngsters learn cursive handwriting in school? Plus, someone can be ruthless, but can that same person be ruthful? Which word refers to …

Lousy with Diamonds - 11 June 2012

June 11th, 2012

51:26

Can children adopted from other countries easily re-learn their native languages as adults? And if you're invited to an old-fashioned pound party, …

Two Shades of Grey - 4 June 2012

June 3rd, 2012

51:26

You've probably noticed how work always seems to expand to fill the time given to complete it. But did you know there's a term for that? Also this week, the New England exclamation So don't I!, gray vs. gray, stories in …

Raining Cats and Dogs - 28 May 2012

May 28th, 2012

51:26

Get out your umbrellas -- it's raining pitchforks and . . . bullfrogs? This week, it's odd expressions that mean "a heavy downpour." Also, holistic …

Why Do Girls Wear Pink (Rebroadcast) - 21 May 2012

May 21st, 2012

51:26

We all know that the color pink is for boys and the color blue is for girls--at least, that's how it was 100 years ago. Grant and Martha share the …

Books With a Letter Missing (Rebroadcast) - 14 May 2012

May 14th, 2012

51:26

Remember those children's classics, the Velveteen Rabbi and The Little Price? The Twitterverse is abound with these books with a letter missing. And it turns out there's some pimping going on in our hospitals, but it's …

Like a Bad Penny - 7 May 2012

May 7th, 2012

51:26

What did you call the cliques in your high school? Were you a member of the nerds, the jocks, or maybe the "grits" or the "heshers"? Also, what's the …

The Horse You Rode In On - 30 April 2012

April 30th, 2012

51:26

What colorful language do you use to when you're angry and tempted to use a four-letter word? There's a difference between cursing and cussing: It …

Shank of the Evening - 23 April 2012

April 23rd, 2012

51:26

What time is it if it's "the crack of chicken"? And when exactly is the "shank of the evening"? How do you pronounce the word spelled H-O-V-E-R? Did Warren G. Harding really coin the word normalcy? Also, a name game, …

Going All City (Rebroadcast) - 16 April 2012

April 16th, 2012

51:26

Have you been dining on a budget lately? Martha recommends the necessity mess, potato bargain, and other tasty regional foods that won't break the bank. Plus, what's a doomaflatchie? And what do you have to do before …

The College Slang Party (Rebroadcast) - 9 April 2012

April 9th, 2012

51:26

What would you wear to an ABC party? Hint: the letters stand for "Anything But Clothes." Any guesses what you'd wear to a tight-and-bright party? …

Him and I or Him and Me (Rebroadcast) - 2 April 2012

April 2nd, 2012

51:26

If someone offered you a croaker with an old man's face, would you accept? You should! Croaker is a slang term for "hundred dollar bill." And did you …

Rock Paper Scissors - 26 March 2012

March 26th, 2012

51:26

Does the thought of going without your cellphone fill you with separation anxiety? Grant and Martha coin some monikers for this modern-day phobia. Also, what's the best way to win at the game of Rock, Paper, Scissors? …

Mute Point - 19 March 2012

March 19th, 2012

51:42

What do you call it when you roll through a stop sign without ever coming to a complete stop? A California stop, a Michigan stop -- or something …

The Uncanny Valley - 12 March 2012

March 12th, 2012

51:42

Do you ever wonder why the almost-human characters that appear in video games can seem downright creepy? That disturbing sensation is called "the uncanny valley." Speaking of creepy, do you know someone with a morbid …

The Bees Knees (Rebroadcast) - 5 March 2012

March 5th, 2012

51:42

Let's put the moose on the table: You have questions, and Grant and Martha have answers. For example, why would someone have an albatross around his …

Put That in Your Pipe and Smoke It (Rebroadcast) - 27 February 2012

February 27th, 2012

51:42

Which came first, orange the color or orange the fruit? And what's a busman's holiday? Martha and Grant talk about bumbershoots, brollies, nursery …

Kissing Games - 20 February 2012

February 20th, 2012

51:42

What's the best way to help your child learn to speak a foreign language? One option is an immersion school, where teachers avoid speaking English. …

The Rubber Match - 13 February 2012

February 12th, 2012

51:42

Survey time! Do you call that kind of cap a beanie, a toboggan, or a stocking hat, or something else? What about rubber-soled athletic shoes? Do you …

Strange Spelling Bee Words - 6 February 2012

February 6th, 2012

51:42

Why do spelling bees include such bizarre, obsolete words like cymotrichous? And why is New York called the Big Apple? Also, the stinky folk medicine …

Gibberish Language - 30 January 2012

January 30th, 2012

51:42

SUMMARY

What do pigs have to do with piggyback rides? Martha and Grant have the answer. They also get a lesson from a listener in the fine art of speaking gibberish. And what's the correct way to pronounce the name of …

By Jingo - 23 January 2012

January 22nd, 2012

51:42

SHOW SUMMARY

If your friend says she's coming to town "Sunday week," exactly when should you expect to see her? And what do you call those …

Like a Boss - 16 January 2012

January 16th, 2012

51:42

SHOW SUMMARY

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's . . . "witches' knickers"? Well, what do YOU call those stray plastic bags littering the landscape? Also, what it means to do something "like a boss," how to hyphenate …

Pickles and Ice Cream (rebroadcast) - 9 January 2012

January 9th, 2012

51:42

SUMMARY

How about some wind pudding with a dollop of air sauce? What's in a tavern sandwich? Do pregnant women really crave pickles and ice cream? …

Who You Calling a Jabroney? (rebroadcast) - 2 January 2012

January 2nd, 2012

51:42

SHOW SUMMARY

Yo! Who you callin' a jabronie? And what exactly is a jabronie, anyway? Also, what do vintage school buses and hack writers have in …

You Bet Your Sweet Bippy (Rebroadcast) - 26 December 2011

December 25th, 2011

51:50

SUMMARY

Why do some puns strike us as clever, while others are plain old groaners? Martha and Grant puzzle over this question. Also, the difference …

Bah Humblebrag - 19 December 2011

December 19th, 2011

52:35

SHOW SUMMARY

What's YOUR choice for the Word of the Year for 2011? What word or phrase best sums up the ideas, events, and themes that speakers of English have been talking about? Grant shares some of his picks. And …

Special Request! -- Help Support A Way with Words

December 15th, 2011

1:37

Give Now for the $25,000 Fundraising Challenge



Dear friends and listeners,

As we near the end of our biggest year yet, we must raise $25,000 to cover the remainder of this season. We need your …

A Murmuration of Starlings - 12 December 2011

December 12th, 2011

51:42

SHOW SUMMARY

If you've ever eaten Flavor-Crisp Chicken, it was probably served with JoJo potatoes. And speaking of fried chicken, ever wonder why …

Not the Thongs You're Thinking Of - 5 December 2011

December 5th, 2011

51:42

SHOW SUMMARY

Is it cool for parents to use their children's slang? What's wrong with the term "illegal alien"? Grant and Martha discuss possible …

Cathead Biscuits (Rebroadcast) - 28 November 2011

November 28th, 2011

51:42

SUMMARY

Ever eaten golden catheads for breakfast? Yum! A listener shares this Southern term for big, fluffy biscuits. Also, how did people greet each …

Heads Up! It's a Meteor! (rebroadcast) - 21 November 2011

November 14th, 2011

51:42

SUMMARY

"Well, butter my buns and call me a biscuit!" Martha and Grant talk about great catch phrases from old-time radio comedies. Also, why do we …

The Whole Kit and Caboodle - 14 November 2011

November 14th, 2011

51:42

SUMMARY

Nothing brightens up an email like an emoticon. But is it appropriate to include a smiley face in an email to your boss? Also, what do time …

Why Do Auctioneers Talk So Fast? - 7 November 2011

November 7th, 2011

51:42

SUMMARY

Why do auctioneers talk so fast?  Martha and Grant discuss the rapid-fire speech of auctioneers, and how it gets you to bid higher. Also, why …

You Sound Old - 31 October 2011

October 31st, 2011

51:42

SUMMARY

Ever drop a reference that just makes you sound, well, of a certain age? Grant and Martha discuss language that's often lost on a younger or …

Why Do Girls Wear Pink? - 24 October 2011

October 23rd, 2011

51:41

SUMMARY

We all know that the color pink is for boys and the color blue is for girls--at least, that's how it was 100 years ago. Grant and Martha share …

Don't Take Any Wooden Nickels (rebroadcast) - 19 September 2011

September 19th, 2011

51:40

SUMMARY

If you say to someone the Spanish equivalent of you're giving me green hairs (me sacas canas verdes), it means that person is making you angry. In Japan, the phrase that literally translates as "one red dot" …

Burrito Baby (rebroadcast) - 12 September 2011

September 11th, 2011

51:40

SUMMARY

More and more college students are getting pregnant--with burrito babies. Grant talks about new terms for "a full stomach" and other examples …

One Space or Two (rebroadcast) - 5 September 2011

September 5th, 2011

51:40

SUMMARY

Is typing two spaces after a period "totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong?" Martha and Grant disagree. Also, is the language of …

Seeing The Elephant (rebroadcast) - 29 August 2011

August 29th, 2011

51:41

SUMMARY

This week on "A Way with Words": If you've "seen the elephant," it means you've been in combat. But why an elephant? Also, Martha and Grant discuss some funny idioms in Spanish, including one that translates as …

Eastern Seaboard West Coast (rebroadcast) - 22 August 2011

August 22nd, 2011

51:40

SUMMARY

Shadowdabbled. Moon-blanched. Augusttremulous. William Faulkner often used odd adjectives like these. But why? Grant and Martha discuss the …

Red Light, Green Light (minicast) - 17 Aug. 2011

August 17th, 2011

11:00

Hot traffic talk! A caller is looking for a word for the point at which you have to reach in order to make it through a stoplight before it turns red.



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A Way with Words is funded by its listeners:

Nerd vs Geek (rebroadcast) - 15 August 2011

August 15th, 2011

51:40

SUMMARY

What do the words marathon, paisley, and bikini have in common? They're all words that derive from the names of places. Martha and Grant talk toponyms. Also, what's the difference between a nerd and a geek? Why …

Of Pupae and Pupils (minicast) - 10 Aug. 2011

August 3rd, 2011

3:37

A question from a listener on the “A Way with Words” Facebook page has Martha musing about the entomological and etymological connections between the …

Infix is Just Another Word for Fanfreakintastic (minicast) - 3 Aug. 2011

August 3rd, 2011

7:32

What's the one word that comes to mind when you hear the name J. D. Salinger? "Masterpiece"? "Recluse"? How about the "F-word"? 



An Indianapolis …

Cannibal Sandwich Anyone (rebroadcast) - 1 August 2011

August 1st, 2011

51:40

SUMMARY

Ready for some crazy crossword clues? The hosts discuss some clever ones, like "Hula hoop?" (3 letters). Also, is the correct term …

Guess What (rebroadcast) - 25 July 2011

July 25th, 2011

51:39

SUMMARY

English is full of unusual terms, both old (eleemosynary, favonian) and new (flyway, catio). Also, the Swahili term that means "sleep like a …

Beanplating the Lunatic Fringe (rebroadcast) - 18 July 2011

July 18th, 2011

51:40

SUMMARY

In this week's episode, "It was bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen." Martha and Grant discuss their favorite first …

Who is Chester Drawers - 11 July 2011

July 8th, 2011

51:40

SUMMARY

Some of the world's most famous writers had to support themselves with day jobs. Martha and Grant discuss well-known authors who toiled away at other trades. Also this week, Eskimo kisses, the frozen Puerto Rican …

A Yankee Dime - 4 July 2011

July 1st, 2011

51:40

SUMMARY

Remember misunderstanding certain words as a child? Maybe you figured "cat burglars" only stole cats, or assumed guerrilla fighters must be …

Tweet Nothings - 13 June 2011

June 13th, 2011

51:40

SUMMARY

How much humor and personality can you pack into a 140-character update? A lot, it turns out. Martha and Grant talk about funny Twitter feeds. …

Tend to the Rat-Killin' - 6 June 2011

June 6th, 2011

51:37

SUMMARY

Anagrams, rebuses, cryptograms, Jumble -- Martha and Grant swap stories about the games that first made them realize that playing with words and letters can be fun. Also this week, what's a jitney supper and …

Everything is Tickety-Boo - 9 May 2011

May 9th, 2011

51:37

SUMMARY

News reports that the makers of Scrabble were changing the rules to allow proper names left some purists fuming. The rumors were false, but …

The Ultimate Slang Dictionary - 2 May 2011

May 2nd, 2011

51:37

SUMMARY

When it comes to language, who's the decider? Grant explains how grammar rules develop. Also, what's tarantula juice, and what's the …

Like Death Eating a Cracker (rebroadcast) - 25 Apr. 2011

April 25th, 2011

51:37

[This episode first aired May 1, 2010.]

SUMMARY

Digital timepieces may be changing the way we talk, at least a little. There's Bob o'clock (8:08), Big o'clock (8:19), and even Pi o'clock. Also this week, what do you …

A Pickle Short of a Jar (rebroadcast) - 20 Apr. 2011

April 20th, 2011

51:37

[This episode first aired April 10, 2010.]

SUMMARY

A few pickles short of a jar, a few peas short of a casserole, two French fries short of a Happy …

A Murphy, a Melvin, and a Wedgie (rebroadcast) - 29 March 2011

March 29th, 2011

51:52

[This episode first aird March 13, 2010.]

When it comes to joining Facebook affinity groups, grammar lovers have lots of choices. Take, for example, the group whose motto is Punctuation saves lives.

Sailor's Delight (rebroadcast) - 21 March 2011

March 22nd, 2011

51:52

[This episode first aired March 6, 2010.]

"Red sky at night, sailor's delight. Red sky at morning, sailor take warning." Martha talks about this weather proverb, which has been around in one form or another since ancient …

Qi, Qat, and Za: Great Scrabble Words - 14 March 2011

March 15th, 2011

51:59

SUMMARY

Need a good Scrabble word? Grant shares some of his favorites, and invites listeners to challenge him on "Words with Friends." Also, why do we call those classic screwball films madcap comedies? And what does it …

It's in My Wheelhouse - 7 March 2011

March 7th, 2011

51:59

SUMMARY

What was your first word? Grant and Martha talk about how children acquire language. Also, if you say that something's in your wheelhouse, you mean that it's within your area of expertise. But why "wheelhouse"? …

Sufficiently Suffonsified (rebroadcast) - 31 Jan. 2011

January 31st, 2011

51:57

[This episode first aired February 27, 2010.]

What's in a pet's name? Martha and Grant swap stories about how they came up with names for their dogs. Also this week: Have you ever been called a "stump-jumper"? How …

Word Up! - 17 Jan. 2011

January 17th, 2011

51:58

SUMMARY

What would you serve a plumber who comes over for dinner? How about ... leeks? The hosts play a word game called "What Would You Serve?" Also, …

Down A Chimney Up (rebroadcast) - 10 Jan. 2011

January 10th, 2011

51:57

[This episode first aired January 23, 2010.]

Good poetry is even better when you read it aloud. For his anthology, "Essential Pleasures"

The Thought Plickens (rebroadcast) - 3 Jan. 2010

January 3rd, 2011

51:58

[This episode first aired February 6, 2010.]

If you're inappropriately focused on the minutiae of a project instead of the bigger picture, you're said to be "bike-shedding." Grant talks about that modern slang term and …

Cut to the Chase - 27 Dec. 2010

December 27th, 2010

51:58

[This episode first aired December 19, 2008.]

There's nothing like an oddly phrased headline to brighten your day. How about "Actor Sent to Jail for Not Finishing Sentence"? Or "Queen Mary Having Bottom Scraped"? Same …

Too Much Sugar for a Dime - 20 Dec. 2010

December 20th, 2010

51:58

SUMMARY

Is the term "Oriental" offensive? Many people think so. Martha and Grant discuss the reasons why. Also, where do we get the phrase "not one iota"? Why do we tell someone to "take a gander"? And who coined the …

Anaheim, Asuza, and Cuck-a-monga (Rebroadcast) - 6 Dec. 2010

December 6th, 2010

51:57

[This episode first aired November 9, 2009.]

All aboard! This week, a bit about the musical language of railroad conductors' calls: 'Anaheim, Azusa, and Cu-ca-monga!' Also, the origin of the military slang term …

Zig-Zag and Shilly-Shally (Rebroadcast) - 29 Nov. 2010

November 29th, 2010

51:57

[This episode first aired October 24, 2009.]

Bavarian Chalet. Mushroom Basket. Moose Point. Who in the heck comes up with the names of paints, anyway? Martha and Grant ponder that mystery. They also explain why those …

A Roberta of Flax - 22 Nov. 2010

November 22nd, 2010

51:58

SUMMARY

We have collective nouns for animals, like "a gaggle of geese," "a pride of lions," and "an exaltation of larks." So why not collective nouns …

NPR Puzzlemaster Will Shortz - 16 Nov. 2010

November 16th, 2010

8:55

This week, a special treat: NPR Puzzlemaster Will Shortz stops by with a quiz about slang and anagrams.

Did you know that "A Way with Words" is not produced by NPR or one of the other big radio networks? It's not even …

Words of the Year - 15 Nov. 2010

November 15th, 2010

51:58

SUMMARY

What's your choice for 2010's word of the year? Mama grizzly? Starwhacker? And who could forget vuvuzela? Martha and Grant discuss the Five-Oh …

Lunatic Fringe - 25 Oct. 2010

October 25th, 2010

52:28

SUMMARY

In this week's episode, "It was bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen." Martha and Grant discuss their favorite first …

Drinking Terms (minicast) - 6 Oct. 2010

October 6th, 2010

15:21

An interview with slang lexicographer Paul Dickson about drinking language and his book "Drunk: the Definitive Drinkers Dictionary."

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A Way with …

A Louse in a Wrestling Jacket - 4 Oct. 2010

October 3rd, 2010

51:44

A California college student is campaigning for international scientific authorities to adopt the slang term hella- as an official prefix indicating …

A Gazelle on the Lawn (rebroadcast) - 13 Sept. 2010

September 14th, 2010

51:29

[This episode first aired March 13, 2010.]

What do you say if you have guests over and someone in your family has stray food left on the face? In some …

Spendthrift Snollygosters (rebroadcast) - 16 Aug. 2010

August 16th, 2010

51:15

[This episode first aired February 20, 2010.]

This week, it's the language of politics. Martha and Grant discuss two handy terms describing …

The Language of Less Than Three (rebroadcast) - 9 Aug. 2010

August 9th, 2010

51:15

[This episode first aired February 13, 2010.]

 

Whoever wrote "The Book of Love" neglected to include the handy emoticon

 

A Houston woman says her family makes fun of her for saying "waste not, want not." Does this …

A Whole Nother (rebroadcast) - 26 July 2010

July 26th, 2010

51:15

For the final word on grammar, many writers turn to the Associated Press Stylebook http://www.apstylebook.com/. But if you find that stylebook too stuffy, you'll love 'Fake AP Stylebook'

Cellar Door (minicast) - 19 July 2010

July 20th, 2010

8:02

The Most Beautiful Words in the English Language: "Cellar Door"?

It's been said that the most beautiful combination of words in English is "cellar …

Picklebacks and Mountweazels (rebroadcast) - 12 July 2010

July 12th, 2010

51:15

[This episode first aired January 15, 2010.]

This week on "A Way with Words," Martha and Grant talk about phrases you love to hate, like "Do you mind …

What's the Possessive of Y'all? (minicast) - 8 July 2010

July 8th, 2010

6:15

Is it y'all's? Y'alls? Y'alls's? What do all ya'll think?

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A Way with Words is funded by its listeners: http://waywordradio.org/donate

Get your language question answered on the air! Call or write with your questions at …

Crash Blossoms: When Words Collide (rebroadcast) - 5 July 2010

July 5th, 2010

51:05

[This episode first aired December 12, 2009.]

This week, it's headlines that make you do a doubletake, like "Child's Stool Great for Use in Garden." …

Not to Be Confused with Hieronymus (minicast) - 30 June 2010

June 30th, 2010

5:26
A Texas listener came across the word "Boche" in a biography of a French statesman, and wants to know: What does it mean, exactly?

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A Way with Words is funded by its listeners: http://waywordradio.org/donate

Get your …

The Fighting Kewpies, Un-hunh! (rebroadcast) - 28 June 2010

June 28th, 2010

51:15
[This episode first aired December 5, 2009.]
In high school, no one thinks twice about cheering for the Fighting Trojans or the Tigers. But what about …

Forte or For-tay: Is Pronunciation Your Strong Suit? (minicast) - 24 June 2010

June 24th, 2010

6:30
How do you pronounce this word that means someone's "strong suit"? And what does it have to do with fencing?

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A Way with Words is funded by its listeners: http://waywordradio.org/donate

Get your language question …

Keep Your Tail Over the Dashboard (rebroadcast) - 21 June 2010

June 21st, 2010

51:15
[This episode first aired November 21, 2010.]

This week, 'McGimpers,' 'geetus,' and other underworld lingo from the 1930s. Crime novelist James Ellroy stops by to talk slang terms and reveals his own favorite. Also, is …

Are You Annoyed by Embololalia? (minicast) - 18 June 2010

June 18th, 2010

7:24
Um, are you, like, one of those people who, um, get, like, really annoyed, by, um, you know, like, um, lots of filler words in, you know, like, conversation? If it's any comfort, there's a great term for this. Can you …

Season and Sea Change (minicast) - 18 June 2010

June 18th, 2010

4:59
The first of two podcasts this week includes a special message to "A Way with Words" podcast listeners. Also, Martha answers a listener's email about the term "sea change." Or is it "C change"?

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A Way with Words is …

Get Your Nickels Together for a Jitney Supper - 7 June 2010

June 7th, 2010

51:35
Anagrams, rebuses, cryptograms -- Martha and Grant swap stories about the games that first made them realize that playing with words and letters can be fun. Also this week, what's a jitney supper and where do you eat …

Bless Your Heart - 31 May 2010

May 31st, 2010

51:21
This week, it's backhanded phrases, those snarky remarks that come sugar-coated in politeness, like "How nice for you," "Oh, interesting!" and the …

Hit the Pickle Button - 10 May 2010

May 10th, 2010

51:22
Who was that masked man? Was it the Barefoot Bandit, the Mummy Bandit, or perhaps the Botox Bandit? Or maybe it was the Bad-Breath Bandit? The hosts discuss the wacky names that law enforcement officers give to …

X, Y, and Zed (Rebroadcast) - 26 April 2010

April 26th, 2010

51:22
[This episode first aired October 17, 2009.]

Some teachers are using a controversial tactic to get young students reading: They let their 'pupils …

Pardon Our French - 19 April 2010

April 19th, 2010

51:22
South African English is a rich mix of Afrikaans, English, and indigenous languages such as Zulu and Xhosa. Martha and Grant discuss some favorite …

Awkward Turtle - 5 April 2010

April 5th, 2010

51:15
[This episode first aired October 10, 2009.]

Do you say something happened on accident or by accident? Is text-messaging is destroying our kids' writing ability? Where do horseradish, zark, and ignoramus come from?

Grant …

Gyros and Sheath Cakes (Rebroadcast) - 29 March 2010

March 29th, 2010

51:16
What's the right way to pronounce 'gyros'? Have you ever heard of feeling 'poozley'? Called something great a 'blinger'? Use the expression 'one-off' to mean a 'one-time thing'?

Grant and Martha recommend dictionaries …

Jan Freeman, Write it Right - 4 March 2010

March 4th, 2010

11:55
Write it Right

One hundred years ago, American journalist and satirist Ambrose Bierce published a curmudgeonly book of writing advice called Write It …

Jack Lynch, Author of The Lexicographer's Dilemma - 22 Jan. 2010

January 22nd, 2010

15:38

You know that grammatical 'rule' about not ending a sentence with a preposition? Well, who ever decided finishing off a sentence like that is a bad …

Ken Jennings: Not-So-Trivial Pursuits (minicast) - Jan. 12, 2010

January 12th, 2010

8:20

Grant interviews 'Jeopardy!' champion Ken Jennings about the grueling nature of TV quiz shows, the fine art of writing trivia questions, the special challenges of competing in European quiz contests, and how it feels to …

Nicknames Give Me the Heebie-Jeebies and the Vapors (Rebroadcast) - 11 Jan. 2010

January 11th, 2010

51:15

[This episode originally aired April 5, 2008.]

Everybody has a nickname, and there's usually a story to go with it.
Martha and Grant reveal their own nicknames and the stories behind
them. Also, is the expression …

Squeejawed Red-heads and Grockles (Rebroadcast) - 4 January 2010

January 4th, 2010

51:15

[This episode originally aired February 9, 2008.]

In this week's episode: Just how far back could you go and still understand the English people were …

See A Man About A Horse (Rebroadcast) - 28 Dec. 2009

December 28th, 2009

51:15

[This episode first aired January 12, 2008.]

In this week's episode, Martha and Grant discuss not-to-be-believed articles about language from the satirical newspaper The Onion, including one headlined 'Underfunded …

Words of the Decade - 21 Dec. 2009

December 21st, 2009

51:15

Enough about the 'Word of the Year.' How about the 'Word of the Decade'? Bailout? Google? Martha and Grant discuss some candidates. Also in this episode, does speaking a different language make you feel different …

Coinkydinks and Big Boxes - 30 Nov. 2009

November 30th, 2009

51:15

[This episode first aired May 10, 2008.]

We all misspeak from time to time, but how about when we mangle words on purpose? Do you ever say 'fambly' instead of family, 'perazackly' for exactly, or 'coinkydink' for …

Shivaree - 4 Nov. 2009

November 4th, 2009

4:18

Welcome to another minicast from A Way with Words. I'm Martha Barnette.

You may remember the call we had from Tony in Encinitas, California. He was curious about the term for an unusual hazing ritual:

My dad woke us up …

Tilly Tickets (minicast) - 20 Oct. 2009

October 20th, 2009

3:22

Did you ever use a tilly ticket in the bathroom?


Over the years, we've answered lots of your questions about words and phrases that have to do with going to the bathroom.

We've talked about euphemisms like I have to go …

Roy Blount Jr. Slings Southern Slang (minicast) - 15 Oct. 2009

October 15th, 2009

8:40

Humorist Roy Blount Jr. stops by to try his hand at a slang quiz specifically about Southernisms.

Blount, who is president of the Authors Guild, also joined Grant for a wide-ranging conversation about such topics as the …

We Cook Off Our Potatoes (minicast) - 13 Oct. 2009

October 13th, 2009

7:17

If a restaurant menu states, 'We cook off our potatoes,' what in the heck does that mean? A truck driver who encountered such an announcement at a roadside cafe is still puzzling over what it means to 'cook off' a …

What's Slang Jang? (minicast) - 8 Oct. 2009

October 8th, 2009

6:15

No, it's not the neurological effect of spending too much time researching odd new terms. Slang jang is a tongue-tickling sauce found in East Texas. …

Nuclearly (minicast) - 6 Oct. 2009

October 6th, 2009

5:55

Is it acceptable to make a brand-new adverb simply by adding an -ly to an adjective? A scientist wants to know, and specifically a term she uses, nuclearly.

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Get your language question answered on the air! Call or write …

West Word, Ho! - 28 Sept. 2009

September 28th, 2009

51:15

It's a brand-new season of A Way with Words! Grant has big news, too: He's used up his last Metrocard, packed up his belongings, and moved to the Left Coast. He reports on some features of California language there that …

English Down Under - 21 Sept. 2009

September 21st, 2009

51:15

[This episode originally aired October 11, 2008.]

This week, Martha and Grant discuss terms from Australia, including
aerial ping-pong, pumpkin squatter, andâkangarooster? They explain the
connection between stereotypes …

Oh-ah, Oh-ah: That's How We Roll (minicast) - 17 Sept. 2009

September 17th, 2009

3:30

Does your family have a word for the cardboard tube left over from a roll of toilet paper? A caller says his family refers to them Oh-ah, Oh-ahs. …

The Prehistoric Mother Tongue (minicast) - 15 Sept. 2009

September 15th, 2009

13:58

Many of the world's languages apparently derived from a prehistoric common ancestor known as Indo-European. But since no one ever wrote down a word of it, how do we know what it was like?

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Get your language question …

Never Bolt Your Door with A Boiled Carrot - 14 Sept. 2009

September 14th, 2009

51:15

[This episode first aired October 4, 2008.]

Proverbs pack great truths into a few well-chosen words, no matter
which language you speak. Check out this one from Belize: 'Don't call
the alligator a big-mouth till you have …

The Txting Db8 - 7 Sept. 2009

September 7th, 2009

51:15

[This episode first aired Sept. 27, 2009.]

OMG, text messaging! It's destroying the English language, corrupting
young minds, turning us into a nation of illiterates. It's probably
shrinking the ozone layer, too.

Or is it? …

Bogarting Bangers - 31 Aug. 2009

August 31st, 2009

51:15

[This episode first aired June 6, 2009.]

Has the age of email led to an outbreak of exclamation marks? Do women
use them more than men? Also, is there a word for the odd feeling when
you listen to a radio personality for …

Poets Laureate and Poetry Brothels - 24 Aug. 2009

August 24th, 2009

51:15

[This episode first aired May 23, 2009.]

For 341 years, the poets laureate of Britain have all been male. That just changed with the appointment of …

Words With K in Them Are Funny - 17 Aug. 2009

August 17th, 2009

51:15

[This episode first aired May 16, 2009.]

Pickle, baboon, cupcake, snorkel, pumpkin, Kalamazoo -- let's face it,
some words are just plain funny. But what makes some words funnier than
others? Martha and Grant consider this …

Bothered by People Talking in the Third Person? (minicast) - 13. Aug. 2009

August 13th, 2009

5:55

Does it bug you when people talk about themselves in the third person? A caller finds herself mightily annoyed by this habit, which she observes …

Going for that Anti-Marketing Dollar - 10 Aug. 2009

August 10th, 2009

51:15

[This episode first aired May 2, 2009.]

In this downbeat economy, some advertisers are reaching for upbeat language. Take the new Quaker Oats …

How Do You Pronounce "Etiquette"? Minicast -7 Aug. 2009

August 7th, 2009

7:05

If a colleague repeatedly mispronounces a word, what's the best way to handle it? Should you correct him? Ignore it? Is it possible to discuss the …

Don't Give Me Any of That Flannel Minicast - 5 Aug. 2009

August 5th, 2009

4:50

The English language has no shortage of words that mean nonsensical talk, including one that's piqued a listener's curiosity: How did flannel come to mean 'empty chatter' or 'hot air,' as in 'Don't give me any of that …

Like a Duck on a June Bug - 3 Aug. 2009

August 3rd, 2009

51:15

[This episode first aired Apr. 11, 2009.]

Why are the names of cars so unimaginative? Grant argues that auto manufacturers might take inspiration from …

Moded, Corroded, Your Booty Exploded - 27 July 2009

July 27th, 2009

51:15

[This episode originally aired March 28, 2009.]

Why is it that what you say to your family and what they hear are different? If you say 'no,' your child hears 'maybe,' and if you say 'maybe,' she hears 'ask again and …

Magnolia Mouth, Zero Plurals, and Cluster Simplification (minicast) - 22 July 2009

July 22nd, 2009

7:22

An Alabama high-school teacher observes that one of his fellow teachers tends to write words that should be plural as singular, such as 'I graded all …

I, For One, Welcome Our New Robot Overlords - 20 July 2009

July 20th, 2009

51:15

[This episode first aired March 21, 2009.]

Sure, there's 'Grandma' and 'Grampa,' but there's also 'Gammy,' 'Bumpy,' 'Dadoo,' 'Gre-Gre,' 'Kiki,' 'Kerkel,' 'Monga,' 'Nee-Nee,' 'Pots,' 'Rah-Rah' and 'Woo-Woo.' Martha and …

A Walk Spoiled But Our Lie is Good - 13 July 2009

July 13th, 2009

51:15

[This episode first aired March 14, 2009.]

If English isn't your first language, there are lots of ways to learn
it, such as memorizing Barack Obama's speech to the 2004 Democratic
Convention. Martha and Grant talk about …

Trespasses vs. Debts - 9 July 2009

July 9th, 2009

8:09

A caller wonders why some versions of The Lord's Prayer include the phrase 'forgive us our trespasses,' while others substitute the word 'debt.'

--

Get your language question answered on the air! Call or write with your …

Postal Abbreviations - 8 July 2009

July 8th, 2009

6:38

What's the deal with using the two-letter postal code abbreviations for states, instead of the longer, more formal abbreviations? That is, why write …

Tweet, Tweet! Polly Wanna Cracker! - 6 July 2009

July 6th, 2009

51:17

[This episode originally aired February 28, 2009.]

'Twittering,' 'tweeting,' 'twirting'--it's rare to see a whole new body
of language appear right …

Chicken Scratches and Creaky Voice - 29 June 2009

June 29th, 2009

51:15

[This episode first aired February 23, 2009.]

Does your 'handwriting' look like chicken scratches, calligraphy, or maybe something in between? Martha and Grant discuss the 'state of penmanship,' the phenomenon linguists …

A Snarl of Serial Commas - 24 June 2009

June 24th, 2009

9:50

Are serial commas always necessary? An English teacher says she was surprised to learn that she and her husband, who's also an English teacher, are giving their students conflicting advice.

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Get your language question …

L-U-R-V-E, Love - 22 June 2009

June 22nd, 2009

51:15

[This episode first aired February 14, 2009.]

Martha and Grant share a couple of favorite online sources for reading about language: Michael Quinion's …

That's What "Friend" is For? Minicast - 18 June 2009

June 18th, 2009

4:29

How can the word 'friend' possibly describe both the people you went to school with *and* the people to whom you are connected through Facebook and …

Great Googly Moogly Minicast - 17 June 2009

June 17th, 2009

7:34

'Great Googly Moogly!' A caller wonders where that exclamation comes from. Here's the Snickers commercial that includes the phrase.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSAXLayoMKI

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Get your language question answered on the …

Summer Housekeeping Minicast - 16 June 2009

June 16th, 2009

2:22

A special message for podcast listeners. Also, this just in: The term gunny sack is a pleonasm! Who knew? (So sue us -- we can't help getting excited about that kind of thing.)

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Get your language question answered on …

Once Upon a Time - June 15, 2009

June 15th, 2009

51:15

[This episode first aired February 7, 2009.]

Are fairy tales too scary for children? A survey of parents in Britain
found that more than half wouldn't …

Falling off the Wagon (minicast) - 3 June 2009

June 3rd, 2009

3:40

Why do we say someone is 'on the wagon' when they abstain from drinking alcohol?

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Get your language question answered on the air! Call or write with …

Days of Wine Flights and Mullets - 1 June 2009

June 1st, 2009

51:00

[This episode first aired January 24, 2009.]

President Barack Obama hopes to boost the economy by pouring federal dollars into efforts to rebuild the …

Hip-Hop Book of Rhymes - 13 May 2009

May 13th, 2009

4:30

Welcome to another minicast from A Way with Words. Iâm Grant Barrett.

[Music]

Hip-hop is high art. Yeah. Thatâs right. And if you donât understand …

Souped Up and Sizzling - 11 May 2009

May 11th, 2009

51:15

Like mushrooms in fallen leaves, new words keep popping up overnight. Consider the recent coinages frugalista, AFPAK, and fang-bang. Recently, Forbes magazine asked Grant to handicap the chances of these and other …

One Fell Swoop Minicast - 6 May 2009

May 6th, 2009

3:45

Martha muses about the language of falconry, and in the process, reveals the origins of several words and phrases in one fell swoop.

Did you know that a falcon's eyeballs are so huge that they take up most of its head -- …

A Conversation with Roy Blount Jr. - 29 April 2009

April 29th, 2009

14:27

Humorist Roy Blount Jr. sits down with Grant for a conversation about the controversy over writers' rights and the Amazon Kindle 2.

As president of the Authors Guild, Blount has argued that writers whose work is …

Macaroni and Gravy? - 23 April 2009

April 23rd, 2009

4:00

This week, we're going through the e-mail bag. Here's a savory, sensuous one. It's from Stacey in Boulder, Colorado.

Stacey grew up out West, but …

Almost Up to Possible - 20 April 2009

April 20th, 2009

51:15

[This episode originally aired December 13, 2008.]

The second edition of the Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus is chock-full of synonyms, of course, …

What's a Hobson's Choice? - 15 April 2009

April 15th, 2009

3:01

What's a 'Hobson's Choice'?

If you're facing a Hobson's choice, you don't really have much to choose from. The phrase describes a situation in which your options are either to take what's offered, or else take nothing at …

Dust Bunnies and Ghost Turds - 6 April 2009

April 6th, 2009

51:15

[This episode was first aired November 22, 2008.]

Feeling fankled? It's a Scots English word that means 'messed up' or 'confused.' In this week's …

What the Cluck? (Part 2) - 1 April 2009

April 1st, 2009

3:37

What The Cluck, Part 2

What does the expression egg on have to do with chickens? Nothing, actually. Martha explains why, and tells the story of how the term curate's egg came to mean 'something with both good and bad …

What the Cluck? - 25 March 2009

March 25th, 2009

3:27

This week, we received an email from Randy in San Diego. Randy writes:

'I recently got myself three hens for the back yard as a hobby that I thought …

Stem-winding and Spellbinding Sentences Minicast - 18 March 2009

March 18th, 2009

3:40

Recently The New Yorker magazine ran a profile of the writer David Foster Wallace, who died last year at the age of 46. The article included a line that I think Foster himself might have appreciated. It went like this: …

Leapin' Lexical Inventions - 11 March 2009

March 11th, 2009

3:26

Martha explains how experiments with dead frogs and live wires led to the invention of the battery, and inspired a couple of familiar English words.

I had to change the batteries in my flashlight the other day, and that …

Elvis in a Cheese Sandwich - 9 March 2009

March 9th, 2009

51:14

[Portions of this episode were first broadcast November 1, 2008.]

Apple core, Baltimore! Ever play the rhyming game where you eat an apple, then shout 'apple core,' and then the first person to respond 'Baltimore!' gets …

Twacking around Duckish Minicast - 4 March 2009

March 4th, 2009

2:58

Time for another linguistic mystery.

Where would you be if you decided to go twacking around duckish, and then you came home and wrote about it in a …

How About a Game of Meehonkey? - 16 Feb. 2009

February 16th, 2009

2:50

Time for another linguistic mystery. In what part of the country would you be likely to hear older folks using the following phrases?

'He sure was …

Love Joe Floggers? So Don't I! - 2 Feb. 2009

February 2nd, 2009

2:53

Time to solve another linguistic mystery.

You're in a restaurant. You overhear a conversation at the next table. The woman says to her friend, 'You …

Just a Dite about Sculch and Dooryards - 26 Jan. 2009

January 26th, 2009

2:54

Where in the world would you be likely to find sculch in your dooryard, or ask for just a dite of cream in your coffee? Martha has the answers in …

Hoopoe Heads - 12 Jan. 2009

January 12th, 2009

4:05

Listen: Can you guess what this is?

'Huup huup huup . . . huup huup huup . . . huup huup huup.'

No, it's not Morse code. Not a baby chimp. It's the sound of the hoopoe.

Funny-looking bird, the hoopoe. It has a pink head, …

A Moniker for Your Monitor - 12 Jan. 2009

January 12th, 2009

51:15

[This episode first aired October 18, 2008.]

This week on A Way with Words: Fess up: Do you have a pet name for your
car? How about your computer? Martha and Grant discuss the urge to give
nicknames to inanimate objects in …

Automobile Words of the Year - 29 Dec. 2008

December 29th, 2008

2:33

We're continuing our look at some of the words of the year of 2008. Last week we talked about words that came from the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Gas prices have been all over the place, but worse still than high gas-prices …

The Lipstick Express - 15 Dec. 2008

December 15th, 2008

2:42

Hockey mom, mavericky, snow machines, and--how could we forget that other memorable phrase from the 2008 presidential campaign?--lipstick on a pig. …

I Can Has Shimmery Eyez - 15 Dec. 2008

December 15th, 2008

3:06

The death of Martha's favorite cat Typo prompts her to reminisce about him, and about one of her favorite ailurophilic words, chatoyant.

My cat Typo …

PUMA (minicast) - 8 Dec. 2008

December 8th, 2008

2:09

We're continuing our look at some of the words of the year of 2008. Last week we talked about "ground game."

Another political term that we crossed …

Ground Game (minicast) - 1 Dec. 2008

December 1st, 2008

2:15

We're continuing our look at some of the words of the year of 2008.  

Being an election year, it generated a huge amount of political language.

One …

Moonbats and Wingnuts - 1 Dec. 2008

December 1st, 2008

51:14

[This episode first aired September 20, 2008.]

Here's a bit of political slang now making the rounds: sleepover. No, we're not talking about another …

Nuke the Fridge - 23 Nov. 2008

November 24th, 2008

2:15

We kick off our series on contenders for 2008's "Word of the Year" with a look at "nuke the fridge."

The American Dialect Society will hold the 19th …

A Year of Words - 17 Nov. 2008

November 17th, 2008

51:14

It's that time again, when people start thinking about a 'new or resurgent word or phrase that best captures the spirit of the past year.' And what a year! We heard the words 'bailout' and 'lipstick' more times than …

Of Gossamer and Geese (minicast) - 10 Nov. 2008

November 10th, 2008

3:44

It's a warm day in late autumn. You're out for a stroll in the country. If the air is still, and the sun is at just the right angle, you may see the …

Pwned Prose, Stat! - 10 Nov. 2008

November 10th, 2008

51:14

[This episode first aired September 13, 2008.]

When you get to the end of a wonderful book, your first impulse is to
tell someone else about it. In …

Language Headlines (minicast) - 3 Nov. 2008

November 3rd, 2008

3:14

Last year British slang lexicographer Jonathon Green struck a deal with the publisher Chambers Harrap to create an exhaustive dictionary of English slang. Now, says the London Telegraph, the first fruit of that …

Hair of the Politics that Bit You - 3 Nov. 2008

November 3rd, 2008

51:14

This week on 'A Way with Words': Feel like having a little 'hair of the dog'? Grant and Martha explain what dog hair has to do with hangover cures. And what do you call it when random objects form a recognizable image, …

Riddled Through With Riddles - 27 Oct. 2008

October 27th, 2008

51:14

Here's a riddle: 'Nature requires five, custom gives seven, laziness takes nine, and wickedness eleven.' Think you know the answer? You'll find it in this week's episode, in which Grant and Martha discuss this and other …

Darwinism and the Dictionary (minicast) - 20 Oct. 2008

October 20th, 2008

4:34

The British publishers of the Collins dictionary have announced 24 words on their endangered species list. They're words like 'vilipend,' which means …

Reading the OED from A to Z - 13 Oct. 2008

October 13th, 2008

5:04

Reading the OED from A to Z (minicast)

Word nerd Ammon Shea quit his job as a furniture mover in New York City to spend an entire year reading the …

Language Headlines (minicast) - 6 Oct. 2008

October 6th, 2008

3:14

The world of politics tops this week's language headlines, including an explanation of the Bradley effect, and the ongoing debate over bilingual …

Regional Food Names: When Is a Milkshake Not a Milkshake? Minicast - 29 Sept. 2008

September 29th, 2008

4:45

Regional Food Names: When Is a Milkshake Not a Milkshake?

We asked you to tell us about odd regional food names, and boy did you oblige! Martha reads some of your letters about whoopie pies, hot tamales, pretzel salad, …

Antipodes and Grooks Minicast - 22 Sept. 2008

September 22nd, 2008

5:25

A listener in Brazil challenges Martha's pronunciation of the odd English word antipodes. Their email exchange leads Martha to muse about a favorite …

Maverick and Gobbledygook Minicast - 15 Sept. 2008

September 15th, 2008

5:15

Mmmmmaverick. Maverick, Maverick, Maverick. Maverick, Maverick, Maverick, Maverick. Maverick.

Is it just my imagination, or are we hearing this word a …

Lackabookaphobia? Minicast - 8 Sept. 2008

September 8th, 2008

7:06

Some people wouldn't be caught without the season's latest fashions, and others never leave home without their asthma inhaler. But for some of us, …

The Secret Language of Families - 8 Sept. 2008

September 8th, 2008

51:14

[This episode first aired January 19th, 2008.]

Does your family use a special word you've never heard anywhere else? A
funny name for 'the heel of a loaf of bread,' perhaps, or for 'visiting
relatives who won't leave.' In …

Pair o' Docs Paradox Minicast - 1 Sept. 2008

September 1st, 2008

5:36

A caller from Imperial Beach, California has a punctuation question: Dr. Tei Fu Chen and his wife, Dr. Oi Lin Chen own and operate a large, …

Language Headlines Minicast- 25 August 2008

August 25th, 2008

3:14

Grant has the latest headlines from the world of language, including the debate over the name of the home of the 2008 Summer Olympics. Is 'Beijing' pronounced 'bay-JING' or 'bay-ZHING'? Also, a recent court decision …

Insegrevious Paratereseomaniacs - 25 Aug. 2008

August 25th, 2008

51:15

[This episode first aired December 8th and 9th, 2007.]

This week
Martha and Grant honor winners of the Ig Nobel Prizes, those wacky
awards for weird academic research and they help a caller decipher a
puzzling word from a …

When is a Bell Pepper a Mango? Minicast - 17 Aug. 2008

August 17th, 2008

8:03

When is a mango not a mango? Why, when it's a bell pepper, of course! An Indiana listener says she and her Kentucky in-laws have entirely different names for this vegetable. She wants to know why, so we help her sort it …

Word Jocks, Lettered in Language - 17 Aug. 2008

August 17th, 2008

51:14

[This episode originally aired Dec. 1, 2007.]

Pass the Gatorade! Martha and Grant work up a sweat this week as they
tackle a sports quiz and lob …

Language Headlines - 11 August 2008

August 11th, 2008

3:47

Grant dishes up the latest language headlines from around the world.

Oh, what a difference a letter can make! The Moscow Times reports this week that Tatyana Tetyorkina was stripped of her Russian citizenship because a …

Give It the Old College Slang - 11 August 2008

August 11th, 2008

51:15

[This episode originally aired May 17, 2008.]

If someone calls you 'dibby,' should you be flattered or insulted?
You'd know if you were in college a …

Name That Accent Minicast - 3 August 2008

August 4th, 2008

8:57

For true word nerds, it's a guilty pleasure. You meet a stranger, and you find yourself listening closely to that person's way of speaking as you try to guess the accent. Martha and Grant confess they play "Name That …

Index v. Indice Minicast - 28 July 2008

July 28th, 2008

7:42

A caller has client who uses what sounds like a strange, three-syllable word: indice. The caller knows that the plural of index is indices. But, he …

Put a Snap on the Grouch Bag - 28 July 2008

July 28th, 2008

51:14

This episode first aired May 5, 2008.

...

Have you ever eaten a 'Benedictine sandwich'? Or savored a juicy 'pork
steak'? What's a favorite dish you grew up with that may be mystifying
to someone from another part of the …

Small Talk, the Word Game Minicast - 21 July 2008

July 21st, 2008

10:46

Puzzle Guys John Chaneski and Greg Pliska team up to make double trouble for Martha and Grant. The four divide into teams, and the object of the game is to make your partner guess words from a list. The only catch? All …

Emoticons Minicast - 14 July 2008

July 14th, 2008

10:22

A listener has a question about emoticons, those little sideways symbols you type to suggest emotions in informal electronic writing. You know, like …

Dits and Dat Minicast - 7 July 2008

July 7th, 2008

6:00

What's a dittler? What's a dit? A traveling preacher named Fred says he's heard these strange terms in parts of Appalachia used to refer to 'baby chicks' and 'little ducklings.' We share some of our own research about …

Barbecue Stoppers and Marmalade Droppers - 7 July 2008

July 7th, 2008

51:15

[This episode originally aired March 15, 2008.]

Unless you've been hiding out in a galaxy far, far away, you know that this is an election year. Grant …

Do Singers Have Accents? Minicast - 30 June 2008

June 30th, 2008

9:25

You've heard this happen: A singer belts out a song, and then afterward, she starts talking and you're startled to hear what sounds like a completely different accent. What is it about singing that seems to change some …

Paper to Pixels, Pages to Screens - 30 June 2008

June 30th, 2008

51:14

[This episode first aired March 8, 2008.]

You've just read a terrific paperback novel. Would you feel any
differently about it if you'd the same words …

My Brilliant Careen Minicast- 23 June 2008

June 23rd, 2008

7:41

A New York City listener says he's reading lots of thrillers this summer. But a couple of words keep tripping him up. Does a speeding car careen or career? The hosts spell out the differences, and throw in the origin of …

Celebrate National Grammar Day - 23 June 2008

June 23rd, 2008

51:14

[This episode originally aired March 3, 2008.]

Do you know where your participle is dangling? Martha and Grant salute National Grammar Day.

Also,
when you're scribbling on a piece of paper, do you find yourself
expecting …

How to Address an Envelope to a Married Couple Minicast - 16 June 2008

June 16th, 2008

9:46

A San Diego woman is bothered by the convention of addressing envelopes to Mr. and Mrs. John Smith. Shouldn't we also include the woman's first name? …

Cruciverbalists Play Across and Down - 16 June 2008

June 16th, 2008

51:14

[This episode first aired February 23, 2008.]

Sharpen those pencils! Martha and Grant are doing crossword puzzles on
the air again, preparing for their appearance with NPR Puzzlemaster
Will Shortz at the American Crossword …

Careful with That Teakettle Minicast! - 9 June 2008

June 9th, 2008

8:00

A caller who grew up in New Jersey remembers hearing a neighbor use the expression 'Hak mir nisht ken tshaynik' whenever she wanted to shush someone. He's sure the phrase is Yiddish, but he's never been able to figure …

Expresso Dating and Dying Tongues - 9 June 2008

June 9th, 2008

51:15

[This episode originally aired February 16, 2008.]

There are nearly 7,000 languages in the world today, and by some
estimates, they're dying off at the rate of one every week. What's lost
when a language dies? Martha and …

The Word Candidate Minicast - 2 June 2008

June 2nd, 2008

3:47

[This is the first of our 2008 summer minicasts, offered only online.]

We hear a lot about political candidates these days. But did you ever stop to …

An Estival Festival of Summer Minicasts - 2 June 2008

June 2nd, 2008

3:41

This week we announce our 2008 summer minicasts, offered only online. It's what we're calling an 'estival festival.'

--

Get your language question answered on the air! Call or write 24 hours a day: (877) WAY-WORD/(877) …

Road Trip! - 26 May 2008

May 26th, 2008

51:15

[This episode originally aired January 26 and 27, 2008.]

In this episode, a listener says his friend Harold likes to do social phoning while driving, …

Typewriters We Have Loved - 31 Mar. 2008

March 31st, 2008

51:12

(This episode first aired January 5, 2008.)

Ding! In this week's episode, Mark Twain would be pleased. Reports that
it's the end of the line for the …

Bite the Wax Tadpole - 24 March 2008

March 24th, 2008

51:06

(This episode first aired December 15, 2007.)

In this episode, Martha and Grant discuss advertising slogans and product names supposedly botched in …

Words of the Year - 24 Dec. 2007

December 24th, 2007

51:13

In this episode, Grant offers a peek at some expressions he's nominating for the American Dialect Society's Word of the Year vote in January. Will it be 'w00t,' 'subprime,' or something else? You can also check out …

Season Premiere: Howdy, It's a Wit's War! - 26 Nov. 2007

November 26th, 2007

51:12

It's a brand-new season here on 'A Way with Words!' To celebrate, Martha and Grant are noodling with anagrams--including the one in the title of this …

Grant: Nosy Parkers and Butternuts - 20 Nov. 2007

November 21st, 2007

3:57

Grant goes through the mailbag, offering answers about the terms 'nosy parker,' 'out of pocket,' and about whether the word 'falsehood' has its origins in medieval garb. He also throws a question out to listeners about …

Martha and Grant: Points on a Compass, the Saga Continues

November 14th, 2007

7:10

Remember Tom, the guy who's still trying to remember a word he insists he learned long ago meaning 'the points on a compass'? That call generated a boatload of more proposed answers from listeners. But one response …

Martha and Grant: The Blue Bark Mystery - 7 Nov. 2007

November 8th, 2007

7:48

A caller asks a delicate question about the phrase 'blue bark shipment,' a term involving the transport of deceased members of the military. Martha …

Martha and Grant: Let's Blow This Joint - 31 Oct. 2007

October 31st, 2007

6:19

A caller sends Grant and Martha off on a slang-infested trip about ways of saying a fast good-bye. Listen as they blow pop, popcorn, and taco stands by way of author Jim Harrison, the comic strip Funky Winkerbean, and a …

Grant: Dangerous Books You Should Read - 24 Oct. 2007

October 24th, 2007

5:43

Discover the joys (and temptations!) of two new books of collected wisdom: The Yale Book of Quotations, edited by Fred Shapiro, and James Geary's …

Martha and Grant: Hey, That's Mine! - 17 Oct. 2007

October 17th, 2007

5:30

When you were a child and wanted to lay claim to something, what did you say? Did you call dibs? Or did you hosey it? A caller is curious about another verb used in such situations: finnie. Grant explains this word's …

Martha: Appalachian Cackleberries - 10 Oct. 2007

October 10th, 2007

5:09

Martha reminisces about her family's mountain roots while dipping into the delicious vocabulary of Southernisms found in the Dictionary of Smoky …

Martha: The Love Dimple - 3 Oct. 2007

October 3rd, 2007

4:57

What's the name for that little dent in your upper lip? It's called a philtrum. Martha reveals the erotic origins of this word, and proves once again …

Martha: A Collection of Collective Nouns - 26 Sept. 2007

September 26th, 2007

6:06

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for: The results of the A Way with Words Collective Noun Contest! What collective noun would you apply to …

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