254 episodes

A Way with Words is a fun and funny radio show and podcast about language. Co-hosts Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett talk with callers from around the world about linguistics, slang, new words, jokes, riddles, word games, grammar, old sayings, word origins, regional dialects, family expressions, books, literature, folklore, and speaking and writing well. Email your language questions for the show to words@waywordradio.org. Or call with your questions toll-free *any* time in the U.S. and Canada at (877) 929-9673. From anywhere in the world: +1 (619) 800-4443. Hear all past shows for free: http://waywordradio.org/. Also on Twitter at http://twitter.com/wayword.

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

    • Education
    • 4.6 • 1.7K Ratings

A Way with Words is a fun and funny radio show and podcast about language. Co-hosts Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett talk with callers from around the world about linguistics, slang, new words, jokes, riddles, word games, grammar, old sayings, word origins, regional dialects, family expressions, books, literature, folklore, and speaking and writing well. Email your language questions for the show to words@waywordradio.org. Or call with your questions toll-free *any* time in the U.S. and Canada at (877) 929-9673. From anywhere in the world: +1 (619) 800-4443. Hear all past shows for free: http://waywordradio.org/. Also on Twitter at http://twitter.com/wayword.

    When Pigs Fly - 14 June 2021

    When Pigs Fly - 14 June 2021

    Don't move my cheese! It's a phrase middle managers use to talk about adapting to change in the workplace. It comes from a popular 1990s business book featuring a fable about mice and tiny humans inside a maze and how they respond when their chewy food source is relocated. Plus, the origin story of the name William, and why it's I in Spanish. And a 5-year-old poses a question that puzzles many grownups, too: Why is the letter Q so often followed by a U? All that, and adynaton, an assonant quiz, do it up brown, salt of the earth, haven't grown gills yet, wooling, a silly joke about the number one, a poem about regret, and hide-and-seek calls, such as Ole Ole Olson all in free!
    Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.

    • 51 min
    Tiger Tail (Rebroadcast) - 7 June 2021

    Tiger Tail (Rebroadcast) - 7 June 2021

    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 hopefulness and derives from Arabic for "God willing." In Trinidad, if you want to ask friends to hang out with you, invite them to go liming. Nobody's sure about this word's origin, although it may indeed have to do with the tart green fruit. And: a story about a traveler who finds that children in Siberia use different words to say the sound an animal makes. English speakers imitate a rooster with cock-a-doodle-doo, but in Siberia, children learn to say something that sounds like "koh-kock-a-REE!" The sounds we attribute to other creatures vary from language to language, even if they're all the same to the animals. Plus, a brain teaser about subtracting letters, saditty, bundu, potpie, bubbler, words misheard, the plural of squash, and a poem about slowing down and paying attention.
    Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.

    • 51 min
    Cool Beans - 31 May 2021

    Cool Beans - 31 May 2021

    If you speak a second or third language, you may remember the first time you dreamed in that new tongue. But does this milestone mean you're actually fluent? And a couple's dispute over the word regret: Say you wish you'd been able to meet Albert Einstein. Can you regret that the two of you never met, or is there a better word for a situation over which you have no control? Can the word regret include simply longing for something? Plus, a sixth-grader wonders about a weird word on her spelling bee study list. It's spelled X-Y-L-Y-L -- and it's not just for Scrabble players. Plus, hot as flugens, to play Box and Cox, twack and twoc, a quiz for canine lovers, an eloquent appreciation of libraries, a widow's moving thank-you note, a punny gardening joke, a funny newspaper correction, and a trick with a hole in it. Cool beans!
    Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.

    • 51 min
    Clever Clogs (Rebroadcast) - 24 May 2021

    Clever Clogs (Rebroadcast) - 24 May 2021

    Ribbon fall. Gallery forest. You won't find terms like these in most dictionaries, but they and hundreds like them are discussed by famous writers in the book Home Ground: A Guide to the American Landscape. The book is an intriguing collection of specialized vocabulary that invites us to look more closely at the natural world -- and delight in its language. Also, how and why the Southern drawl developed. Plus, the phrase It's a thing. This expression may seem new, but It's a thing has been a thing for quite a long time. How long? Even Jane Austen used it! And: hourglass valley, thee vs. thou, bitchin', a word game inspired by Noah Webster, Willie off the pickle boat, who did it and ran, and Powder River! Let 'er buck!
    Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.

    • 51 min
    Love Bites - 17 May 2021

    Love Bites - 17 May 2021

    The word filibuster has a long and colorful history, going back to the days when pirates roamed the high seas. Today it refers to hijacking a piece of legislation. Plus, the language of yoga teachers: When doing a guided meditation, you may hear your instructor speaking in a kind of continuous present, with phrases like Sitting comfortably and Breathing deeply instead of the simple imperatives to Sit comfortably and Breathe deeply. These are participles with a purpose, and linguists have a term for it: the politeness progressive. Finally, why CAN'T you have your cake and eat it, too? Also: Book it!, the language of falconry, acronames, how to pronounce brooch, broach the subject, at loggerheads, a brain-teasing game for science fans and another one for gardeners, and the many meanings of hickey. And hey, Don't go visiting with one arm as long as the other!
    Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.

    • 51 min
    Little Shavers (Rebroadcast) - 10 May 2021

    Little Shavers (Rebroadcast) - 10 May 2021

    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 nightclubs and cool music. Speaking of music, a professional musician reports that it's sometimes hard for him to relax and enjoy the performance of others because he's tempted overanalyze it. Do language experts have the same problem when they listen to everyday conversation or read for pleasure? They sure do! The remedy? Reading something you can really get lost in. And hey -- some gift recommendations coming right up: books about family, reading, and 21st-century English. Plus, little shavers, fork to the floor, potato quality, some good, and zhuzh.
    Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.

    • 51 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
1.7K Ratings

1.7K Ratings

Doglover131 ,

Fun, educational, interesting

Grant & Martha are brilliant in their ability to find word and phrase origins and provide explanations that are clear and accurate while also being entertaining.

I really appreciate the way they embrace all dialects as worthy and correct variants of formal language.

I save up episodes to binge listen on long road trips.

Luna669 ,

Glad I found the podcast!

My local NPR station doesn’t play A Way With Words, so I was very happy to find the podcast! Although the catalogue doesn’t go as far back as I’d like, I was just happy to get as many episodes as are up. I love hearing the family sayings and just learning about language.

JaymieLynne ,

So much goodness!

Etymology, and language in general, has always fascinated me! I love to hear Martha & John break things down (or build them up) with their enthusiasm and well researched responses.

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