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A Way With Words

PRX

Public radio's lively hour-long program about the English language. Co-hosts Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett take calls from listeners about linguistic disputes, grammatical pet peeves, the origins of words and phrases, and curious regional expressions.

Public radio's lively hour-long program about the English language. Co-hosts Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett take calls from listeners about linguistic disputes, grammatical pet peeves, the origins of words and phrases, and curious regional expressions.

Location:

San Diego, CA

Networks:

PRX

Description:

Public radio's lively hour-long program about the English language. Co-hosts Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett take calls from listeners about linguistic disputes, grammatical pet peeves, the origins of words and phrases, and curious regional expressions.

Twitter:

@wayword

Language:

English

Contact:

Wayword, Inc. P.O. Box 632721 San Diego, CA 92163 1 (877) 929-9673


Episodes

Cool Your Soup (Rebroadcast) - 17 February 2020

2/17/2020
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 your own and teach yourself. Also, some Spanish idioms involving food: What does it mean to flip the tortilla or to eat turkey at a dance? Plus, a conversation about the difference between compassion and sympathy. Also recursive acronyms, bear-caught, leaverites, jonesing, mon oeil, Jane Austen's pins, high-water pants, and save your breath to cool...

Duration:00:50:59

Baby Blues - 10 February 2020

2/10/2020
A hundred years ago, suffragists lobbied to win women the right to vote. Linguistically speaking, though, suffrage isn't about "suffering." It's from a Latin word that involves voting. Plus: military cadences often include Jody calls, rhyming verses about the mythical guy who steals your sweetheart while you're off serving the country. But just who is Jody, anyway? Finally, maybe you've resolved to read more books this year. But how to ensure your success? Start by rearranging your...

Duration:00:50:59

Put on the Dog (Rebroadcast) - 3 February 2020

2/3/2020
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 exaggerated a little...well, maybe a lot--like the one who claimed his great-great-great-great grandad was Elvis. Plus, the term Philadelphia lawyer refers to an attorney who's very shrewd. Some possible explanations for why the City of Brotherly Love is associated with this...

Duration:00:50:59

Walkie Talkie - 27 January 2020

1/27/2020
One of the most powerful words you'll ever hear -- and one of the most poignant -- isn't in dictionaries yet. But it probably will be one day. The word is endling, and it means "the last surviving member of a species." The surprising story behind this word includes a doctor in a Georgia convalescent center, a museum exhibit in Australia, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, and much more. Also: how important is linguistic accuracy when it comes to a movie? Does it detract from your enjoyment if...

Duration:00:52:31

Tiger Tail - 20 January 2020

1/20/2020
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...

Duration:00:52:34

Gee and Haw (Rebroadcast) - 13 January 2020

1/13/2020
The highly specialized vocabulary of people who work outdoors, like farmers and fishermen, can bring us closer to the natural world. Also, a woman who trains sled dogs discusses the words she uses to communicate with her animals. You may be surprised to hear that "Mush!" is not one of them! Finally, if you're getting ready to go rock climbing, you'll first want the beta--a word with roots in the technology of video recording. Plus church key, browse line, smeuse, nitnoy, mommick, zawn, zwer,...

Duration:00:52:34

Gung Ho (Rebroadcast) - 6 January 2020

1/6/2020
The stories behind symbols and expressions around the world. The peace symbol popular during 1960's antiwar demonstrations had been around for decades.It originated in the antinuclear movement in the UK. Also, why do we say someone who's enthusiastic is all "gung ho"? The term derives from Chinese words meaning "work together." It was popularized by a Marine officer who admired the can-do spirit of Chinese industrial collectives. Plus, a tasty spin on stuffed foccacia that originated in...

Duration:00:52:30

Crusticles and Fenderbergs (Rebroadcast) - 30 December 2019

12/30/2019
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 respectful. Research shows that when our linguistic context shifts, so does our sense of culture. Also: why do we describe movies that are humorously exaggerated and over-the-top as "campy"? This type of "camp" isn't where your parents sent you for the summer. It derives from slang...

Duration:00:52:33

Clever Clogs - 23 December 2019

12/23/2019
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...

Duration:00:52:39

Son of a gun! - a special minicast from Grant

12/19/2019
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 make the show possible in 2020. Go to https://waywordradio.org/donate to make new episodes. ... 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)...

Duration:00:06:34

Little Shavers - 16 December 2019

12/16/2019
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...

Duration:00:53:52

Electrifying! - a special minicast from Martha

12/12/2019
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 with Words. https://www.waywordradio.org/donate/ ... 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...

Duration:00:04:43

Bug in Your Ear - 9 December 2019

12/9/2019
Is there something inherent in English that makes it the linguistic equivalent of the Borg, dominating and consuming other languages in its path? No, Not at all. The answer lies with politics and conquest rather than language itself. Plus: a brand-new baby may be lovingly placed in a giraffe and spend time in the Panda room, but where is that? That's jargon you might hear in a hospital's neonatal intensive care unit --- both for ease of communication among medical staff and to soothe...

Duration:00:52:41

Bun in the Oven (Rebroadcast) - 1 December 2019

12/2/2019
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 terms. How about clucky, awkward, eating for two, lumpy, clucky, or swallowed a pumpkin seed? And: the story behind the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. It's older than the Mary Poppins movie. Plus, the made-up foreignisms families share with each other. Anyone for...

Duration:00:52:57

The Black Dog - 25 November 2019

11/25/2019
Books were rare treasures in the Middle Ages, painstakingly copied out by hand. So how to protect them from theft? Scribes sometimes added a curse to the first page of those books that was supposed to keep thieves away -- and some were as vicious as they were creative! Also: if you spot a typo in a published book, should you contact the publisher? Maybe, but your first step is to make sure you're right! Finally, learning another language may make you question whether you're speaking your own...

Duration:00:51:10

Flying Pickle (Rebroadcast) - 18 November 2019

11/18/2019
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 all your canned foods and scattering cornflakes in your bed? That tradition has almost died out, but such a party used to be called a shivaree (SHIV-uh-ree). Also: the expression My name is Legion goes back to a Bible story that also gave us another English word that's much more obscure. Finally, tips for reading a book AND looking up the words...

Duration:00:50:59

The Last Straw (Rebroadcast) - 11 November 2019

11/11/2019
Books for word lovers, plus the stories behind some familiar terms. Want a gift for your favorite bibliophile? Martha and Grant have recommendations, from a collection of curious words to some fun with Farsi. Plus, some people yell "Geronimo!" when they jump out of an airplane, but why that particular word? Also, we call something that heats air a heater, so why do we call something that cools the air an air conditioner? The answer lies in the history of manufacturing. Also, quaaltagh,...

Duration:00:50:59

Beside Myself - 4 November 2019

11/4/2019
The new Downton Abbey movie is a luscious treat for fans of the public-television period piece, but how accurate is the script when it comes to the vocabulary of the early 20th century? It may be jarring to hear the word swag, but it was already at least 100 years old. And no, it's not an acronym. Also, a historian of science sets out to write a book to celebrate semicolons -- and ends up transforming her views about language. Plus, one teacher's creative solution to teen profanity profanity...

Duration:00:50:59

Hidden Treasures (Rebroadcast) - 28 October 2019

10/28/2019
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 men. These soldiers lacked formal education, so they wrote and spelled "by ear," and the letters show how ordinary people spoke back then. Plus, is there a single word that means "the opposite of prejudice"? How about "unhate"? Or maybe "allophilia"? Finally, there's an old joke that if you buy clothes at a flea market, they throw in the fleas...

Duration:00:50:59

Skookum - 21 October 2019

10/21/2019
So you've long dreamed of writing fiction, but don't know where to begin? There are lots of ways to get started -- creative writing classes, local writing groups, and books with prompts to get you going. The key is to get started, and then stick with it. And: which part of the body do surgeons call "the goose"? Hint: you don't want a bite of chicken caught in your goose. Finally, the nautical origins of the phrase "three sheets to the wind." This term for "very drunk" originally referred to...

Duration:00:50:59