A Way with Words

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A Way with Words is an upbeat and lively hour-long public radio show about language examined through history, culture, and family. Co-hosts Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett talk with callers from around the world about slang, grammar, old sayings, word origins, regional dialects, family expressions, and speaking and writing well. They settle disputes, play word quizzes, and discuss language news and controversies.

What it is: Martha and Grant are the teachers you wish you’d had. The show is upbeat, lively, conversational, fresh, contemporary. It’s a positive, information-based look at what is really happening with all aspects of modern language and communication, using anecdotes, culture, relationships, and families as starting points. There’s a lot of first-hand, primary research and professional language experience that informs the dialogue.

What it’s not: The show is not a couple of cobwebbed school-marms giving lectures. There’s almost no chiding, tsk-tsking, or finger-wagging. Nor is it simply a recitation of what one could easily find in a Google search. There’s also no ranting about language going to hell in a handbasket or the slang of kids today. In fact, what Martha and Grant have to say about the state of the English language may surprise you.

See what program directors are saying about the show.

Find out more about the program.

Get the show on PRSS/Content Depot.

Email Grant Barrett with questions.

Pieces

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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 ...

Bought by WNJR, WUIS, WETD, WOUB, WEZU and more


  • Added: Apr 10, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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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...

Bought by PRX Demo Station, WNJR, WOUB, WETD, WEZU and more


  • Added: Apr 03, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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Springtime is the right time to feel twitterpated—you know, you're smitten beyond a crush. Speaking of relationships, are dog owners really owners,...

Bought by WRNC-LP, KFOK-LP, WNJR, WOUB, 90.1 WFYI Public Radio and more


  • Added: Mar 27, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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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 ...

Bought by KFOK-LP, WRNC-LP, WNJR, WOUB, KREV-LP and more


  • Added: Mar 20, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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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 conversatio...

Bought by KFOK-LP, WRNC-LP, KREV-LP, WOUB, WEZU and more


  • Added: Mar 13, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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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 t...

Bought by WUIS, KREV-LP, WRNC-LP, WOUB, WEZU and more


  • Added: Mar 06, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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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 o...

Bought by WRNC-LP, WOUB, KREV-LP, WEZU, WNJR and more


  • Added: Feb 28, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 6
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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. Plu...

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  • Added: Feb 21, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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Hyperbolic Headlines Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity!!!! Or maybe not. You've seen those breathless headlines on the internet, like "You Won't ...

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  • Added: Feb 14, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 6
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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 condit...

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  • Added: Feb 06, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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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 Mar...

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  • Added: Jan 31, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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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 o...

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  • Added: Jan 23, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 5
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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 an...

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  • Added: Jan 16, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 6
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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...

Bought by WOUB, WNJR, WEZU, and KUOW


  • Added: Jan 10, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 4
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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 ...

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  • Added: Jan 02, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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First names like "Patience," "Hope," and "Charity" are inspired by worthy qualities. But how about "Be-courteous" or "Hate-evil"? The Puritans some...

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  • Added: Dec 27, 2013
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 6
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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 t...

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  • Added: Dec 19, 2013
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 5
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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 ...

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  • Added: Dec 12, 2013
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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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 rela...

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  • Added: Dec 05, 2013
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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Starting this year, Scripps National Spelling Bee contestants not only have to spell words correctly. A controversial new rule means they'll have t...

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  • Added: Nov 29, 2013
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 4