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

Bought by WEZU, WMUU-LP, and WETD


  • Added: Feb 04, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 3
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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 time...

Bought by WNJR, WEZU, KTSW 89.9, WRNC-LP, WYAP and more


  • Added: Jan 28, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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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 ev...

Bought by WSLR, WEZU, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WMUU-LP and more


  • Added: Jan 21, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 6
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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...

Bought by WSLR and KTSW 89.9


  • Added: Jan 15, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 2
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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 s...

Bought by WSLR, WMUU-LP, KREV-LP, KTSW 89.9, and WYAP


  • Added: Jan 08, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 5
Caption: Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette
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...

Bought by WSLR, KREV-LP, WMUU-LP, WEZU, KTSW 89.9 and more


  • Added: Jan 01, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 6
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Bathroom walls, missing graffiti, and social media. Where have all the cute quips on bathroom stalls gone? We wonder about the apparent decline of...

Bought by KREV-LP, WSLR, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, and WMUU-LP


  • Added: Dec 25, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 5
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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, po...

Bought by KREV-LP, WSLR, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, and WRNC-LP


  • Added: Dec 18, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 5
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Gifts for book lovers. Martha recommends one for lovers of libraries and another for students of Spanish. Grant suggests some enchanting novels for...

Bought by WSLR, KPIP-LP, KTSW 89.9, and WYAP


  • Added: Dec 12, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 4
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When writing textbooks about slavery, which words best reflect its cold, hard reality? Some historians are dropping the word "slave" in favor of te...

Bought by WSLR, WRNC-LP, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, and WMUU-LP


  • Added: Dec 04, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 5
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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 desc...

Bought by WNJR, WSLR, KTSW 89.9, WRNC-LP, WEZU and more


  • Added: Nov 25, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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Secret codes, ciphers, and telegrams. It used to be that in order to transmit information during wartime, various industries encoded their messages...

Bought by WMUU-LP, WNJR, WSLR, KTSW 89.9, and WYAP


  • Added: Nov 19, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 5
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What a difference pronunciation makes! The United States has a Department of Defense, and an individual might take classes in self-defense. So why ...

Bought by WMUU-LP, WNJR, WSLR, WEZU, KTSW 89.9 and more


  • Added: Nov 12, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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This week on "A Way with Words": Teaching our children, and some advice for writers. Suppose your child is eager to tackle a difficult subject--anc...

Bought by WNJR, WSLR, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WRNC-LP and more


  • Added: Nov 05, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 6
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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 anticipatio...

Bought by WNJR, WSLR, KTSW 89.9, and WYAP


  • Added: Oct 30, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 4
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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 ...

Bought by WNJR, WSLR, WEZU, KTSW 89.9, WYAP and more


  • Added: Oct 22, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 6
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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...

Bought by WNJR, WSLR, WEZU, KTSW 89.9, WRNC-LP and more


  • Added: Oct 15, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 6
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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 ...

Bought by WNJR, WSLR, WEZU, KTSW 89.9, and WRNC-LP


  • Added: Oct 08, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 5
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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 A...

Bought by WNJR, WSLR, KMXT, WEZU, KTSW 89.9 and more


  • Added: Oct 01, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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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 19...

Bought by WNJR, WSLR, KPIP-LP, KREV-LP, WEZU and more


  • Added: Sep 25, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7