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

Bought by WYAP


  • Added: Dec 08, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 1
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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...

Bought by KTSW 89.9 and WYAP


  • Added: Dec 02, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 2
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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...

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


  • Added: Nov 23, 2016
  • Length: 01:34:00
  • Purchases: 7
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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 woma...

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


  • Added: Nov 17, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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Novelist Charles Dickens created many unforgettable characters, but he's also responsible for coining or popularizing lots of words, like "flummox"...

Bought by KREV-LP, WSLR, WNJR, WETD, KTSW 89.9 and more


  • Added: Nov 10, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
Caption: Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette
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 ...

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


  • Added: Nov 03, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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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 ord...

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


  • Added: Oct 27, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 6
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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 rh...

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


  • Added: Oct 20, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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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 ...

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


  • Added: Oct 13, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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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 t...

Bought by WNJR, WSLR, KREV-LP, WETD, KTSW 89.9 and more


  • Added: Oct 05, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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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 KREV-LP, WNJR, WSLR, WETD, KTSW 89.9 and more


  • Added: Sep 28, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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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 KREV-LP, WNJR, WSLR, WETD, KTSW 89.9 and more


  • Added: Sep 22, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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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 KREV-LP, WNJR, WSLR, WETD, WMUU-LP and more


  • Added: Sep 16, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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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 KREV-LP, WNJR, WSLR, WEZU, WETD and more


  • Added: Sep 10, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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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, WETD, WMUU-LP and more


  • Added: Sep 02, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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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 KREV-LP, WNJR, WETD, KTSW 89.9, WEZU and more


  • Added: Aug 26, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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Serious questions from young voices. In this special fundraising edition, Martha and Grant share some favorite calls from their youngest listeners,...

Bought by 90.1 WFYI Public Radio, WNJR, and KTSW 89.9


  • Added: Aug 26, 2016
  • Length: 28:17
  • Purchases: 3
Caption: Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette
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 KREV-LP, WMUU-LP, WSLR, WNJR, WETD and more


  • Added: Aug 19, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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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 ...

Bought by WSLR, WNJR, WETD, KTSW 89.9, KREV-LP and more


  • Added: Aug 11, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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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 w...

Bought by WSLR, KREV-LP, WNJR, WETD, KTSW 89.9 and more


  • Added: Aug 05, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8