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 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 WSLR, WEZU, WUIS, KUOW, WETD and more


  • Added: Oct 16, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 6
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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 WEZU, WYAP, WSLR, KUOW, WUIS and more


  • Added: Oct 09, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 6
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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 WSLR, WEZU, WYAP, and WUIS


  • Added: Oct 03, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 4
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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 KUOW, WSLR, WEZU, WUIS, and WYAP


  • Added: Sep 26, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 5
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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...

Bought by WSLR, WEZU, KAWC, WUIS, KUOW and more


  • Added: Sep 18, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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This week's episode is all about relationships: When to correct your spouse, how to address those wedding invitations, and what kind of lingo to ex...

Bought by KUNR, WNIN, and KVSC


  • Added: Sep 11, 2014
  • Length: 29:58
  • Purchases: 3
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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...

Bought by WNIN, WSLR, WEZU, KREV-LP, WETD and more


  • Added: Sep 11, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 6
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Have a question about objective pronouns? Whom ya gonna call? Wait--is that right? Or would it be "who ya gonna call"? "Whom" may be technically co...

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


  • Added: Sep 04, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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Today's most popular dog names are Max and Bella. In the Middle Ages, though, dogs would answer to names like Amiable. Or Nosewise. Or even . . . ...

Bought by KREV-LP, WSLR, WEZU, WUIS, KUOW and more


  • Added: Aug 28, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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It's the Up Goer Five Challenge! Try to describe something complex using only the thousand most common words in English. It's a useful mental exerc...

Bought by WEZU, WSLR, WYAP, WUIS, WETD and more


  • Added: Aug 21, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 6
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Remember a few years ago when Amazon introduced that mysterious device called a Kindle? People worried that electronic readers would replace tradit...

Bought by WSLR, WRNC-LP, WEZU, and WYAP


  • Added: Aug 15, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 4
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When somebody sneezes, you say, Bless you or Gesundheit. But suppose that person coughs. Are you supposed to say something--or are they? Plus, Mex...

Bought by WSLR and KUOW


  • Added: Aug 07, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 2
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Did you ever wonder why we capitalize the pronoun "I," but not any other pronoun? There's a reason, and it may not be what you think. Also, the rom...

Bought by WYAP, WSLR, WEZU, KUOW, and WETD


  • Added: Jul 31, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 5
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Are your nightstand books all over the place? Why not stack 'em into a bookmash? A bookmash is a kind of found poetry formed from book titles! And ...

Bought by WSLR, WEZU, WYAP, WUIS, and KUOW


  • Added: Jul 25, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 5
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Can reading poetry make you a better writer? Grant and Martha discuss how reading poetry improves your prose. Also, how linguists guess where you c...

Bought by WEZU, WUIS, WSLR, KUOW, and WETD


  • Added: Jul 17, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 5
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Do Americans use the same sign language as the Brits? And what do Japanese people use instead of "umm?" Grant and Martha cover language shifts acro...

Bought by WEZU, WSLR, WUIS, KUOW, and WETD


  • Added: Jul 10, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 5
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You dream of writing the great American novel, but to make ends meet, you spend your days writing boring corporate reports. There's a difference be...

Bought by KAWC, WSLR, WUIS, KUOW, and WEZU


  • Added: Jul 03, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 5
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This week on "A Way with Words": Someone should write a love letter to a new book called "Letters of Note." It's a splendid collection of all kinds...

Bought by WETD, WUIS, WSLR, and KUOW


  • Added: Jun 26, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 4
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This week on "A Way with Words": Some of us can't go anywhere without a book or something to read. And one fast food joint hears you: Chipotle is n...

Bought by WRNC-LP, WETD, WEZU, WSLR, WUIS and more


  • Added: Jun 19, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 6
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This week on "A Way with Words": Giving your baby an unusual moniker may seem like a great idea at the time. But what if you have second thoughts? ...

Bought by WRNC-LP, WEZU, and KFOK-LPFM


  • Added: Jun 12, 2014
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 3