We're working on a new version of PRX. Want a sneak peek?

A Way with Words

GroupAccount image
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

Piece image
This week on "A Way with Words": The language of political speech. Politicians have to repeat themselves so often that they naturally develop a rep...

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


  • Added: Jan 12, 2017
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 5
Piece image
How do languages change and grow? Does every language acquire new words in the same way? Martha and Grant focus on how that process happens in Engl...

Bought by WETD, KREV-LP, WRNC-LP, WYAP, WEZU and more


  • Added: Jan 05, 2017
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 6
Piece image
Wrapping up 2016 with words from the past year and some newsy limericks. Bigly and Brexit were on lots of lips this year, as well as an increasingl...

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


  • Added: Dec 30, 2016
  • Length: 01:47:00
  • Purchases: 6
Piece image
The stories behind slang, political and otherwise. The dated term "jingoism" denotes a kind of belligerent nationalism. But the word's roots lie in...

Bought by WSLR, WNJR, KREV-LP, and WMUU-LP


  • Added: Dec 22, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 4
Piece image
Brand names, children's games, and the etiquette of phone conversations. Those clever plastic PEZ dispensers come in all shapes and sizes -- but wh...

Bought by WNJR, KREV-LP, WSLR, WYAP, and WMUU-LP


  • Added: Dec 15, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 5
Piece image
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 KREV-LP, WSLR, WNJR, WRNC-LP, KTSW 89.9 and more


  • Added: Dec 08, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
Piece image
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 WEZU, KREV-LP, WMUU-LP, WNJR, WSLR and more


  • Added: Dec 02, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
Piece image
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 WNJR, WRNC-LP, WSLR, WEZU, KTSW 89.9 and more


  • Added: Nov 23, 2016
  • Length: 41:00
  • Purchases: 8
Piece image
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
Piece image
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
Piece image
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
Piece image
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
Piece image
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
Piece image
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
Piece image
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
Piece image
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
Piece image
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
Piece image
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
Piece image
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