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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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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 KTSW 89.9, WSLR, WEZU, WETD, WRNC-LP and more


  • Added: Jun 25, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 6
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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...

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


  • Added: Jun 19, 2015
  • 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...

Bought by WNJR, WEZU, and WETD


  • Added: Jun 12, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 3
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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...

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


  • Added: Jun 05, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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If you don't have anything nice to say, say it like Shakespeare: Thou unhandsome smush-mouthed mush-rump! Thou obscene rug-headed hornbeast! The Sh...

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


  • Added: May 28, 2015
  • Length: 54:30
  • Purchases: 6
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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...

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


  • Added: May 21, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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Right off the bat, it's easy to think of several everyday expressions that derive from America's pastime. Including right off the bat. The Dickson ...

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


  • Added: May 14, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 6
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Ever try to write a well-known passage in limerick form? It's harder than you think. How about this one: "There once was a lady who's sure / All t...

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


  • Added: May 07, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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What the fox says may be a mystery, but we do know that dogs bark differently around the world. In China, for example, they say not bow-wow but wan...

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


  • Added: May 01, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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Online recaps of Mad Men or Breaking Bad can be as much fun as the shows themselves. So why not recap classic literature -- like, say, Dante's Infe...

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  • Added: Apr 24, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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This week on "A Way with Words": Careful what you criticize! Not long ago, some words that sound perfectly normal today were considered gauche and ...

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


  • Added: Apr 16, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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This week on "A Way with Words": Sharing a secret language. Did you ever speak in gibberish with a childhood pal, adding extra syllables to words s...

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


  • Added: Apr 10, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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What do your pronouns say about your own psychological makeup? If you use the word I a lot, does it mean you're a leader . . . or a follower? A sur...

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


  • Added: Apr 02, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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This week on "A Way with Words": It's the language of Wisconsin: If you're nibbling on slippery Jims or sipping sweet soup, chances are you're in ...

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


  • Added: Mar 26, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 6
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The books we love as children may influence our careers more than we realize. As a child, Martha was fascinated with stories of cracking codes, and...

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


  • Added: Mar 19, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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This week on "A Way with Words": Constructing imaginary languages and deconstructing the lingo of Hollywood. For example, would you rather live in ...

Bought by WSLR, KREV-LP, WNJR, WUIS, and WETD


  • Added: Mar 12, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 5
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This week on "A Way with Words": We often hear that English is going to hell in a handbasket. Actually, though, linguistic handwringing about sinki...

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


  • Added: Mar 05, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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This week on "A Way with Words": The best way to read poetry. When you pick up a book of poems, how many do you read in one sitting? Some people de...

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


  • Added: Feb 27, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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This week on "A Way with Words": What's in a name? A recent study found that some names crop up more frequently than others in certain professions....

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


  • Added: Feb 20, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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This week on "A Way with Words: Writers and where they do their best creative work. A new book on Geoffrey Chaucer describes the dark, noisy, smel...

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


  • Added: Feb 13, 2015
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 6