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
Secret codes, ciphers, and telegrams. It used to be that in order to transmit information during wartime, various industries encoded their messages...

Bought by KTSW 89.9, WEZU, and WYAP


  • Added: Sep 22, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 3
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 WETD, WMUU-LP, KTSW 89.9, and WYAP


  • Added: Sep 16, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 4
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 WNJR, WSLR, WEZU, WETD, WMUU-LP and more


  • Added: Sep 10, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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
Piece image
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
Piece image
Serious questions from young voices. In this special fundraising edition, Martha and Grant share some favorite calls from their youngest listeners,...

Bought by WNJR and KTSW 89.9


  • Added: Aug 26, 2016
  • Length: 28:17
  • Purchases: 2
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
Piece image
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
Piece image
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
Piece image
When it comes to learning new things, what's on your bucket list? A retired book editor decided to try to learn Latin, and ended up learning a lot ...

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


  • Added: Jul 29, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
Piece image
Books for sale, books for free, and wisdom passed down through the ages. Libraries aren't just repositories for books -- they're often a great plac...

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


  • Added: Jul 20, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
Piece image
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 WSLR, WNJR, WETD, WRNC-LP, KTSW 89.9 and more


  • Added: Jul 15, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
Piece image
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 WNJR, WSLR, WEZU, KREV-LP, WETD and more


  • Added: Jul 08, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
Piece image
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, WSLR, WNJR, WETD, KTSW 89.9 and more


  • Added: Jun 23, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
Piece image
In deafening workplaces, like sawmills and factories, workers develop their own elaborate sign language to discuss everything from how their weeken...

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


  • Added: Jun 15, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
Piece image
If you're serious about writing a memoir, what topics should you include, and what can you leave out? And how honest can you really be about the ot...

Bought by WNJR, WRNC-LP, WMUU-LP, WSLR, KAWC and more


  • Added: Jun 10, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9
Piece image
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 WSLR, KREV-LP, WRNC-LP, WEZU, KTSW 89.9 and more


  • Added: Jun 02, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
Piece image
Sensuous words and terms of endearment. Think of a beautiful word. Now, is it simply the word's sound that makes it beautiful? Or does its appeal a...

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


  • Added: May 27, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
Piece image
How often do you hear the words campaign and political in the same breath? Oddly enough, 19th-century grammarians railed against using campaign to ...

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


  • Added: May 19, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
Piece image
The names of professional sports teams often have surprising histories -- like the baseball team name inspired by, of all things, trolley-car accid...

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


  • Added: May 12, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 9