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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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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 KTSW 89.9, WEZU, WETD, WYAP, and WMUU-LP


  • Added: May 19, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 5
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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 WRNC-LP, KTSW 89.9, WNIN, WEZU, WYAP and more


  • Added: May 12, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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You may have heard the advice that to build your vocabulary you should read, read, and then read some more--and make sure to include a wide variety...

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


  • Added: May 06, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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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 WSLR, WNJR, KTSW 89.9, WEZU, WETD and more


  • Added: Apr 28, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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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, WYAP, KTSW 89.9 and more


  • Added: Apr 22, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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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 WSLR, KREV-LP, WYAP, WNJR, KTSW 89.9 and more


  • Added: Apr 15, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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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 WSLR, WNJR, KTSW 89.9, WEZU, WMUU-LP and more


  • Added: Apr 07, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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This week on "A Way with Words": How do languages change and grow? Does every language acquire new words in the same way? Martha and Grant focus on...

Bought by WSLR, WNJR, KTSW 89.9, WEZU, and WMUU-LP


  • Added: Apr 01, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 5
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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, WRNC-LP, WEZU, KTSW 89.9, WNJR and more


  • Added: Mar 25, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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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 WSLR, KREV-LP, WEZU, KTSW 89.9, and WMUU-LP


  • Added: Mar 18, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 5
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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 WSLR, KREV-LP, WRNC-LP, KTSW 89.9, WEZU and more


  • Added: Mar 10, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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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, WNJR, KTSW 89.9, WEZU and more


  • Added: Mar 03, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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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 KREV-LP, WSLR, WNJR, WEZU, KTSW 89.9 and more


  • Added: Feb 26, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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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 WSLR, WNJR, KOJB 90.1 FM The eagle, WRNC-LP, WEZU and more


  • Added: Feb 19, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 7
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 WSLR, WNJR, WMUU-LP, KTSW 89.9, and WYAP


  • Added: Feb 12, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 5
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Sneaky contract lingo, advice for writing well, and preserving a dying language. Say you’re scrolling through an online transaction where you're a...

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


  • Added: Feb 04, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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This week on "A Way with Words," tricks and tips for writers: Is there a word you keep having to look up in the dictionary, no matter how many time...

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


  • Added: Jan 28, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 8
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This week on "A Way with Words," reaching out in the digital age: If you're sending out party invitations, what's a sure-fire way to get hold of ev...

Bought by WSLR, WEZU, KTSW 89.9, WYAP, WMUU-LP and more


  • Added: Jan 21, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 6
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This week on "A Way with Words": 'Tis the season for book recommendations! Martha's enjoying an armchair tour of important places in the history of...

Bought by WSLR and KTSW 89.9


  • Added: Jan 15, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 2
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This week on "A Way with Words," it's all about terms of endearment: If your loved one is far away for a long time, you're probably tired of just s...

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


  • Added: Jan 08, 2016
  • Length: 54:00
  • Purchases: 5