DiscoverA Way with Words - language, linguistics, and callers from all over
A Way with Words - language, linguistics, and callers from all over
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A Way with Words - language, linguistics, and callers from all over

Author: Hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett. Produced by Stefanie Levine.

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Light-hearted conversation with callers from all over about new words, old sayings, slang, family expressions, and language change and differences, as well as word histories, etymology, linguistics, regional dialects, word games, grammar, books, literature, writing, and more. Listeners of all backgrounds can join author/journalist Martha Barnette and linguist/lexicographer Grant Barrett on the show with their language thoughts, questions, and stories: https://waywordradio.org/contact or words@waywordradio.org. Call any time toll-free 24/7 in the U.S. and Canada 1 (877) 929-9673 or worldwide +1 619 800 4443. Past episodes and show notes: https://waywordradio.org/.
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Asthenosphere, a geologist's term for the molten layer beneath the earth's crust, sparks a journey that stretches all the way from ancient Greece to the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Plus: What the heck is a dogberg? It's when a dog runs into you and knocks you over. This bit of slang was inspired by a professional wrestler who finished off his opponents in a similar fashion. Finally, if you're vibing with someone, you're getting along just great. The idea of vibing goes way back in history, and is well worth the effort to suss out. All that, and pretty eggs, Rhode Island dressing, how to pronounce biopic, multiple modals, Mr. Can vs. Mr. Can't, jawn, moded, and a brain teaser for movie lovers. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
A documentary film called My Beautiful Stutter" follows youngsters at a summer camp specifically for stutterers. It's a place for finding acceptance, support, and confidence for navigating the larger world. And: "The High Priestess of Soul," Nina Simone, was one of the most beguiling performers of all time. A beautiful new picture book for children tells her inspiring story. Plus: burritos! Why do those savory stuffed tortillas have a name that literally translates as . . . "little donkey"? Also, gobble hole, live catch, and other pinball jargon, salad days, a take-off puzzle, devious licks, gumshoe, plat, pencil colors, and Not today, Josephine! Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
Amid court-ordered busing in the 1970s, a middle-school teacher tried to distract her nervous students on the first day of class with this strange assignment: find a monarch caterpillar. The result? A memorable lesson in the miracle of metamorphosis. Plus, the story behind the slang expression Word!, meaning "Believe me!" The original version involved the idea that a person's word was their bond. And the expression Empty wagons make the most noise suggests that the person who boasts the loudest may actually be the least knowledgeable. It's a phrase that's had many versions over the centuries -- including one that goes all the way back to ancient Rome! All that, and nebby, beat-feeting, red-headed stepchild, corotole, undermine, fankle, and a wacky puzzle about Greek names. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
We use the term Milky Way for that glowing arc across the sky. But how people picture it varies from culture to culture. In Sweden, that starry band goes by a name that means "Winter Street," and in Hawaii, a term for the Milky Way translates as "fish jumping in shadows." And: the history of naming rooms in a house. Some old houses have a room off the kitchen with only a sink and cabinets. It's not a kitchen, exactly -- but what's it called? Plus, the colorful flag of one European town features a visual pun on its name. It's a drawing of a hand holding a heart. All that, and head over teacups, humpty-twelve, lowdown, chockablock, overhaul, Desper't Ambrose, honyock, an imaginary boyfriend named Raoul, and so mad I could spit nickels. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
In the 15th century, the word respair meant "to have hope again." Although this word fell out of use, it's among dozens collected in a new book of soothing vocabulary for troubled times. Plus, baseball slang: If a batter doesn't pour the pine," an outfielder may snag a can of corn, or "an easily caught fly ball." And the 1960s TV show "Laugh-In" spawned lots of catchphrases, such as Sock it to me, The devil made me do it, and You bet your sweet bippy. Don't know them? Well, Look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls! Plus tiffin, worldcraft, cultellation, backslash vs. forward slash, come-heres, bi-weekly, and a witty word game that's much ado about nothing. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
The words tough, through, and dough all end in O-U-G-H. So why don't they rhyme? A lively new book addresses the many quirks of English by explaining the history of words and phrases. And: have you ever been in a situation where a group makes a decision to do something, only to discover later that no one really wanted to do that thing in the first place? There's a term for that! Plus, the sounds we make when we're simply passing the time or waiting a few seconds for something to happen. It can sound like a "whoosh" or barely audible humming -- or even the theme from "Jeopardy!" Also, toe the line vs. tow the line, Dirty Gertie, One Mississippi vs. One Piccadilly, cardboard dog vs. rubber duck, sand-hundred, beefed it, a rhyming puzzle, and doofus. All that for just a buck three-eighty! Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
What happens in a classroom of refugee and immigrant youngsters learning English? Their fresh approach to language can result in remarkable poetry -- some of which is collected in the anthology England: Poems from a School. Also, new language among healthcare professionals: the term cohorting describes the act of grouping patients with COVID-19 in designated facilities. But what's the word for reintegrating them into the general patient population after treatment. Decohorting, maybe? Finally, who can resist all those independent bookstores with tantalizing names like Moon Palace and Mysterious Galaxy? Also, black-hearted buzzard, nesh, livid, muckle, Fiddler's Green, Come go home with us, and a confounding puzzle about words containing the letters C-O-N. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
This week on "A Way with Words": When there's no evening meal planned at home, what do you call that scramble to cobble together your own dinner? Some people apply acronyms like YOYO -- "you're on your own" -- or CORN, for "Clean out your refrigerator night." Plus, when a barista hands you hot coffee in a paper cup, you may ask for a sleeve to put it in. The technical term for that cardboard ring is zarf -- but will you get a weird look if you ask for one? Finally, the ongoing search for an alternative to the term senior citizen. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
An ornithologist says there's a growing movement to change the name of a pink-footed bird currently called the flesh-footed shearwater. The movement reflects a growing understanding that using flesh-colored for "pink" fails to acknowledge the full range of human skin color. Plus, is hooligan an anti-Irish slur? Some people might perceive it that way, but originally the word itself simply referred to the name of a particular gang in London. Finally, book recommendations to keep our minds and hearts full: Joan Didion essays and a novel by Affrilachian poet Crystal Wilkinson. Plus, cherry bumps, al fresco, en plein air, frivol, logy, pigeon-toed vs. duck-footed, hankering, unbolted, a socially distanced brain game, and Who licked the red off of your candy? Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
In 1971, when a new public library opened in Troy, Michigan, famous authors and artists were invited to write letters to the city's youngest readers, extolling the many benefits of libraries. One of the loveliest was from E.B. White, author of Charlotte's Web. Plus, you may think navel-gazing is a relatively new idea -- but it goes back at least to the 14th century, when meditating monks really did look like they were studying their bellies! Also, why don't actors in movies say goodbye at the end of a phone conversation? For that matter, why don't some people answer their smartphones with "Hello"? Plus, a poetic puzzle, duke's mixture, small as the little end of nothing, Chesapeake Bay crabbing lingo, omphaloskepsis, nightingale, light a shuck, bumpity-scrapples, the big mahoff, and If a bullfrog had wings, he wouldn't bump his butt. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
There was a time when William Shakespeare was just another little 7-year-old in school. Classes in his day were demanding -- and all in Latin. A new book argues that this rigorous curriculum actually nurtured the creativity that later flourished in Shakespeare's writing. Don't know Latin? You can still adapt those approaches to stretch and hone your own mind. Plus, why do we refer to an unpredictable person as a loose cannon? The answer lies in the terrifying potential of a large weapon aboard a warship. And when a delivery driver's wife teases him about cavorting with strumpets, he asks: What exactly IS a strumpet? All that, plus picayune, sit on a tack, the many meanings of fell, a Spanish idiom about oysters and boredom, pickthank, a puzzle about rhyming words, a terrifying passage from Victor Hugo, tacos called mariachis, and the juice was worth the squeeze. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
A librarian opens a book and finds a mysterious invitation scribbled on the back of a business card. Another discovers a child's letter to the Tooth Fairy, tucked into a book decades ago. What stories are left untold by these forgotten, makeshift bookmarks? Also: a "cumshaw artist" is the wily member of a military unit who knows the shortcuts of procuring something for all their buddies, whether it's food or a borrowed vehicle for the evening. Plus, a handy Russian saying translates as "The circus left, the clowns remain." Also, scroll the window down, case quarter, Johnny pump, getting on the binders, telltale sign, maximums vs. maxima, shm-reduplication, and a funny 19th-century saying about the local know-it-all. Wishing you many happy returns of the day! Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
Youngsters want to know: What's the difference between barely and nearly, and what's so clean about a whistle, anyway? Plus, adults recount some misunderstandings from when they were knee-high to a grasshopper. Kids do come up with some surprisingly creative interpretations of words and phrases the rest of us take for granted! Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
Cat hair may be something you brush off, but cat hair is also a slang term that means "money." In the same way, cat beer isn't alcoholic -- some people use cat beer as a joking term for "milk." And imagine walking on a beach with a long stretch of shoreline. With each step, the ground makes a squeaking sound under your feet. There's a term for the kind of sand that makes this yip-yip-yip sound. It's called barking sand. Plus, a listener describes some of the English she heard in a small Alaskan coastal town. It's a rich mixture of fishermen's slang, along with the speech of native people, and the Norwegians who settled there. All that, and a triple-threat puzzle, paternoster lakes, barely vs. nearly, comprised of vs. composed of, cark, kittenball, the pokey, happy as a boardinghouse pup, and close, but no tomato. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
You know that Yogi Berra quote about how Nobody ever comes here; it's too crowded? Actually, the first person to use this was actress Suzanne Ridgeway, who appeared in several movies with The Three Stooges. A new book shows that many well-known quotes were first spoken by women, but misattributed to more famous men. Also: a handy scientific word that should become mainstream: aliquot. And no, it's not a kind of hybrid fruit. Plus, an astronomical question: What's the collective noun for a group of black holes? A sink of black holes? A baffle? A vacancy? All that, plus Old Arthur, biffy, bowery, mikka bozu, Sauregurkenzeit, out of heart, vergüenza, and how to talk with children about a painful topic. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
Have you ever googled your own name and found someone else who goes by the very same moniker? There's a word for that: googleganger. Plus, the language of hobbyists and enthusiasts: If you're a beekeeper, you call yourself a beek, and if you're an Adult Fan of LEGOs you may refer to yourself as an AFOL. Finally, what will you get if you order a bag of jo jos? In parts of the United States, you may just get a blank look -- but in others, ask for some jo jos and you'll get a nice, warm bag of tasty potato wedges. Also, a sunny-side-up puzzle, pulchritude, a bridge to in Brooklyn to sell you, baby's breath, synanthrope, antidisestablishmentarianism, Believe you me, and You cannot cover the sun with a finger. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
Throwing cheese and shaky cheese are two very different things. In baseball, hard cheese refers to a powerful fastball, and probably comes from a similar-sounding word in Farsi, Urdu, and Hindi. Shaky cheese, on the other hand, is a slang term for Parmesan cheese, which many of us grew up shaking out of a can. Also, why is a movie preview called a trailer when it comes at the beginning of a film, not the end? And: if you want to say that something's not your responsibility, there's always the handy phrase Not my circus, not my monkey. Plus, cocktail party effect, all my put-togethers, bedroom suite vs. bedroom suit, Alles im Butter, pes anserinus, fastuous, bursa, bummer, and too much sand for my little truck. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
One secret to writing well is . . . there is no secret! There's no substitute for simply sitting down day after day to practice the craft and learn from your mistakes. Plus, childhood mixups around word definitions can lead to some funny stories. After all, if you didn't know any better, why wouldn't you assume a thesaurus is a prehistoric creature? Finally, the word groovy wasn't always positive. In the 1880s, it meant just the opposite: someone stuck in a rut or in a groove. Plus: in the meantime, jetty, thick as inkle-weavers, keg of nails, sauna, sofa vs. couch, chirurgeon, fat chance, and a newfangled brain teaser about archaic words. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
Old. Elderly. Senior. Why are we so uncomfortable when we talk about reaching a certain point in life? An 82-year-old seeks a more positive term to describe how she feels about her age. And: a linguist helps solve a famous kidnapping case, using the vocabulary and spelling in a ransom note. Plus, old library books often contain inscriptions and other notes scribbled in the margins. A new book details an effort to reveal and preserve this "shadow archive" of the relationship between readers and the books they love. Plus, bus bunching, devil strip, fiddlesticks, scooter pooping vs. scooter-tooting, too clever by half, knucklehead, passenger, along with bet and bet bet and bet bet bet. We're not selling wolf tickets! Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
She sells seashells by the seashore. Who is the she in this tongue twister? Some claim it's the young Mary Aning, who went on to become a famous 19th-century British paleontologist. Dubious perhaps, but the story of her rise from seaside salesgirl to renowned scientist is fascinating. Also: countless English words were inspired by Greek and Roman myth. Take for example the timeless story of Narcissus and Echo. The handsome Narcissus was obsessed with his own reflection, and Echo was a nymph who pined away for this narcissistic youth until nothing was left but her voice. And....How do you write a fitting epitaph for someone you love? Plus jockey box, goody two-shoes, a quiz based on the OK Boomer meme, goldbricking, barker's eggs, lowering, nose wide open, and bonnaroo. Read full show notes, hear hundreds of free episodes, send your thoughts and questions, and learn more on the A Way with Words website: https://waywordradio.org/contact. Be a part of the show: call 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the United States and Canada; worldwide, call or text/SMS +1 (619) 800-4443. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
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Comments (24)

ID21102715

My son says “crowns” for wax coloring devices even now, at 35YO. I think he just couldn’t pronounce cray-ons (the way I always said it) when he was little but it stuck, and I am tickled to hear saying “crowns” is a thing. I never knew any of the other versions y’all mentioned in the episode. I am from TX, OK, CA and CO. I will go tell my son he has a tribe. LOL

Nov 16th
Reply

Mariejose

Patent examiners cannot discard "comprising" from their lexicon as easily. As defined in their guidelines (MPEP), the "transitional phrase" "comprising", is synonymous with "including," "containing," or "characterized by," and "is inclusive or open-ended and does not exclude additional, unrecited elements or method steps."

Sep 4th
Reply

MerandaMedia

This is my first comment, words cannot express how grateful I am to have come across the show, obviously English is not my first language, and the moment I listened to the podcast first time, it was love at first listen. From this episode, vibe and vibing are the words that I am interested in.

Nov 23rd
Reply

Mariejose

Why do Americans say "time period"? And what's up with "it will get worse before it gets better"? Two questions in my list for Martha and Grant

Jul 12th
Reply

Kelsey Wood

the little boy who called in asking about the term loose cannon was so adorable!

Jun 9th
Reply

Ali

Hi, I'm Ali and I'm a non-native English speaker, newly came across this podcast in an article and actually found that awesome although naturally my knowledge of English is not as deep as yours. The root of words, their meanings and too many words which are even new to native speakers, that really feels amazing. just wanted to say its wonderful show and good luck guys👍

Jun 1st
Reply

Foreverlee

ooh delight! The squash story!!!! the 😁🥰 The caller was the best and reminds me of how I want to be in the future. You are awesome, Mary Gordon. Blessings to you all. Love the poem. I Love words, thanks so much.

Feb 17th
Reply

Mary Gatlin Bell

Never heard kimble. In Minneapolis in the '60s-'70s, the walk your caller describe was called " the "pimp limp". with that in mind I was taken aback to see Obama doing a modified version, wonder if a political strategist suggested it as a way to seem "blacker", or if he picked it up in his community organizing days. Back in the day no one would decide doing the pimp limp would enhance their image.

Aug 19th
Reply (1)

Jim123bcb HD

I love the show, I love learning more about language in general <3

Jul 8th
Reply

East End Hitchhiker

Great show love it!

May 8th
Reply

Tomasz Jurewicz

Just sploot and listen to this show! It's extremely informative and entertaining.

Dec 20th
Reply

Baby Cakes

When you do the quizzes can you please give a 5 to 10 second pause so we can play along with you both! Your both to fast for us novices out here.

Dec 16th
Reply

Baby Cakes

I think hope is used in Driving Miss Daisy.

Dec 11th
Reply

Baby Cakes

There is still turnpikes in OK on I44 going to Tulsa and on another hwy on the way to OK city.

Dec 11th
Reply

Alisha Truemper

great episode!

Oct 22nd
Reply

Oso Wallman

Chee yoo on Moana

Jun 24th
Reply

Kieron Finn

Binning uni https://www.instagram.com/p/Bjy7Q7wgSBX/njz iij

Jun 9th
Reply

Jonathan Goodman

mx

Apr 14th
Reply

Jonathan Goodman

thanks v. g

Apr 14th
Reply

Kestrels Call

Thank you! I was curious about what Bones meant by flop sweat!

Feb 1st
Reply
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