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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

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A Way with Words is a fun and funny radio show and podcast about language. Co-hosts Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett talk with callers from around the world about linguistics, slang, new words, jokes, riddles, word games, grammar, old sayings, word origins, regional dialects, family expressions, books, literature, folklore, and speaking and writing well. Email your language questions for the show to words@waywordradio.org. Or call with your questions toll-free *any* time in the U.S. and Canada at (877) 929-9673. From anywhere in the world: +1 (619) 800-4443. Hear all past shows for free: http://waywordradio.org/. Also on Twitter at http://twitter.com/wayword.
216 Episodes
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Don't move my cheese! It's a phrase middle managers use to talk about adapting to change in the workplace. It comes from a popular 1990s business book featuring a fable about mice and tiny humans inside a maze and how they respond when their chewy food source is relocated. Plus, the origin story of the name William, and why it's I in Spanish. And a 5-year-old poses a question that puzzles many grownups, too: Why is the letter Q so often followed by a U? All that, and adynaton, an assonant quiz, do it up brown, salt of the earth, haven't grown gills yet, wooling, a silly joke about the number one, a poem about regret, and hide-and-seek calls, such as Ole Ole Olson all in free! 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/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
You may have a favorite word in English, but what about your favorite in another language? The Spanish term ojala is especially handy for expressing hopefulness and derives from Arabic for "God willing." In Trinidad, if you want to ask friends to hang out with you, invite them to go liming. Nobody's sure about this word's origin, although it may indeed have to do with the tart green fruit. And: a story about a traveler who finds that children in Siberia use different words to say the sound an animal makes. English speakers imitate a rooster with cock-a-doodle-doo, but in Siberia, children learn to say something that sounds like "koh-kock-a-REE!" The sounds we attribute to other creatures vary from language to language, even if they're all the same to the animals. Plus, a brain teaser about subtracting letters, saditty, bundu, potpie, bubbler, words misheard, the plural of squash, and a poem about slowing down and paying attention. 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/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
Cool Beans - 31 May 2021

Cool Beans - 31 May 2021

2021-05-3151:361

If you speak a second or third language, you may remember the first time you dreamed in that new tongue. But does this milestone mean you're actually fluent? And a couple's dispute over the word regret: Say you wish you'd been able to meet Albert Einstein. Can you regret that the two of you never met, or is there a better word for a situation over which you have no control? Can the word regret include simply longing for something? Plus, a sixth-grader wonders about a weird word on her spelling bee study list. It's spelled X-Y-L-Y-L -- and it's not just for Scrabble players. Plus, hot as flugens, to play Box and Cox, twack and twoc, a quiz for canine lovers, an eloquent appreciation of libraries, a widow's moving thank-you note, a punny gardening joke, a funny newspaper correction, and a trick with a hole in it. Cool beans! 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/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
Ribbon fall. Gallery forest. You won't find terms like these in most dictionaries, but they and hundreds like them are discussed by famous writers in the book Home Ground: A Guide to the American Landscape. The book is an intriguing collection of specialized vocabulary that invites us to look more closely at the natural world -- and delight in its language. Also, how and why the Southern drawl developed. Plus, the phrase It's a thing. This expression may seem new, but It's a thing has been a thing for quite a long time. How long? Even Jane Austen used it! And: hourglass valley, thee vs. thou, bitchin', a word game inspired by Noah Webster, Willie off the pickle boat, who did it and ran, and Powder River! Let 'er buck! 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/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
The word filibuster has a long and colorful history, going back to the days when pirates roamed the high seas. Today it refers to hijacking a piece of legislation. Plus, the language of yoga teachers: When doing a guided meditation, you may hear your instructor speaking in a kind of continuous present, with phrases like Sitting comfortably and Breathing deeply instead of the simple imperatives to Sit comfortably and Breathe deeply. These are participles with a purpose, and linguists have a term for it: the politeness progressive. Finally, why CAN'T you have your cake and eat it, too? Also: Book it!, the language of falconry, acronames, how to pronounce brooch, broach the subject, at loggerheads, a brain-teasing game for science fans and another one for gardeners, and the many meanings of hickey. And hey, Don't go visiting with one arm as long as the other! 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/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
The word "hipster" might seem recent, but it actually originated in the 1930s, and referred to jazz aficionados who were in the know about the best nightclubs and cool music. Speaking of music, a professional musician reports that it's sometimes hard for him to relax and enjoy the performance of others because he's tempted overanalyze it. Do language experts have the same problem when they listen to everyday conversation or read for pleasure? They sure do! The remedy? Reading something you can really get lost in. And hey -- some gift recommendations coming right up: books about family, reading, and 21st-century English. Plus, little shavers, fork to the floor, potato quality, some good, and zhuzh. 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/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
Lasagna Hog - 3 May 2021

Lasagna Hog - 3 May 2021

2021-05-0351:382

Understanding the varieties of conversational styles can mean the difference between feeling you're understood and being insulted. "High involvement" speakers interrupt or talk along with someone else to signal their enthusiasm, while "high considerateness" speakers tend more toward thoughtful pauses and polite turn-taking. Adjusting your speaking style accordingly may improve not only your communication, but also your relationships. Plus, when you read a text message from someone, does it seem weird if they use ellipses? And: a delightful new documentary about the World Palindrome Championships will leave you with just one palindromic thought: Wow! Also, boo-boo and boo-hoo, prune and plum, grass widow and widows weeds, a rig and a half, barefoot tea, funny names for birds, and a puzzle for movie lovers.
Is there something inherent in English that makes it the linguistic equivalent of the Borg, dominating and consuming other languages in its path? No, Not at all. The answer lies with politics and conquest rather than language itself. Plus: a brand-new baby may be lovingly placed in a giraffe and spend time in the Panda room, but where is that? That's jargon you might hear in a hospital's neonatal intensive care unit --- both for ease of communication among medical staff and to soothe parents' worries after a birth. And: it's not easy to learn how to roll your Rs. In fact, even some native Spanish speakers have trouble with it. Yes, there's a word for that, too! All that, plus a crossword-puzzle puzzle, a bug in your ear, the origin of slob, long johns vs. maple bars, mentor, stentorian, and You can put your boots in the oven, but that don't make 'em biscuits. 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/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
An anadrome is a word that forms a whole new word when you spell it backwards. For example, the word "stressed" spelled backwards is "desserts." Some people's first names are actually anadromes. There's the girl named Noel in honor of her father Leon, and the woman named Edna who adopted the name Ande. Speaking of names, know anybody whose occupation fits their name? Maybe a college administrator named Dean, or a breadmaker named Baker? Well, there's a name for that, too. It's called nominative determinism. Plus, a conversation about how hard it can be to gracefully end . . . a conversation. Also: a puzzle about famous names, Wellerisms, kaffedags and fika, a kissing game, moco, greissel, twacking and the plural of computer mouse. (Computer mice? Computer mouses? Computer meece?) 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/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
Books were rare treasures in the Middle Ages, painstakingly copied out by hand. So how to protect them from theft? Scribes sometimes added a curse to the first page of those books that was supposed to keep thieves away -- and some were as vicious as they were creative! Also: if you spot a typo in a published book, should you contact the publisher? Maybe, but your first step is to make sure you're right! Finally, learning another language may make you question whether you're speaking your own correctly -- but there are strategies to fix that. Plus y'all, a Veen diagram brain teaser, 11 o'clock number, language, pronouncing the word measure, and You may want horns, but you'll die bull-headed. 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/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
We take our voices for granted, but it's truly miraculous that we communicate complex thoughts simply by moving our mouths while exhaling. A fascinating new book reveals the science, history, and linguistics involved in human speech. And although you might associate the term paraphernalia with drug use, the word goes all the way back to ancient Greece and the property of a new bride. Plus: you're jogging through the woods and come up behind someone. What do you say to keep from startling them? Excuse me? On your left? What IS the opposite of Boo!? Also, inoculate, no cap, it's been a minute, doorwall vs. sliding door, asinble, a verbal escape-room puzzle, chimbly and chimley, intentional mispronunciations, inoculate, no cap, and the handy German word Impfneid, which means "vaccine envy." 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/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
The new Downton Abbey movie is a luscious treat for fans of the public-television period piece, but how accurate is the script when it comes to the vocabulary of the early 20th century? It may be jarring to hear the word swag, but it was already at least 100 years old. And no, it's not an acronym. Also, a historian of science sets out to write a book to celebrate semicolons -- and ends up transforming her views about language. Plus, one teacher's creative solution to teen profanity profanity in the classroom. Two words for you: MOO COW. Also, demonyms, semicolons, neke neke, a brain teaser about the Greek alphabet, go-aheads, zoris, how to pronounce zoology, and Everything's duck but the bill. 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/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
For rock climbers, skiers, and other outdoor enthusiasts, the word "send" has a whole new meaning. You might cheer on a fellow snowboarder with "Send it, bro!" -- and being "sendy" is a really great thing. Plus: a nostalgic trip to Willa Cather's' Nebraska home inspires a reading from one of her classic books about life on the American prairie. And what do they call a sudden, heavy rain where you live? A gulley washer? A frog-strangler? Or maybe even a bridge-lifter? All that, and the flowery language of seed catalogs, rank and file, cut me a husk, I am sat down vs. I am sitting down, Lead on, MacDuff! vs. Lay on, MacDuff!, a hematological puzzle, and a popular Spanish-language refrain about an extremely long goodbye.
So you've long dreamed of writing fiction, but don't know where to begin? There are lots of ways to get started -- creative writing classes, local writing groups, and books with prompts to get you going. The key is to get started, and then stick with it. And: which part of the body do surgeons call "the goose"? Hint: you don't want a bite of chicken caught in your goose. Finally, the nautical origins of the phrase "three sheets to the wind." This term for "very drunk" originally referred to lines on a sailboat flapping out of control. Plus, a brain teaser about shortened phrases, toolies, linguistic false friends, skookum, how to pronounce the word bury, the origin of three sheets to the wind, and what now now means in South Africa. 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/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
In Cockney rhyming slang, apples and pears is a synonym for "stairs," and dustbin lids means kids. Plus, sniglets are clever coinages for things we don't already have words for. Any guesses what incogsneeto means? It's the act of trying to hide your sneeze while wearing a face mask. Also, how the vocabulary of science fiction influences our everyday conversation, from the tribble on your hat to vaccine development at warp speed! Plus unkempt vs. unkept, erase vs. delete, tribbles vs. pompoms, placid, meuf, a cryptic quiz, a tasty pangram, Barney for "trouble," earthborn, apple-dancing, dirtsider, one hand washes the other and both hands wash the face, and You must be holding your mouth wrong! 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/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
Unwrap the name of a candy bar, and you just might find a story inside. For instance, one chewy treat found in many a checkout lane is named after a family's beloved horse. And: 50 years ago in the United States, some Latino elementary students were made to adopt English versions of their own names and forbidden to speak Spanish. The idea was to help them assimilate, but that practice came with a price. Plus, who is Riley, and why is his or her life a luxurious one? Also: a brain-busting quiz about synonyms, salary, dingle-dousie, strong work, a leg up, It must have been a lie, and Don't get into any jackpots. 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/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
National Book Award winner Barry Lopez had wise advice for young writers. First, read widely and follow your curiosity. Second, travel or learn a foreign language. And third, find out what you truly believe, because if you're not writing from your beliefs, then you're just passing along information. And: if someone says they're going to plant flags at a gravesite, they may not mean what you think. That's because the word flag is also the name for a certain flower. Plus, if helicopter parents hover protectively around their kids . . . what do golf parents do? All that, along with in a brown study, pitcher-proud, ring-tailed ripsnorter, gleepers, clackers, a brain-busting take-off puzzle, thing like that and all, and there are no bones in ice cream. Ye gods and little fishes! 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/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
It's hard to imagine now, but there was a time when people disagreed over the best word to use when answering the phone. Alexander Graham Bell suggested answering with Ahoy! but Thomas Edison was partial to Hello. A fascinating new book about internet language says this disagreement is worth remembering when we talk about how greetings are evolving today -- both online and off. Plus, a Los Angeles teacher asks: What are the rules for teen profanity in the classroom? Finally, why some people mimic the accents of others. It might be simple thoughtlessness, but it might also be an earnest, if awkward, attempt to communicate. Plus, a puzzle about specialty cocktails, mafted, fair game, dial 8, Commander-in-chief, Roosevelt's eggs, and Charlie's dead. 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/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
What kind of book do people ask for most often in prison? Romance Novels? No. The Bible? No. The most requested books by far are . . . dictionaries! A number of volunteer organizations gather and distribute used dictionaries to help inmates with reading, writing, and schoolwork. Plus: For some low-tech family fun, how about egg-tapping? Traditionally played after an Easter egg hunt, the game involves smacking a hard-boiled egg against an opponent's The person who ends up with an uncracked egg wins. And: Just how common is it to give a goofy name to a household appliance? Even your garbage disposal might get a moniker! Also, chelidon, knock the stink off, pony keg, pineapple posture, sprunny, wash-ashores, trailblazer, a punny puzzle about song titles, a Norwegian idiom that means "empty-headed," and a bagpipe serenade. Dinna fash! 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/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
One way to make your new business look trendy is to use two nouns separated by an ampersand, like Peach & Creature . . . or Rainstorm & Egg. A tongue-in-cheek website will generate names like that for you. And: in the traditions of several African countries, names for babies are often inspired by conditions at the time of their birth, like a period of grief or wedding festivities, or the baby's position when leaving the womb. In Zambia, for example, many people go by the name Bornface, because they were born face up. Finally, slang from a rock-climber, who warns not to go near rock that's chossy. Plus: a proverbial puzzle, loaded for bear, pizey, helter-skelter and other reduplicatives, shirttail relative, counting coup, and just a shlook. 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/. Email words@waywordradio.org. Twitter @wayword. Our listener phone line 1 (877) 929-9673 is toll-free in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere in the world, call +1 (619) 800-4443; charges may apply. From anywhere, text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673. Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation.
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Comments (22)

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

Phúc Anh Trần Nguyễn

Great!

Dec 22nd
Reply

Knew Yennaration

The X could be an example of extended arms wanting a hug and the O could be the shape of the mouth

Sep 5th
Reply
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