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: A Way with Words

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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.
135 Episodes
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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.
Family words, and words about being in a family way. How many different ways ARE there to say you have a baby on the way? Sure, you can say you're pregnant, or that you're great with child. But there are lots of other terms. How about clucky, awkward, eating for two, lumpy, clucky, or swallowed a pumpkin seed? And: the story behind the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. It's older than the Mary Poppins movie. Plus, the made-up foreignisms families share with each other. Anyone for scrambled eggs and . . . oikenstrippen?   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 Venn 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.
How would you like to be welcomed to married life by friends and neighbors descending on your home for a noisy celebration, tearing off the labels of all your canned foods and scattering cornflakes in your bed? That tradition has almost died out, but such a party used to be called a shivaree (SHIV-uh-ree). Also: the expression My name is Legion goes back to a Bible story that also gave us another English word that's much more obscure. Finally, tips for reading a book AND looking up the words you don't know--without losing the narrative thread. Plus lazy wind, plumb, bucklebuster, squinnies and grinnies, pollyfoxing and bollyfoxing, That smarts!, and hanged or hung. 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 for word lovers, plus the stories behind some familiar terms. Want a gift for your favorite bibliophile? Martha and Grant have recommendations, from a collection of curious words to some fun with Farsi. Plus, some people yell "Geronimo!" when they jump out of an airplane, but why that particular word? Also, we call something that heats air a heater, so why do we call something that cools the air an air conditioner? The answer lies in the history of manufacturing. Also, quaaltagh, snuba, the last straw vs. the last draw, and I have to go see a man about a horse. 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.
Civil War letters and the opposite of prejudice. A new online archive of Civil War letters offers a vivid portrait of the everyday lives of enlisted men. These soldiers lacked formal education, so they wrote and spelled "by ear," and the letters show how ordinary people spoke back then. Plus, is there a single word that means "the opposite of prejudice"? How about "unhate"? Or maybe "allophilia"? Finally, there's an old joke that if you buy clothes at a flea market, they throw in the fleas for free. But the story behind the term "flea market" is a lot more complicated. Plus: go to grass, go up the spout, take the devil out of it, bobbery, and diabetes of the blow-hole. 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.
Skookum - 21 October 2019

Skookum - 21 October 2019

2019-10-2100:51:012

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.
If you're not using a dictionary to look up puzzling words as you read them, you're missing out on a whole other level of enjoyment. Also, when you're cleaning house, why not clean like there's literally no tomorrow? The term "death cleaning" refers to downsizing and decluttering specifically with the next generation in mind. The good news is that older folks find that "death cleaning" enhances their own lives. Finally, you know when anticipating something has you extremely nervous but also really excited? Is there a single word for that fluttery feeling? Plus, marrow, set of twins, skid lid, I reckon, vicenarian, miniscule vs. minuscule, and how to pronounce potable. 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.
Some countries have strict laws about naming babies. New Zealand authorities, for example, denied a request to name some twins Fish and Chips.  Plus, Halley's Comet seen centuries before English astronomer Edmund Halley ever spotted it. That's an example of Stigler's Law, which says no scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer. Funny thing is, Stigler didn't come up with that idea. Finally, anagrams formed by rearranging the letters of another word. But what do you call anagrams that are synonyms, like "enraged" and "angered"? There's a word for that, too. Also, flip side, over yonder, kyarn, old-fashioned script, avoiding adverbs, and another country heard from. 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.
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.
SUMMARY Of all the letters in the alphabet, which two or three are your favorites? If your short list includes one or more of your initials, that's no accident. Psychological research shows we're drawn to the letters in our name. And: if you doubt that people have always used coarse language, just check out the graffiti on the walls of ancient Pompeii. Cursing's as old as humanity itself! Plus, just because a sound you utter isn't in the dictionary doesn't mean it has no linguistic function. Also: verklempt, opaque vs. translucent, chorking, bruschetta, mothery vinegar, and a goose walked over your grave. 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.
Decisions by dictionary editors, wacky wordplay, and Walt Whitman's soaring verse.  How do lexicographers decide which historical figures deserve a mention or perhaps even an illustration in the dictionary? The answer changes with the times. Plus, a tweet about basketball that uses every letter of the alphabet at least once. It goes: "LaBron has played more career minutes than MJ, Shaq, Hakeem, Ewing, and others. Crazy how we never expect him to get fatigued in a game." Turns out there's an entire Twitter feed full of tweets that pull off that same linguistic trick! Also, a Walt Whitman poem that crosses time, space, and experience. And Friday Wednesday vs. Wednesday Friday, actress vs. actor, balling the jack, a la mode, and grab the brass ring. Listen to all episodes for free: https://waywordradio.org/  Support the show to keep episodes coming: https://waywordradio.org/donate  Your responses, questions, and comments are welcomed at any time!  https://waywordradio.org/contact  words@waywordradio.org  Listener line 1 (877) 929-9673 toll-free in the US and Canada  Text/SMS +1 (619) 567-9673  Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation. All rights reserved.
A highly anticipated children's book and the epic history behind a familiar vegetable. Fans of illustrator Maurice Sendak are eagerly awaiting the publication of a newly discovered manuscript by the late author. And speaking of children's literature, some wise advice from the author of Charlotte's Web, E. B. White: "Anybody who shifts gears when he writes for children is likely to wind up stripping his gears." Plus, when is a mango not a mango? If you're in Southern Indiana, you may not be talking about a tropical fruit. And: the longest F-word in the dictionary has 29 letters, and is rarely used -- partly because pronouncing it is such a challenge. Also, Limestone Belt, I swanee, gorby, fluke print, pour the cobs on,  and Liar, liar, pants on fire. 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.
Where would you find a sports commentator talking about high cheese and ducks on a pond? Here's a hint: both terms are part of what make the language of America’s pastime so colorful. And: a government official in New Zealand proposes a new, more respectful term for someone with autism. Plus, the roots of that beloved Jamaican export, reggae music. Also, hang a snowman, goat rodeo, jimson weed, work-brickle vs. work-brittle, OK vs. okay, and banana bag. 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.
Gerrymandering is the practice of redistricting to tip the political scales. Originally, though, this strategy was called "GARY-mandering" with a hard "g." But why? And: Mark Twain and Helen Keller had a devoted friendship. When he heard accusations that she'd plagiarized a story, Twain wrote Keller a fond letter assuring her that there's nothing new under the sun. Finally, a well-crafted message header makes email more efficient. A subject line that contains just the word "Question" is almost as useless as no subject line at all. Plus, flop sweat, vintage clothing, the solfege system, on line vs. in line, groaking, the Hawaiian fish dish called poke, and around the gool. 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 only time you'll ever see the sun's outer atmosphere is during a full solar eclipse, when sun itself is completely covered. That hazy ring is called the corona, from the Latin word for "crown" -- just like the little crown on a bottle of Corona beer. Plus, the phrase "throw the baby out with the bathwater" contains a vivid image of accidentally tossing something -- and so does the phrase "to fly off the handle." But where did we get the expression "to hell in a handbasket"? The origin of this phrase is murky, although it may have to do with the fact that handbaskets are easily carried. Also: Biscuit Belt vs. Pine Belt, how to pronounce via, streely, pizza, tuckered out, FOOSH, and Sorry, Charlie! 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 has a head like a cat, feet like a cat, a tail like a cat, but isn't a cat?" Answer: a kitten! A 1948 children's joke book has lots of these to share with kids. Plus: an easy explanation for the difference between immigrate with an i, and emigrate with an e. And ....a story about storks. The ancient Greeks revered these birds for the way they cared for each other. They even had a legal requirement called the Stork Law, which mandated that Greek adults look after their elderly parents. Much later, the same idea inspired a rare English word that means "reciprocal love between children and parents." All that, plus a brain-busting quiz about scrambled words, Mrs. Astor's pet horse, dissimilation when pronouncing the word forward, tap 'er light, allopreening, raise the window down, and why we call a zipper a fly. 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 (18)

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

Cat

I really love this show

Jun 13th
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

Xiaobao Tang

great

Sep 3rd
Reply
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