A Way With Words
Hell's Bells - 20 October 201410/20/14
This week on A Way with Words: The language of restaurant menus. Need a dictionary to get through a dinner menu? Research shows the longer the description of a particular dish, the more expensive it will be. Plus: What's the best way to use a...
I'll Be Sheep Dipped - 13 October 2014
What a difference pronunciation makes! The United States has a Department of Defense, and an individual might take classes in self-defense. So why do football and basketball coaches say they're proud of their . . . "DEE-fence?" Linguists have a theory...
Fat Buttery Words - 6 October 2014
This week on "A Way with Words": Teaching our children, and some advice for writers. Suppose your child is eager to tackle a difficult subject--ancient Greek, for example--but you know his reach exceeds his grasp? The challenge is to support the...
Month of Sundays - 29 September 2014
This week on "A Way with Words": Modern language with very old origins. If you're on tenterhooks, it means you're in a state of anxious anticipation or suspense. But what IS a tenterhook? The answer goes back to a 15th-century manufacturing process....
On The Shoe Phone (Rebroadcast) - 22 September 2014
First names like "Patience," "Hope," and "Charity" are inspired by worthy qualities. But how about "Be-courteous" or "Hate-evil"? The Puritans sometimes gave children such names hoping that their kids would live up to them. Also, even some feminists...
Got Your Six (Rebroadcast) - 15 September 2014
Starting this year, Scripps National Spelling Bee contestants not only have to spell words correctly. A controversial new rule means they'll have to answer vocabulary questions, too. Also, when it comes to reading text, do you prefer "paper" or...
A Hole to China (Rebroadcast) - 8 September 2014
Have a question about objective pronouns? Whom ya gonna call? Wait--is that right? Or would it be "who ya gonna call"? "Whom" may be technically correct, but insisting on it can get you called an elitist. It's enough to make you nervous as a polecat...
Whistling Dixie (Rebroadcast) - 1 September 2014
SUMMARY Today's most popular dog names are Max and Bella. In the Middle Ages, though, dogs would answer to names like Amiable. Or Nosewise. Or even . . . Clench. And is the term redneck derogatory? Some folks proudly claim that name. They say it's...
Gnarly Foot (Rebroadcast) - 25 August 2014
It's the Up Goer Five Challenge! Try to describe something complex using only the thousand most common words in English. It's a useful mental exercise that's harder than you might think. Also, if you want to make a room dark, you might turn off the...
Bump and Grind (Rebroadcast) - 18 August 2014
Remember a few years ago when Amazon introduced that mysterious device called a Kindle? People worried that electronic readers would replace traditional books. Turns out the death of the hardcover was greatly exaggerated. Also, the expression "bump...
Gracious Plenty (Rebroadcast) - 11 August 2014
When somebody sneezes, you say, Bless you or Gesundheit. But suppose that person coughs. Are you supposed to say something--or are they? Plus, Mexican standoffs, gracious plenty, linguistic false friends, southpaw vs. northpaw, the slang of rabbit...
Cute As a Button (Rebroadcast) - 3 August 2014
Did you ever wonder why we capitalize the pronoun "I," but not any other pronoun? There's a reason, and it may not be what you think. Also, the romantic story behind our term "halcyon days," the origin of the phrase "like white on rice," and the...
South End of a Chicken (Rebroadcast) - 28 July 2014
Are your nightstand books all over the place? Why not stack 'em into a bookmash? A bookmash is a kind of found poetry formed from book titles! And we all know that honesty is the best policy. But does that mean you should correct the grammar of your...
Little Pitchers (Rebroadcast) - 21 July 2014
Can reading poetry make you a better writer? Grant and Martha discuss how reading poetry improves your prose. Also, how linguists guess where you come from based on how you speak. And what do you call someone who picks the chocolate out of the trail...
Kissed Her on the Stairs (Rebroadcast) - 14 July 2014
SUMMARYDo Americans use the same sign language as the Brits? And what do Japanese people use instead of "umm?" Grant and Martha cover language shifts across the globe. Plus, why we vote at polling places? And what goes into File 13? All this, plus a...
A Dancer Who Walks for a Living (Rebroadcast) - 7 July 2014
You dream of writing the great American novel, but to make ends meet, you spend your days writing boring corporate reports. There's a difference between writing for love and writing for a livingor is there? And does a heyday have anything to do with...
Lord Love a Duck - 30 June 2014
This week on "A Way with Words": Someone should write a love letter to a new book called "Letters of Note." It's a splendid collection of all kinds of correspondence through the ages: Elvis Presley fans writing to the president, children making...
Now You're Cooking with Gas - 23 June 2014
This week on "A Way with Words": Some of us can't go anywhere without a book or something to read. And one fast food joint hears you: Chipotle is now printing the work of famous writers on their paper cups. Speaking of fast food, saying that someone...
Pumpkin Floater - 16 June 2014
This week on "A Way with Words": Your telephone is for talking, right? Or is it? We're guessing it's been a while since you sat next to a telephone waiting for it to ring. In fact, maybe you're one of those people who HATE to see that voicemail...
Upstairs Basement - 9 June 2014
This week on "A Way with Words": Giving your baby an unusual moniker may seem like a great idea at the time. But what if you have second thoughts? One mother of a newborn had such bad namer's remorse, she poured out her heart to strangers online....
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