A Way With Words
Buckle Down - 15 December 201412/15/14
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 our language, and Grant recommends relaxing with books that make great reading for both children and...
Curse of Knowledge
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 saying "I miss you" over and over. For variety's sake, there are some creative alternatives to that...
Polyglot Problems (Rebroadcast) - 1 December 2014
This week on "A Way with Words": Say you're in line at the drugstore. Does it bother you if the cashier says, "Next guest"? In department stores and coffeeshops, does the term "guest" suggest real hospitality -- or just an annoying edict from...
Ride the Merry Go Round (Rebroadcast) - 24 November 2014
A pint-sized mad scientist, a green-haired girl with a contagious sense of wonder, and a 10-year-old detective. They're all characters in the books on Grant's latest list of recommended books for children. Also, what's the word for a female octopus?...
Bouncy House of Language (Rebroadcast) - 17 November 2014
Some people proudly embrace the label cancer survivor, while others feel that's not quite the right word. Is there a better term for someone who's battled cancer? Writers and listeners share the best sentence they've read all day. Plus, koofers and...
An Ear For Wine - 10 November 2014
This week on "A Way with Words": Creative communication in a noisy world! Writing a clever 140-character tweet isn't easy. But you know what's even more impressive? Working all 26 letters of the alphabet into just one sentence! The term for that type...
Electric Hootenanny - 3 November 2014
Bathroom walls, missing graffiti, and social media. Where have all the cute quips on bathroom stalls gone? We wonder about the apparent decline of restroom graffiti. Are people saving their witticisms for Twitter and Facebook? And: If there were a...
Do Me a Solid - 27 October 2014
This week on "A Way with Words": What's in YOUR spice rack? Say you're cooking up a pot of chili, and you need to add more of that warm, earthy, powdered spice. Do you reach for a bottle of KOO-min? KYOO-min? Or are you going to add KUMM-in? The...
Hell's Bells - 20 October 2014
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...
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