A Way With Words
Spit Game - 29 June 201506/29/15
This week on "A Way with Words": People in ancient times could be just as bawdy and colorful as we are today. To prove it, we found some graffiti written on the walls in the city of Pompeii, and found plenty of sex, arrogance and good old fashioned...
By the Seat of Your Pants (Rebroadcast) - 22 June 2015
Dude! We're used to hearing the word "dude" applied to guys. But increasingly, young women use the word "dude" to address each other. Grant and Martha talk about linguistic research about the meaning and uses of "dude." Also, the story behind the term...
How America Talks (Rebroadcast) - 15 June 2015
For language lovers, it's like New Year's, Fourth of July, and the Super Bowl all rolled into one: The brand-new online edition of the Dictionary of American Regional English. Martha and Grant explain what all the fuss is about. Plus, the debate over...
Thrown for a Loop (Rebroadcast) - 8 June 2015
We all lead busy lives--so are speed reading courses a good idea? Plus, if you hear someone speaking with a British accent, do you tend to assume they're somehow more intelligent? And some common English surnames tell us stories about life in the...
Shakespeare's Insults - 1 June 2015
If you don't have anything nice to say, say it like Shakespeare: Thou unhandsome smush-mouthed mush-rump! Thou obscene rug-headed hornbeast! The Shakespeare Insult Generator helps you craft creative zingers by mixing and matching the Bard's own...
Not Quite A Boyfriend (Rebroadcast) - 25 May 2015
If an older man and woman spend lots of time together, going to family gatherings and the like, but they're NOT dating, what do you call their relationship? Best friends? Dear friends? Or . . . something else? And a marathon runner who's crossed 31...
Right off the bat, it's easy to think of several everyday expressions that derive from America's pastime. Including right off the bat. The Dickson Baseball Dictionary catalogues not just those contributions but also more obscure terms like "pebble...
There Once Was A Gal From - 11 May 2015
Ever try to write a well-known passage in limerick form? It's harder than you think. How about this one: "There once was a lady who's sure / All that glitters is golden and pure/ There's a stairway that heads up to heaven, it's said / And the cost of...
Wet Brick (Rebroadcast) - 4 May 2015
What the fox says may be a mystery, but we do know that dogs bark differently around the world. In China, for example, they say not bow-wow but wang wang. Also, the story behind the British tradition of scrumping. It's not a middle school dance craze,...
Catbird Seat (Rebroadcast) - 27 April 2015
Online recaps of Mad Men or Breaking Bad can be as much fun as the shows themselves. So why not recap classic literature -- like, say, Dante's Inferno? A literary website is doing just that. And, you've heard about the First World and the Third World...
Shiver Me Timbers - 20 April 2015
This week on "A Way with Words": Careful what you criticize! Not long ago, some words that sound perfectly normal today were considered gauche and grating on the ear. If the complainers had had their way, we couldn't say the word "pessimism" or use...
Hector's Pup - 13 April 2015
This week on "A Way with Words": Sharing a secret language. Did you ever speak in gibberish with a childhood pal, adding extra syllables to words so the adults couldn't understand what you were saying? Such wordplay isn't just for kids--and it's not...
Jumped Up Bald-Headed (Rebroadcast) - 6 April 2015
What do your pronouns say about your own psychological makeup? If you use the word I a lot, does it mean you're a leader . . . or a follower? A surprising study suggests that people of lower status in a group tend to use I the most. Also, a look at...
I'll Be Your Boo (Rebroadcast) - 30 March 2015
This week on "A Way with Words": It's the language of Wisconsin: If you're nibbling on slippery Jims or sipping sweet soup, chances are you're in the Badger State. Also, the famous abolitionist whose name became an exclamation. And how to respond if...
Eat the Grindstone - 23 March 2015
The books we love as children may influence our careers more than we realize. As a child, Martha was fascinated with stories of cracking codes, and Grant loved books with glossaries--not that far from the kind of work they do today. A caller named...
Pickle Seeder - 16 March 2015
This week on "A Way with Words": Constructing imaginary languages and deconstructing the lingo of Hollywood. For example, would you rather live in a world with no adjectives . . . or no verbs--and why? Also, who in the world is that terrible director...
Blind Tiger - 2 March 2015
This week on "A Way with Words": The best way to read poetry. When you pick up a book of poems, how many do you read in one sitting? Some people devour several in a row, while others savor them much more slowly. Plus, it's a problem faced by...
Idiom's Delight - 23 February 2015
This week on "A Way with Words": What's in a name? A recent study found that some names crop up more frequently than others in certain professions. The name William is especially common among attorneys--and graphic designers include a...
Whistle Britches - 16 February 2015
This week on "A Way with Words: Writers and where they do their best creative work. A new book on Geoffrey Chaucer describes the dark, noisy, smelly room where he wrote his early work. Which raises the question: What kind of space DO you need to...
Noon Balloon to Rangoon - 9 February 2015
This week on "A Way with Words," tricks and tips for writers: Is there a word you keep having to look up in the dictionary, no matter how many times you've looked it up before? Maybe it's time for a mnemonic device. And: a listener shares a letter...
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