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A Way With Words

PRX

Public radio's lively hour-long program about the English language. Co-hosts Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett take calls from listeners about linguistic disputes, grammatical pet peeves, the origins of words and phrases, and curious regional expressions.

Public radio's lively hour-long program about the English language. Co-hosts Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett take calls from listeners about linguistic disputes, grammatical pet peeves, the origins of words and phrases, and curious regional expressions.
More Information

Location:

San Diego, CA

Networks:

PRX

Description:

Public radio's lively hour-long program about the English language. Co-hosts Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett take calls from listeners about linguistic disputes, grammatical pet peeves, the origins of words and phrases, and curious regional expressions.

Twitter:

@wayword

Language:

English

Contact:

Wayword, Inc. P.O. Box 632721 San Diego, CA 92163 1 (877) 929-9673


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Episodes

Brollies and Bumbershoots - 16 April 2018

4/16/2018
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If you think they refer to umbrellas as bumbershoots in the UK, think again. The word bumbershoot actually originated in the United States! In Britain, it's a brolly. Plus, a man who works a ski resort shares the vocabulary he and coworkers use to describe grooming the snow. And there's more than one way to pronounce the name of the bread that you pile with lox and cream cheese. Also: strong like bull, whistle britches, long suit and strong suit, homey and homely, wet behind the ears, and...

Duration:00:50:59

Cool Your Soup - 9 April 2018

4/9/2018
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According to Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, it's important to master the basics of writing, but there comes a time when you have to strike out on your own and teach yourself. Also, some Spanish idioms involving food: What does it mean to flip the tortilla or to eat turkey at a dance? Plus, a conversation about the difference between compassion and sympathy. Also recursive acronyms, bear-caught, leaverites, jonesing, mon oeil, Jane Austen's pins, high-water pants, and save your breath to...

Duration:00:50:59

Put on the Dog - 2 April 2018

4/2/2018
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A young patron's sense of wonder prompts a moving tweet by a staffer at the Toronto Public Library. The phrases to put on the dog and putting on the dog refer to ostentatious behavior, and in particular to dressing in a flashy way. But what do dogs have to do with stylish clothing? Our discussion about the many ways to say someone is pregnant prompts a listener to share another one he picked up from broadcaster Paul Harvey: infanticipating. A woman in San Diego, California, says that when...

Duration:00:50:59

Fighting Artichokes (Rebroadcast) - 26 March 2018

3/26/2018
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What’s in a mascot name? Maybe you’re a fan of the Banana Slugs, or you cheer for the Winged Beavers. Perhaps your loyalty lies with the Fighting Artichokes. There are some strange names for sports team out there. But what’s even stranger is the origin of the word mascot itself. It’s from a 19th-century opera! And: the host of a television show about gardening is tired of using the verb “to plant,” and is desperate for an alternative. But coming up with one is harder than you might think!...

Duration:00:50:59

Burn Bag (Rebroadcast) - 19 March 2018

3/19/2018
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This week on "A Way with Words": Slang from the 19th century. The slang coming out of Victorian mouths was more colorful than you might think. A 1909 collection of contemporary slang records clever terms for everything from a bald head to the act of sidling through a crowd. Plus, how to remember the difference between CAV-al-ry and CAL-va-ry. And: what's the best way to improve how introverts are perceived in our society? For starters, don't bother asking for help from dictionary editors....

Duration:00:50:59

Gee and Haw - 12 March 2018

3/12/2018
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The highly specialized vocabulary of people who work outdoors, like farmers and fishermen, can bring us closer to the natural world. Also, a woman who trains sled dogs discusses the words she uses to communicate with her animals. You may be surprised to hear that "Mush!" is not one of them! Finally, if you're getting ready to go rock climbing, you'll first want the beta--a word with roots in the technology of video recording. Plus church key, browse line, smeuse, nitnoy, mommick, zawn,...

Duration:00:50:59

Gung Ho - 5 March 2018

3/5/2018
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The stories behind symbols and expressions around the world. The peace symbol popular during 1960's antiwar demonstrations had been around for decades. It originated in the antinuclear movement in the UK. Also, why do we say someone who's enthusiastic is all "gung ho"? The term derives from Chinese words meaning "work together." It was popularized by a Marine officer who admired the can-do spirit of Chinese industrial collectives. Plus, a tasty spin on stuffed foccacia that originated in...

Duration:00:50:59

Flop Sweat (Rebroadcast) - 26 February 2018

2/26/2018
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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...

Duration:00:50:59

Smile Belt (Rebroadcast) - 19 February 2018

2/19/2018
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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...

Duration:00:50:59

Crusticles and Fenderbergs - 12 January 2018

2/12/2018
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A second-generation Filipino-American finds that when he speaks English, his personality is firm, direct, and matter-of-fact. But when he speaks with family members in Tagalog, he feels more soft-spoken, kind, and respectful. Research shows that when our linguistic context shifts, so does our sense of culture. Also: why do we describe movies that are humorously exaggerated and over-the-top as "campy"? This type of "camp" isn't where your parents sent you for the summer. It derives from...

Duration:00:50:59

Bun in the Oven - 5 February 2018

2/5/2018
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Family words, and words about being in a family way. How many different ways ARE there to say you're 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...

Duration:00:50:59

Flying Pickle - 29 January 2018

1/29/2018
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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...

Duration:00:50:59

Happy as Larry - 22 January 2018

1/22/2018
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New research shows that you may be less influenced by superstitious behavior like walking under ladders or the magic of four-leaf clovers if you're reading about it in another language. And: sometimes not cursing will catch someone's ear even more than a real curse word. Finally, in what sport do you enjoy a glass-off and speck out before getting flushed? Martha brings back a firsthand report from the language of paragliding. FULL DETAILS In what sport would you hear the slang terms...

Duration:00:50:59

A Shoo In (Rebroadcast) - 15 January 2018

1/15/2018
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This week it’s butterflies, belly flowers, plot bunnies, foxes, and cuckoos. Also, writing advice from Mark Twain and a wonderful bit of prose from Sara Pennypacker's book Pax. And are there word origins? Well, does a duck swim? We'll hear the stories of polka, smarmy, bully pulpit, and the exes and ohs we use to show our affection. Plus! Sarcastic interrogatives, the echo questions we give as answers to other people's no-duh queries. FULL DETAILS Hiking in the mountains, Martha kept...

Duration:00:50:59

Noon of Night (Rebroadcast) - 8 January 2018

1/8/2018
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Pranks, cranks, and chips. As a kid, you may have played that game where you phone someone to say, "Is your refrigerator running? Then you better go catch it!" What's the term for that kind of practical joke? Is it a crank call or a prank call? There's a big difference. Also, if someone has a chip on his shoulder, he's spoiling for a fight -- but what kind of chip are we talking about? Potato? Poker? Hint: the phrase arose at a time when there were many more wooden structures around....

Duration:00:50:59

Naked as a Jaybird - 1 January 2018

1/1/2018
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What's the best way for someone busy to learn lots of new words quickly for a test like the GRE? Looking up their origins can help. Or record yourself reading the words and definitions and play them back while you're doing other chores. Plus, book recommendations for youngsters. Finally, military slang, and the one-word prank that sends Army recruits running--or at least the ones who are in on the joke! Also: fanboys, technophyte, galoot, landsickness, to have one's habits on, Zonk!, and a...

Duration:00:51:53

Hot Dog, Cold Turkey (Rebroadcast) - 25 December 2017

12/25/2017
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Why do we call a frankfurter a "hot dog"? It seems an unsettling 19th-century rumor is to blame. Also, if someone quits something abruptly, why do we say they quit "cold turkey"? This term's roots may lie in the history of boxing. Plus, a transgender listener with nieces and nephews is looking for a gender-neutral term for the sibling of one's parent. Finally, the words "barber" and "doctor" don't necessarily mean what you think. They can both be weather words, referring to very different...

Duration:00:52:11

There's more of everything!

12/21/2017
More
Donate to help support A Way with Words all year long https://waywordradio.org/donate ... We’ve got a curious problem here at A Way with Words. Over the last decade, we’ve grown the show from just 12 stations in four states to more than 300 signals in 37 states. What that means is that our success is outpacing our resources! We have more listeners to help, more stations provide service to, more email, more phone calls, more of everything that it takes to run the business behind the...

Duration:00:01:05

Brand Spanking New - 18 December 2017

12/18/2017
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Words of the year and correcting a mispronounced name. Taking a look back at some notable words and phrases from 2017: Remember path of totality? How about "milkshake duck"? Also, a committee has to choose a new mascot for a school's sports teams. They want to call them the Knights, as in the heroes in shining armor. But is the word knight gender-neutral? Finally, Finally, a Spanish-speaking man tries in vain to correct peoples' mispronunciation of his first name. But should he bother?...

Duration:00:51:54

The Last Straw - 11 December 2017

12/11/2017
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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,...

Duration:00:51:54

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