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A Way with Words - language, linguistics, and callers from all over

Hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett. Produced by Stefanie Levine.

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Light-hearted conversation with callers from all over about new words, old sayings, slang, family expressions, language change and varieties, as well as word histories, linguistics, regional dialects, word games, grammar, books, literature, writing, and more. Be a part of the show with author/journalist Martha Barnette and linguist/lexicographer Grant Barrett. Share your language thoughts, questions, and stories: https://waywordradio.org/contact or words@waywordradio.org. In the US 🇺🇸 and Ca ...
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On the Words Work At Microsoft Podcast, we’ll be chatting about how Microsoft culture has evolved, starting with the way we talk. In each episode we’ll interview someone within the Microsoft writing community, giving you an inside look at how we approach our work. And, hopefully, offering up a heavy dose of trips and tricks along the way. www.wordsworkpodcast.com
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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 he…
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How can you kick the verbal habit of saying you know and um so many times in a sentence? For one thing, get comfortable with pauses. There’s no need to fill every silence during a conversation. Also, a doctor who treats patients in Appalachia shares their colorful vocabulary. If you have a rising in your leader or a misery in your jaw, you may want…
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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…
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In her sumptuous new memoir, Jamaican writer Safiya Sinclair describes her escape from a difficult childhood ruled by her tyrannical father. For Sinclair, poetry became a lifeline. Plus: that fizzy chocolate drink called an egg cream contains neither eggs nor cream — but why? And what do you call a cute dimple in someone’s chin? A listener calls it…
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One way to make your new business look trendy is to use two nouns separated by an ampersand, like Peach & Creature or Rainstorm & Egg or … just about any other two-word combination. 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 …
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What’s the best thing to say to someone who is grieving? Choosing the right words is far less important than just showing up. Also, a family from Russia shares their recipe for something they call hot tamales, that are very un-Mexican. And: if someone’s trying to be philosophical about a situation, they might say sometimes you eat the bear, sometim…
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“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: The ancient Greeks revered storks for the way they cared for each other. They ev…
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In Japan, if you want to order a corndog, you ask for an Amerikan doggu (アメリカンドッグ). These types of coinages are called wasei-eigo , or “Japanese-made English,” and there are lots of them. Plus, there’s an atmospheric optical phenomenon that looks somewhat like the aurora borealis, but has a much friendlier name. Scientists refer to these ribbons of…
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Book recommendations and the art of apology. Martha and Grant share some good reads, including an opinionated romp through English grammar, a Spanish-language adventure novel, an account of 19th-century dictionary wars, and a gorgeously illustrated book of letters to young readers. Plus, what’s the best language for conveying a heartfelt apology? I…
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If you’re in a book club, how do you decide what books to read? There are lots of different ways, depending on your group’s goals. And is it ever wise to correct someone who mispronounces a word? Sometimes you have to decide if it’s better to be right–or simply get along. Plus, some research suggests that when presented with photos from nature, hum…
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The edge of the Grand Canyon. A remote mountaintop. A medieval cathedral. Some places are so mystical you feel like you’re close to another dimension of space and time. There’s a term for such locales: thin places. And: did you ever go tick-tacking a few nights before Halloween? It’s pranks like tapping ominously on windows without being caught or …
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Your first name is very personal, but what if you don’t like it? For some people, changing their name works out great but for others it may create more problems than it solves. And: at least three towns in the U.S. were christened with names formed by spelling a word backward. There’s a name for such names: they’re called ananyms. Plus, the Iowa to…
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What do you call a segment of an orange? These juicy pieces of fruit go by lots of different names, including section, wedge, and carpel. But they’re also called pegs or even pigs! The stringy parts of a banana also have a surprising name. Also, we need a word to describe that productive period of wakefulness in the middle of the night before falli…
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