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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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She sells seashells by the seashore. Who is the she in this tongue twister? Some claim it’s the young Mary Anning, who went on to become a famous 19th-century British paleontologist. Dubious perhaps, but the story of her rise from seaside salesgirl to renowned scientist is fascinating. Also: countless English words were inspired by Greek and Roman …
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When you’re distracted by trying to get the perfect photo at a wedding or fiddling with your camera during a solar eclipse, you’re missing out on some of the experience itself. There’s a term for this: It’s called overshadowing. Plus one of Lionel Hampton’s old bandmates recalls hearing him greet fellow musicians with “How you doing, gates?” It may…
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A hundred years ago, suffragists lobbied to win women the right to vote. Linguistically speaking, though, suffrage isn’t about “suffering.” It’s from a Latin word that involves voting. Plus: military cadences often include Jody calls, rhyming verses about the mythical guy who steals your sweetheart while you’re off serving the country. But just who…
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Language from inside a monastery. A Benedictine monk in the Episcopal Church shares terms from his world: For example, corporate prayer refers to praying as a group. And did you know there’s a term of art for those annoying add-on costs when you buy tickets online? It’s called drip pricing. Plus: Why do we hear the word Perfect! when we’ve answered…
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One of the most powerful words you’ll ever hear — and one of the most poignant — isn’t in dictionaries yet. But it probably will be one day. The word is endling, and it means “the last surviving member of a species.” The surprising story behind this word includes a doctor in a Georgia convalescent center, a museum exhibit in Australia, the Tasmania…
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You may have a favorite word in English, but what about your favorite in another language? The Spanish term ojalá is especially handy for expressing hopefulness and derives from Arabic for “God willing.” In Trinidad, if you want to ask friends to hang out with you, invite them to go liming. Nobody’s sure about this word’s origin, although it may in…
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Ribbon fall. Gallery forest. You won’t find terms like these in most dictionaries, but they and hundreds like them are discussed by famous writers in the book Home Ground: A Guide to the American Landscape. The book is an intriguing collection of specialized vocabulary that invites us to look more closely at the natural world — and delight in its l…
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Is there something inherent in English that makes it the linguistic equivalent of the Borg, dominating and consuming other languages in its path? No, not at all. The answer lies with politics and conquest rather than language itself. Plus: a new baby may be lovingly placed in a giraffe and spend time in the Panda room, but where is that? And: it’s …
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Books were rare treasures in the Middle Ages, painstakingly copied out by hand. So how to protect them from theft? Scribes sometimes added a curse to the first page of those books that was supposed to keep thieves away — and some were as vicious as they were creative! Also: if you spot a typo in a published book, should you contact the publisher? M…
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Images of birds flutter inside lots of English words and phrases, from “nest egg” and “pecking order,” to proverbs from around the world—including a lovely Spanish saying about how birds sense light just before dawn. Plus, how do you define “fun”? Outdoor enthusiasts divide fun into three distinct categories, the last of which is something you’ve t…
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The new Downton Abbey movie is a luscious treat for fans of the public-television period piece, but how accurate is the script when it comes to the vocabulary of the early 20th century? It may be jarring to hear the word swag, but it was already at least 100 years old. And no, it’s not an acronym. Also, a historian of science sets out to write a bo…
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So you’ve long dreamed of writing fiction, but don’t know where to begin? There are lots of ways to get started — creative writing classes, local writing groups, and books with prompts to get you going. The key is to get started, and then stick with it. And: which part of the body do surgeons call the goose? Hint: you don’t want a bite of chicken c…
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When an international team of scientists traveled to a research station in Antarctica for six months, the language they all shared was English. After six months together, their accents changed ever so slightly — a miniature version of how language evolves over time. Plus, the esoteric lingo from another rarefied environment: the world of contempora…
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