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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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You may have a favorite word in English, but what about your favorite in another language? The Spanish term ojala 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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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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