A Way With Words


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A Way With Words, hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett: Tuesday 9:00am

A Way with Words is an upbeat and lively hour-long public radio show and podcast about language examined through history, culture, and family. Each week, author/journalist Martha Barnette and lexicographer/linguist Grant Barrett talk with callers about slang, old sayings, new words, grammar, word origins, regional dialects, family expressions, and speaking and writing well. They settle disputes, play word quizzes, and discuss language news and controversies. The show, on the air since 1998, is heard weekly by more than a half-million listeners over the air in 33 states and around the world by podcast. The show is produced by Wayword, Inc., a small independent nonprofit unaffiliated with any station or network.

What it is: Martha and Grant are the teachers you wish you’d had. The show is upbeat, lively, conversational, fresh, contemporary. It’s a positive, information-based look at what is really happening with all aspects of modern language and communication, using anecdotes, culture, relationships, and families as starting points. There’s a lot of first-hand, primary research and professional language experience that informs the dialogue. It’s of high value to native and non-native speakers alike, including ESL and ELT teachers and students.

What it’s not: The show is not a couple of cobwebbed school-marms giving lectures. There’s almost no chiding, tsk-tsking, or finger-wagging. Nor is it simply a recitation of what one could easily find in a Google search. There’s also no ranting about language going to hell in a handbasket or the slang of kids today. In fact, what Martha and Grant have to say about the state of the English language may surprise you.

You’ll hear conversation about:

  • new words from pop culture, sports, science, music, and art
  • the language of current events
  • political jargon and other words in the headlines
  • the latest language breakthroughs
  • family expressions and linguistic heirlooms — old-fashioned things your grandparents and parents said
  • books, literature, reading, and writing
  • word games, puzzles, and quizzes
  • proverbs, idioms, folklore and catchphrases
  • word histories, slang, and new words
  • language in the classroom, including English as a second language
  • dialects, accents, and vocabulary of regional and ethnic groups
  • speaking, speech, and pronunciation
  • grammar, syntax, and semantics


  • Tuesday - 9:00 am - 10:00 am

Past Shows

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