A Way With Words

Saturday, 2:00 p.m - 3:00 p.m. on KUOW2

A Way With Words is an upbeat and lively hour-long public radio show about language examined through history, culture and family. Co-hosts Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett talk with callers from around the world about slang, grammar, old sayings, word origins, regional dialects, family expressions, and speaking and writing well. They settle disputes, play word quizzes, and discuss language news and controversies.

Composer ID: 
5182a735e1c8bbce02e2bf27|5182a70fe1c89ec2617cc30a

Podcasts

  • Sunday, April 6, 2014 2:49pm

    This week on "A Way with Words": If everyone on the planet spoke a single language, wouldn't that make life a whole lot easier? For that matter, is a common world language even possible? Maybe for a minute or so--until new words and phrases start springing up. Also, did you ever wonder why the guy at your local coffee shop is a barista and not a baristo? There's a good grammatical reason. Finally, pass the gorp--we have the scoop on the name of this crunchy snack. Plus, gorp, double bubble, concertina wire, the story behind the movie title Winter's Bone, safe and sound, and a couple vs. a pair.

    FULL DETAILS

    The finalists at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament wear giant headphones to block out the noise of the crowd and color commentary. As it happens, the white noise being pumped into them is the pre-recorded sound of a United Nations cocktail party.

    Male baristas aren't called baristos for the same reason that male Sandinistas aren't Sandinistos. There's a certain class of nouns in both Italian and Spanish where the definite article changes to indicate gender, but the noun stays the same.

    If you need a password that contains at least eight characters and one capital, there's always Mickey Minnie Pluto Huey Louie Dewey Donald Goofy Sacramento.

    Contrary to popular belief, gorp is not an acronym for Good Old Raisins and Peanuts. Earlier recipes for this crunchy snack contained all kinds of things, like soybeans, sunflower seeds, oats, pretzels, raisins, Wheat Chex and kelp, as in John McPhee's famous essay, "Travels in Georgia."

    Working double bubble is when you get paid double for working overtime or outside your normal work hours, and it's a classic bit of British rhyming slang.

    Our Quiz Guy John Chaneski invites his alter ego, Dr. Word, to present a quiz about Latin names for working stiffs.

    If someone's impatiently pounding on your front door, you might respond Keep your pants on! The origin of this phrase is unclear, though it may be related to keep your shirt on, and other expressions that refer to partially disrobing before a fistfight.

    To fill your boots means "to go after something with gusto." Similarly, the tableside injunction Fill your boots! is an invitation to chow down.

    The idiom safe and sound tells the story of the English language in three words: safe comes from French, and sound is a Germanic word with the same root as Gesundheit, meaning "health."

    Concertina wire, the coiled barbed wire that's compact and easy to move around, takes its name from the concertina, an accordion-like instrument.

    You wouldn't say the NASA launched a space shuttle, or you watched March Madness on the CBS. Similarly, initialisms like NSA and FBI are sometimes said without the article, especially by insiders.

    A quiddler is someone who wastes his energy on trifles.

    If we ever settled on one universal language that everyone spoke, it would last about a minute before variants of slang started popping up.

    The title Winter's Bone, an acclaimed film based on Daniel Woodrell's country noir novel, is an idiom the author created by personifying the season, which throws the main character a bone.

    Oxford University doesn't really have a mascot, so a listener asks on our Facebook page: Why not call them the Oxford Commas?

    A couple is not necessarily the same as a pair; it can certainly mean more than two, and it's always dependent on context.

    A hawk in its prime state of fitness is known as a yarak, a word that may derive from a Persian word meaning "strength, ability."

    To secrete means "to produce and discharge a fluid," a back-formation from secretion. But a similarly spelled verb means "to deposit in a hiding place." For both verbs, the pronunciation of the past tense, secreted, requires a long e in the middle.

    This episode was hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett.
    ....

    Support for A Way with Words comes from The Ken Blanchard Companies, celebrating 35 years of making a leadership difference with Situational Leadership II, the leadership model designed to boost effectiveness, impact, and employee engagement. More about how Blanchard can help your executives and organizational leaders at kenblanchard.com/leadership.

    --

    A Way with Words is funded by its listeners: http://waywordradio.org/donate

    Get your language question answered on the air! Call or write with your questions at any time:

    Email: words@waywordradio.org

    Phone:
    United States and Canada toll-free (877) WAY-WORD/(877) 929-9673
    London +44 20 7193 2113
    Mexico City +52 55 8421 9771

    Donate: http://waywordradio.org/donate
    Site: http://waywordradio.org/
    Podcast: http://waywordradio.org/podcast/
    Forums: http://waywordradio.org/discussion/
    Newsletter: http://waywordradio.org/newsletter/
    Twitter: http://twitter.com/wayword/
    Skype: skype://waywordradio

    Copyright 2014, Wayword LLC.

  • Sunday, March 30, 2014 6:16pm

    Springtime is the right time to feel twitterpated—you know, you're smitten beyond a crush. Speaking of relationships, are dog owners really owners, or should they call themselves something else, like guardian or human? And if you're up for a challenge, some adult spelling bee words, including ostreiform and langlauf. Plus, ollie ollie oxen free, toad-strangling rain, zugzwang, canceled vs. cancelled, and how to pronounce herbal, hyperbole, and inchoate.

     FULL DETAILS

    Even adults can use a good spelling bee now and then. It's a good way to learn words like ostreiform, meaning "having the shape of an oyster," and langlauf, a "cross-country ski run."

    Springtime is the right time to feel twitterpated. That is, smitten like a nutty, twittering bird.

    Why do the Brits pronounce the H in herbal?

    When it rains, it pours. And when it pours, it's called a toad-strangler. Depending on what part of the U.S. you're from, you might also call it other names, such as frog strangler, goose-drownder, or gullywasher.

    The word yannigan, meaning "a member of a scrub team in baseball," may come from an alteration of "young one."

    What do darts, flubs, and maids have in common? Our Quiz Guy John Chaneski puts it to us in a game of rhymes.

    Did you say ollie ollie oxen free to draw people out of hiding during hide-and-seek? Or maybe you said one of the other versions of this phrase, such as all-ee, all-ee, in free, or Ole Ole Olson all in free.

    If you've accomplished something, be proud! But is it condescending to say you're proud of someone when you had nothing to do with their success? A listener worries that the meaning of the word proud includes a sense of ownership.

    In the Kiswahili language, the dead go into two categories: sasha for the recently departed, and zamani for spirits not known by anyone living.

    How many L's go in past tense of cancel?

    If you're mispronouncing words like inchoate and hyperbole, you can console yourself with the knowledge that you're most likely reading at a high level.

    You have a dog. Are you its owner, or person, or Mommy dearest? What do you call yourself in reference to the pet?

    The term zugzwang comes from chess, and refers to that situation where you can't make any desirable moves—like being between a rock and a hard place.

    Ombrology is a fancy word for the study of toad-stranglers.

    Why do we turn proper nouns, like JC Penney or Kroger, into possessives, as in, Penny's or Kroger's?

    For all the gothic architecture fans out there—hold onto the term ogival, which means "having the form of a pointed arch."

    This episode was hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett.
    ....

    Support for A Way with Words comes from The Ken Blanchard Companies, celebrating 35 years of making a leadership difference with Situational Leadership II, the leadership model designed to boost effectiveness, impact, and employee engagement. More about how Blanchard can help your executives and organizational leaders at kenblanchard.com/leadership.

    --

    A Way with Words is funded by its listeners: http://waywordradio.org/donate

    Get your language question answered on the air! Call or write with your questions at any time:

    Email: words@waywordradio.org

    Phone:
    United States and Canada toll-free (877) WAY-WORD/(877) 929-9673
    London +44 20 7193 2113
    Mexico City +52 55 8421 9771

    Donate: http://waywordradio.org/donate
    Site: http://waywordradio.org/
    Podcast: http://waywordradio.org/podcast/
    Forums: http://waywordradio.org/discussion/
    Newsletter: http://waywordradio.org/newsletter/
    Twitter: http://twitter.com/wayword/
    Skype: skype://waywordradio

    Copyright 2014, Wayword LLC.

  • Sunday, March 23, 2014 7:41pm

    This week on "A Way with Words": Is it cheating to say you've read a book if you only listened to it on tape? Over the centuries, the way we think about reading has changed a lot.There was a time, for example, when reading silently was considered strange. Plus, what do you call those soft rolls of dust that accumulate under the bed? Dust bunnies? Dust kitties? How about house moss? And the surprising backstory to every man's favorite accessory—the cummerbund. Also: saucered and blowed, skinflint, sporty peppers, tips for proofreading, and the Great Chai Tea Debate.

     FULL DETAILS

    Is it cheating to say you've read a book when you've really just listened to the audiobook?

    Chai tea is not redundant—just tasty. But that doesn't stop people from debating the question.

    Long live Southern names! Classics like Henry Ritter Emma Ritter Dema Ritter Sweet Potatoe Creamatartar Caroline Bostick go way back, but the tradition is still alive and well.

    Our Quiz Master John Chaneski could make a fortune with some of the Apps he's created for this game.

    If you thought cummerbunds served no purpose today, wait until you hear of their original use.

    Don't be that kid who grows so frustrated with a neighborhood game that he takes the ball and storms home—you know, a rage-quitter.

    Considering that the first alphabet goes back as far as 1600 BC, it's pretty remarkable how little has changed. Robert Fradkin, a classics professor at the University of Maryland's Robert Fradkin illustrates this point with helpful animations on his Evolution of Alphabets page.

    Oh, adjectives. Sometimes you are indeed the banana peel of the parts of speech.

    Skinflint, meaning stingy or tight-fisted, comes from the idea that someone's so frugal they would try to skin a piece of the extremely hard rock called flint.

    You might refer to those soft rolls of dust that collect under your bed as dust bunnies, dust kitties, or woolies, but in the Deep South they're sometimes called house moss.

    Chances are you're not familiar with most of the books that win the Nobel Prize in literature because most of them aren’t translated into English. Fortunately, Words Without Borders is doing something about that.

    Saucered and blowed is an idiom meaning that a project is finished or preparations are complete, but it's not that odd—Bill Clinton's used it. It derives from the rustic practice of spilling boiling-hot coffee into a saucer and blowing on it to cool it down.

    What do you think the chances are that Sporty Spice has tried a sport pepper?

    Proofreading is a skill to be learned, but you can start with tricks like printing out the text, reading aloud, or moving down the page with a ruler, one line at a time.

    As Alberto Manguel points out in his book A History of Reading, there was a time when reading silently was considered a strange habit.

    Susurrous, meaning "having a rustling sound," derives from Latin susurrous, "whisper."

    This episode was hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett.
    ....

    Support for A Way with Words comes from The Ken Blanchard Companies, celebrating 35 years of making a leadership difference with Situational Leadership II, the leadership model designed to boost effectiveness, impact, and employee engagement. More about how Blanchard can help your executives and organizational leaders at kenblanchard.com/leadership.

    --

    A Way with Words is funded by its listeners: http://waywordradio.org/donate

    Get your language question answered on the air! Call or write with your questions at any time:

    Email: words@waywordradio.org

    Phone:
    United States and Canada toll-free (877) WAY-WORD/(877) 929-9673
    London +44 20 7193 2113
    Mexico City +52 55 8421 9771

    Donate: http://waywordradio.org/donate
    Site: http://waywordradio.org/
    Podcast: http://waywordradio.org/podcast/
    Forums: http://waywordradio.org/discussion/
    Newsletter: http://waywordradio.org/newsletter/
    Twitter: http://twitter.com/wayword/
    Skype: skype://waywordradio

    Copyright 2014, Wayword LLC.

  • Monday, March 17, 2014 9:49am

    This week on "A Way with Words": You're at a social gathering and meet someone you'd like to know better. What do you ask to get a real conversation going? Some people lead with "What do you do?," while others avoid talking about work entirely. Still others ask, "Where'd you go to high school?' Also, the fancy way linguists describe the sound of a kiss. And what does it really mean when someone "breaks bad"? Plus, alight and come in, rustle my jimmies, breaking bad, grammatical calques, mashtag potatoes, comprise vs. compose, bangs vs. fringe, virgas and virgules, and bad Bible jokes.

     FULL DETAILS

    In the U.S., we say mwah for the kissing noise. In parts of South America, it's chuik. And for linguists, of course, it's a bilabial lingual ingressive click.

    Is pussyfooting, as in "treading lightly," an offensive term?

    Here's a widely applicable book review: The covers of this book are too far apart. It's attributed to Ambrose Bierce, although it's unlikely he actually came up with it.

    There should be no dilemma about the spelling of dilemma. It's not dilemna, and it's a mystery why so many people were taught that way.

    No need to ask your doctor about virga. That's just the term for "a diagonal streak of rain that evaporates before it hits the ground." It derives from the Latin for "rod," and is related to virgule, a fancy name for that punctuation mark otherwise known as a slash.

    Our Quiz-Man John Chaneski has a game about the Batman villains who didn't make the cut. All of their names end in -er, like The Matchmaker and The Firecracker.

    The term breaking bad means to raise hell, although if you weren't a Southerner, you might not have been aware that the rest of the country didn't know the phrase before Vince Gilligan, a Virginian, created the TV show by that name.

    Mashtags are potato snacks, pressed into the shapes of social media characters. Because marketers need a way to make junk food appeal to teens.

    A question for heterosexual guys: What words do you use to describe other men who are good-looking? Attractive? Handsome?

    Stan Carey has an excellent example of book spine poetry up on his site, this one titled "Antarctica."

    Alight and come in is an old-fashioned, hospitable phrase recalling a time when a visitor who's ridden a long way might be invited to hop off his horse and step inside for a meal. Variations include alight and look at your saddle and alight and look at your beast.

    All of which reminds Martha, a preacher's kid, of the riddle "When were cigarettes mentioned in the Bible?" Answer: Genesis 24:64.

    You're at a social gathering and meet someone you'd like to know better. What question you lead with to get a real conversation going?

    The history of German and Yiddish speakers in the United States has lead to a wealth of calques, in which the grammar of one language is applied to another.

    Beware the biblical pun: What kind of car did the three wise men drive? A Honda. They all came with one Accord.

    Comprise is a tricky word, and its usage is in the process of changing. But there's an easy way to remember the traditional rule: Don't ever use comprised of. Just don't. Here's an example: The alphabet comprises 26 letters. You could also say The alphabet is composed of 26 letters.

    Ever have that experience where you're scrolling through photos of cute babies on Facebook and then all of a sudden there's a picture of something gross that just rustles your jimmies?

    When it comes to hair, what the British call fringe, people in the U.S. call bangs. The stateside version most likely has to do with the idea of a bangtail horse, meaning a horse whose tail has been cut straight across.

    When was tennis mentioned in the Bible? When Joseph served in Pharaoh's court.

    This episode was hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett.
    ....

    Support for A Way with Words comes from The Ken Blanchard Companies, celebrating 35 years of making a leadership difference with Situational Leadership II, the leadership model designed to boost effectiveness, impact, and employee engagement. More about how Blanchard can help your executives and organizational leaders at kenblanchard.com/leadership.

    --

    A Way with Words is funded by its listeners: http://waywordradio.org/donate

    Get your language question answered on the air! Call or write with your questions at any time:

    Email: words@waywordradio.org

    Phone:
    United States and Canada toll-free (877) WAY-WORD/(877) 929-9673
    London +44 20 7193 2113
    Mexico City +52 55 8421 9771

    Donate: http://waywordradio.org/donate
    Site: http://waywordradio.org/
    Podcast: http://waywordradio.org/podcast/
    Forums: http://waywordradio.org/discussion/
    Newsletter: http://waywordradio.org/newsletter/
    Twitter: http://twitter.com/wayword/
    Skype: skype://waywordradio

    Copyright 2014, Wayword LLC.

  • Sunday, March 9, 2014 7:00pm

    The Pope is tweeting in Latin! But can an ancient language adapt to a world of selfies and hashtags? Speaking of the future, cars are now talking to each other with V-2-V communication. And pit bull owners are trying to soften the image of their cute little dogs by calling them "pibbles." Plus, pizza bones, grand-nieces vs. great-nieces, pin vs. pen, sisu, blow a gasket, and write it on the ice.

    FULL DETAILS

    The Pope tweets in Latin! As it turns out, Latin is such an efficient language that it can compress a lot into 140 characters.

    What do you call your brother's granddaughter? Your great-niece or your grandniece? The Thomasville, Georgia, man who claims to have the world's largest collection of photos of relatives riding camels wants an answer.

    Thanks to Beyonce Knowles, who helped popularize the term bootylicious, the word surfbort is now a thing.

    For at least one listener, the crust on a slice of pizza is the dashboard. Italians have a specific word for that: cornicione.

    If you write it on the ice, what you write will be impermanent, or not to be counted on--the opposite of carved in stone.

    Puzzlemaster John Chaneski remixes the news by anagramming one word in each headline. For starters, which word is an anagram in New Deal in Honeybee Deaths?

    Finns say their word sisu meaning "guts" or "fortitude" characterizes their national identity. Does your culture have a such a word, like the Portuguese term saudade, perhaps?

    In the 16th or 17th century, a gourmand might be known by the less pretentious term slapsauce. The same term has also meant "glutton."

    Add blow a gasket to your list of Downton Abbey anachronisms.

    Snowboarders flailing their arms in the air might be the last folks who still wind down the windows.

    Pin vs pen is a classic example of the vowel merger specific to the Southern dialect.

    What does one order when on a strict diet? How about a honeymoon salad: "lettuce alone!"

    The Vatican has a long list of new Latin terms invented to denote things in the modern world, such as umbrella descensoria ("parachute) and ludus follis ovati (literally, "oval ball inflated with wind," otherwise known as rugby).

    Heyna is Pennsylvanian for "innit."

    Martha proposes the word miesta, a sort of combination of  "me-time" and a "siesta."

    Fraught, meaning "loaded with worry or negative portent," related to the English word freight. It's perfectly fine to use fraught without the word with, as in This situation is fraught.

    Pit bull owners have taken to calling their pooches pibbles in an effort to make them sound less threatening. In fact, they can make great pets.

    Do people call you by a nickname without asking? A caller named Elizabeth is baffled when people she's just met insist on calling her Liz. 

    V-2-V communication, meaning "vehicle to vehicle," is a great way for cars to prevent accidents, or to flirt with each other.

    This episode was hosted by Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette.
    ....

    Support for A Way with Words comes from The Ken Blanchard Companies, celebrating 35 years of making a leadership difference with Situational Leadership II, the leadership model designed to boost effectiveness, impact, and employee engagement. More about how Blanchard can help your executives and organizational leaders at kenblanchard.com/leadership.

    --

    A Way with Words is funded by its listeners: http://waywordradio.org/donate

    Get your language question answered on the air! Call or write with your questions at any time:

    Email: words@waywordradio.org

    Phone:
    United States and Canada toll-free (877) WAY-WORD/(877) 929-9673
    London +44 20 7193 2113
    Mexico City +52 55 8421 9771

    Donate: http://waywordradio.org/donate
    Site: http://waywordradio.org/
    Podcast: http://waywordradio.org/podcast/
    Forums: http://waywordradio.org/discussion/
    Newsletter: http://waywordradio.org/newsletter/
    Twitter: http://twitter.com/wayword/
    Skype: skype://waywordradio

    Copyright 2014, Wayword LLC.

Playlist

November 24, 2012

2:11 PM
Black Is Beautiful
Artist : Roy Budd
Album : The Stone Killer Soundtrack
Composer :
Label : Cinephile
2:13 PM
Nyx
Artist : Karl Hector and The Malcouns
Album : Sahara Swing
Composer :
Label : Now-Again
2:28 PM
Double Polygone
Artist : Sauveur Mallia
Album : Cosmosynthetic Vol. 2
Composer :
Label : Tele Music
2:32 PM
Evolute
Artist : The Dub Delay Band
Album : Changing
Composer :
Label : Tracky Bottoms
2:33 PM
Followed Path
Artist : Karl Hector and The Malcouns
Album : Sahara Swing
Composer :
Label : Now-Again
2:45 PM
Slick Cat
Artist : Carol Kaye and Joe Pass
Album : Better Days
Composer :
Label : Hot Wire Records
2:51 PM
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off
Artist : Ella Fitzgerald
Album : Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book
Composer :
Label : Verve