A Way with Words

Show Info

Show Times

Timezone: EDT [UTC-4]
7:00 am - 7:59 am
[ - ]

About the Show

A Way with Words is an upbeat and lively hour-long public radio show and podcast about language examined through culture, history, and family.

Each week, callers join author/journalist Martha Barnette and lexicographer/linguist Grant Barrett in light-hearted conversation about language change, debates, and differences, as well as new words, old sayings, slang, family expressions, word histories, etymology, linguistics, regional dialects, word games, grammar, books, literature, writing, and more.

The show, on the air since 1998, is heard weekly coast-to-coast by broadcast on many NPR stations across the United States (and into parts of Mexico and Canada) and around the world by podcast.

You’ll hear conversation about:

  • Comparison and history of dialects, accents, and vocabulary of regional and ethnic groups
  • Funny and inspiring stories about misunderstandings, cross-cultural eureka moments, and “today I learned” encounters.
  • How thoughts and criticisms about the way other people speak are sometimes not about language, but instead are about cultural issues like racism, sexism, genderism, classism, elitism, ethnocentrism, parochialism, ageism, and other biases and prejudices
  • Family expressions and linguistic heirlooms — old-fashioned things your family has passed down
  • Word histories, etymologies, historical lexicography, and historical linguistics
  • Teen and college slang, and new words from pop culture, technology, sports, current events, science, the arts, and more
  • Forays into names and naming, folklore — especially playground rhymes and songs — and settling language debates between coworkers and loved ones.
  • Discussion of similarities and differences between world languages
  • Book recommendations, poetry, and examples of inspiring and uplifting writing
  • Word games, puzzles, and quizzes
  • Proverbs, idioms, sayings, and catchphrases, from the very old to the very modern
  • Language in the classroom, including English as a second language
  • Speaking and writing well at school and at work

It’s all carefully put together in one convivial, big-hearted package!

Our hosts

Co-host/co-producer Martha Barnette is the author of reader-friendly books on word origins. She has a background in ancient Greek and Latin, studied Spanish in Costa Rica, and worked as a newspaper reporter for major metropolitan dailies. Raised in the South, she now lives in San Diego, where she’s often found hiking mountain trails and performing with an improv comedy troupe. Read her full biography on her website. Contact her.

Co-host/co-producer Grant Barrett is an American lexicographer and linguist specializing in slang and new words. He has helped produce dozens of dictionaries and has authored three books of his own. He’s a voracious reader, speaks a bit of French and Spanish, and spent years working in the jargon-rich jungles of information technology. Though born and raised in Missouri, and having been a long-time resident of New York City, Grant now lives in San Diego, California, with his wife, also a linguist and lexicographer, and their young son. Read his full biography on his website. Contact him.

For more information on folks you’ll hear on the show and its creators, click here.

More about the show

A Way with Words is produced by Wayword, Inc., a small independent nonprofit unaffiliated with any station or network. The organization, through the radio show and podcast of A Way with Words, through live events, and through its online presence, promotes better human communication and understanding. It does this by looking at language through the lenses of culture, history, and family, and by revealing human connections across eras, generations, cultures, and languages.

Read more about its mission, vision, and values here.

Wayword, Inc., is not owned or operated by any other company. It receives no funding or support from NPR or any other radio network, nor from any radio station.

The nonprofit is primarily funded through listener, foundation, and corporate donations, and through corporate sponsorships. Additional secondary income is earned from public events.


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