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A Way with Words

A radio program and podcast about language.

Last Build Date: Fri, 23 Jun 2017 17:06:42 +0000


Boss of Me

Sat, 17 Jun 2017 15:39:31 +0000

If you want to be a better writer, try skipping today’s bestsellers, and read one from the 1930’s instead. Or read something besides fiction in order to find your own metaphors and perspective. Plus, just because a city’s name looks familiar doesn’t mean you should assume you know how the locals pronounce it. The upstate [...]

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Sunny-Side Up

Sat, 10 Jun 2017 15:21:52 +0000

Baseball has a language all its own: On the diamond, a snow cone isn’t what you think it is, and three blind mice has nothing to do with nursery rhymes. And how do you describe someone who works at home while employed by a company in another city? Are they telecommuters? Remote workers? One writer [...]

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Naked as a Jaybird

Mon, 05 Jun 2017 16:56:06 +0000

What’s the best way for someone busy to learn lots of new words quickly for a test like the GRE? Looking up their origins can help. Or, record yourself reading the words and definitions and play them back while you’re doing other chores. • Book recommendations for youngsters, military slang, and the one-word prank that [...]

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Mon, 05 Jun 2017 15:51:47 +0000

In the early 18th century, squirrels were popular pets in Britain and the American colonies. In fact, Benjamin Franklin once wrote a grand eulogy for a girl’s pet squirrel named “Mungo.” The adjective sciurine means “referring or pertaining to squirrels.” This is part of a complete episode.

Stacking Greased BBs

Mon, 05 Jun 2017 15:51:47 +0000

A listener in Bonifay, Florida, says when she was young and asked her mother what she was doing, her mother would respond “I’m stacking greased bb’s with boxing gloves on.” This nonsensical phrase is part of a long tradition of parents brushing off inquiries with creative responses, including layoes to catch medlars and sewing buttons [...]

“To Cast” Past Tense: Cast or Casted?

Mon, 05 Jun 2017 15:51:47 +0000

A theater professor who has cast many students in productions wonders about the past tense of the verb to cast. Is it cast or casted? This is part of a complete episode.

Land Sickness

Mon, 05 Jun 2017 15:51:47 +0000

What’s for the word for when you get off a boat but still feel like you’re moving? It’s called land sickness, the opposite of sea sickness. A more severe version is mal de debarquement, French for “sickness from disembarkation,” abbreviated MdDS. This is part of a complete episode.


Mon, 05 Jun 2017 15:51:47 +0000

A listener in Fort Rucker, Alabama, remembers a prank played on new Army recruits: when a sergeant barked the order “Zonk!,” all the seasoned soldiers would fall out of formation and run away, leaving the newbies to wonder what was going on. This is part of a complete episode.

Book Recommendations for Young Readers

Mon, 05 Jun 2017 15:51:47 +0000

Grant has two recommendations for young readers: Full of Beans, by Jennifer L. Holm, and the Lumberjanes series, by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis, illustrated by Brooke Allen. This is part of a complete episode.


Mon, 05 Jun 2017 15:51:47 +0000

The German word for “mnemonic device” is Eselsbrücke, or literally, “donkey bridge.” This is part of a complete episode.