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Preview: Double-Tongued Dictionary

A Way with Words

A radio program and podcast about language.

Last Build Date: Thu, 21 Sep 2017 17:25:15 +0000


Lie Like a Rug

Sat, 26 Aug 2017 15:31:15 +0000

The words we choose can change attitudes — and change lives. A swing-dance instructor has switched to gender-neutral language when teaching couples. He says that using words like “leader” and “follower” actually works better than using gendered terms. But not everyone agrees. Plus, a pithy observation about how stray comments can seem meaningless at the [...]

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Pig Latin

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 15:13:00 +0000

Grant and Martha discuss the L-word — or two L-words, actually: liberal and libertarian. They reflect different political philosophies, so why do they look so similar? Also, is the term expat racist? A journalist argues that the word expat carries a value judgment, suggesting that Westerners who move to another country are admirable and adventurous, [...]

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Whistle in the Dark

Sat, 12 Aug 2017 15:27:58 +0000

The language and melodies of military marching songs connect grown children with their parents who served, as do parents’ love letters from World War II. Plus, “running a sandy” describes an awkward love triangle and Northern Spy is a kind of apple and a bit of abolitionist history. And, whitewater-rafting jargon, wooden spoon, Shakespearean knock-knock [...]

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Chocolate Gravy

Sat, 05 Aug 2017 15:43:00 +0000

Say you have an acquaintance you always see at the dog park or the playground. But one night, you run into them at the movies, and for a moment, it’s confusing. Is there a word for that disorienting sense of someone or something being out of place? Yes! Plus: the term sea change doesn’t have [...]

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Fickle Finger of Fate

Sat, 29 Jul 2017 15:08:13 +0000

A young woman wants a family-friendly way to describe a statement that’s fraudulent or bogus, but all the words she can think of sound old-fashioned. Is there a better term than malarkey, poppycock, or rubbish? Also, listeners step up to help a caller looking for a succinct way to explain that a brain injury sometimes [...]

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Flop Sweat

Mon, 24 Jul 2017 22:30:32 +0000

Gerrymandering draws political boundaries to tip elections towards certain political parties. Originally, the word was pronounced “GARY-mandering” with a hard “g.” But why? And why did it change? • Mark Twain and Helen Keller had a devoted friendship. When he heard accusations that she’d plagiarized a story, Twain wrote Keller a fond letter assuring her [...]

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Around the Gool

Mon, 24 Jul 2017 15:51:47 +0000

A woman in Monkton, Vermont, says that when she and her 91-year-old mother return from a leisurely drive, her mother will proclaim, “That was a nice ride around the gool.” The phrase going around the gool appears in the Dictionary of American Regional English in a 1990 citation from Vermont. It appears to come from [...]


Mon, 24 Jul 2017 15:51:47 +0000

To groak is an obscure verb that means “to look longingly at something, as a dog begging for food. In the Scots language, it’s more commonly spelled growk. This is part of a complete episode.


Mon, 24 Jul 2017 15:51:47 +0000

We’ve talked before about surprising local pronunciations of things like towns or streets. A term or pronunciation that distinguishes locals from outsiders is called a shibboleth. The word derives from the biblical story of the warring Gileadites and Ephraimites. Gileadites would demand that fleeing Ephraimites pronounce the word shibboleth in a certain way, and if [...]

Buy You A Beer vs. Pay You a Beer

Mon, 24 Jul 2017 15:51:47 +0000

A San Diego, California, man recalls working on a cruise ship with a Canadian who insisted the proper phrase is not Let me buy you a beer, but Let me pay you a beer. Is that construction ever correct? This is part of a complete episode.