A Way with Words — language, linguistics, and callers from all over

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A fun weekly radio show about language seen through culture, history, and family. Co-hosts Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett talk with callers who have questions and stories about linguistics, old sayings, word histories, etymology, regional dialects, slang, new words, word play, word games, grammar, family expressions, books, literature, writing, and more. Email your language questions to words@waywordradio.org or call with your questions toll-free *any* time in the U.S. and Canada at 1 (877) 929-9673. From elsewhere in the world: +1 619 800 4443. All past shows are free: http://waywordradio.org/. On Twitter at http://twitter.com/wayword.

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A Way with Words — language, linguistics, and callers from all over

Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett, produced by Stefanie Levine
1 Hair on Your Tongue - 11 February 20192019-02-11 07:59:00
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2 Train of Thought - 4 February 20192019-02-04 07:59:00
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3 Colonial English - 28 January 20192019-01-28 07:59:00
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4 Pig Latin (Rebroadcast) - 21 January 20192019-01-21 07:59:00
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5 Whistle in the Dark (Rebroadcast) - 14 January 20192019-01-14 07:59:00
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6 Fickle Finger of Fate (Rebroadcast) - 7 January 20192019-01-07 07:59:00
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7 Stars and Garters (Rebroadcast) - 31 December 20182018-12-31 07:59:00
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8 Space Cadet - 24 December 20182018-12-24 07:59:00
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9 Howling Fantods - 17 December 20182018-12-17 07:59:00
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10 Cootie Shot - 10 December 20182018-12-10 07:59:00
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11 Boss of Me (Rebroadcast) - 3 December 20182018-12-03 07:59:00
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12 Spur of the Moment (Rebroadcast) - 26 November 20182018-11-26 07:59:00
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13 Bottled Sunshine - 19 November 20182018-11-19 07:59:00
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14 Care Package - 12 November 20182018-11-12 07:59:00
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15 Hell for Leather (Rebroadcast) - 5 November 20182018-11-05 07:59:00
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16 Ding Ding Man - 29 October 20182018-10-29 06:59:00
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17 Take Tea for the Fever - 22 October 20182018-10-22 14:02:22
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18 Sun Dog - 15 October 20182018-10-15 06:59:00
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Sun Dog - 15 October 2018

A clever pun can make the difference between a so-so phrase and a memorable one. The phrase "the last straw" refers to an old fable about too many items in a load, but it takes on a whole new meaning in a public-awareness campaign about the environment. Also, why do we use the term "mob scene" to refer to an unruly crowd? This term originated in the world of theater. Finally: the Basque language spoken in the westernmost Pyrenees has long posed a linguistic mystery. Its origins are unclear and it's unlike any other language in the region. But Basque is enjoying something of a revival in a surprising place . . . Idaho. Plus, sun dog, ob-gyn, mob scene, George, Double George, Geezum Pete, and somersault vs. winter pepper. FULL DETAILS Carrie from Waupaca, Wisconsin, confesses she was stumped when that her son Aidan asked,"Mom, can you do a winter pepper?" An ad campaign featuring the phrase The Last Straw urging people not to use plastic straws has Allie in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, wondering about double meanings in advertising. Research shows that such punning can be effective. On Twitter, @laureneoneal wonders why the term ob-gyn is pronounced by sounding out all the letters, as if it's an initialism. Eleven-year-old Ben calls from Rapids City to ask about the term sun dog, the meterological phenomenon in which a bright spot appears to the left or right of the sun. No one knows the origin of this term. Synonyms include mock sun, weather gall, and parhelion, from Greek words meaning beside the sun. Some 50 years ago, says Susan from Burbank, California, she and a friend made up a game involving prefixes and suffixes, which led to such nonsense words as epidormithry and postpreparize. Ever notice how many comic-book villains have names ending in the letter O? For starters,  there's Magneto, Sinestro, and Bizarro. Quiz Guy John Chaneski's puzzle features new villains with names that are common words ending in -o. For example, who's the villain who takes large islands and breaks them up into chains of smaller islands? Barbara in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California, wonders about the term mob scene, means an unruly, dense crowd. The term arose in the world of theater, where it denotes a point in a performance with lots of people onstage. The word mob is a shortening of Latin mobile vulgus, which means fickle crowd. The phrase throw in the towel, meaning to give up, originated in the world of boxing. An earlier phrase from the same sport that carried the same metaphorical meaning is chuck in the sponge. Andrew in Omaha, Nebraska, recalls his grandfather's use of the word George to mean exceptionally good, and Double George to mean really great. Other masculine names, including Jake, Tom, and Jerry have meant something similar. In the 1950s, the name George was used among casino workers for a high roller, as in Here comes George. The German word for longjohns, Liebestoter, literally means love killer. Rick calls from Rouses Point, New York, to ask about the etymology of the phrase hang for a sheep as for a lamb, meaning go for broke or go all out. The answer has involves the old tradition of capital punishment for theft. Given the risk of such dire consequences, one might as well steal the item that's more valuable. There's a similar Scots proverb that goes as well be hanged for a wedder as for a lamb, a wedder being a male castrated sheep. The word wedder is linguistically related to bellwether, a large, castrated sheep wearing a bell and therefore indicative of where the herd is going. Our conversation about being criticized for using yes ma'am and no sir, prompted a letter from an Austin, Texas, listener who had a similar experience when she moved from Mississippi to Ohio. The state of Idaho has a large community of Basque speakers. Their native tongue is what's known as a language isolate, meaning one that is not historically connected to those around it. The name George derives from the Greek word for farmer, a combination of words that literally mean earth worker. Ellen in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, wonders about the origin of the exclamation Geezum Pete! It's a minced oath -- that is a way of avoiding saying Jesus Christ! There are dozens of similar euphemized exclamations, including gee willikins, jiminy, Jehosaphat, Judas Priest, Jeekers, Jiminy Cricket, Jiminy Crickets, Gee willikers, Gee Christmas, Jiminy Christmas, and Jerusalem. Michael in Papillion, Nebraska, asks: Why do we refer to that adjustable vent that regulates air flow in a home as a register? This episode is hosted by Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette. -- A Way with Words is funded by its listeners: http://waywordradio.org/donate Podcast listeners, contact us with your questions and comments! Email words@waywordradio.org or call toll-free 24 hours a day (877) 929-9673 in the US and Canada. Everywhere else call +1 (619) 800-4443. https://waywordradio.org/ Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation. All rights reserved.…read more

19 Oh For Cute - 8 October 20182018-10-08 06:59:00
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20 Coinkydink - 1 October 20182018-10-01 06:59:00
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