A Way with Words is a lively hour-long public radio show about language, on the air since 1998. Co-hosts Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett delve into word histories, solve grammar disputes, give and answer quizzes, and take calls from listeners around the world who vent their peeves. And, of course, they answer linguistic and lexical questions that often begin, “I’ve always wondered…”
Journalist and author Martha Barnette is passionate about language, and about word origins in particular. Her books include A Garden of Words, which explores the history of flower names, and Dog Days and Dandelions, which reveals the surprising places that animals lurk within various etymologies. Her book Ladyfingers & Nun’s Tummies: A Lighthearted Look at How Foods Got Their Names, was selected by the Los Angeles Times for its “100 Best Books of the Year” list. Martha holds a degree in English from Vassar College, did graduate work in classical languages at the University of Kentucky, and studied Spanish at the ILISA School in Costa Rica. Her books on word origins were inspired by the 12 years she spent studying ancient Greek with a retired professor of classics. Martha’s journalistic career includes stints as reporter for the Washington Post, as an editorial writer for the Louisville Courier-Journal, and as a medical reporter for the Louisville Times in Kentucky. Her first book, The Bill Schroeder Story (Morrow), chronicled the ordeal of the world’s longest-living artificial heart patient. Barnette has written for numerous other national publications, including the New York Times, Glamour, and Salon. She is also a lapsed member of the International Jugglers Association. Visit Martha’s blog, Martha Barnette’s Orts, and her web site, MarthaBarnette.com.
Grant Barrett is an American lexicographer and dictionary editor specializing in slang and new words. Whether he’s scouring obscure corners of the Internet, mining electronic databases, or digging through the library stacks, Grant ferrets out new and surprising terms that make our language colorful. He’s the compiler and editor of the Official Dictionary of Unofficial English (May 2006, McGraw-Hill) and is widely known for his Double-Tongued Dictionary which tracks slang, jargon, and new words from the fringes of English. Formerly, Grant worked as a lexicographer for Oxford University Press, editing the four-volume Historical Dictionary of American Slang and the Oxford Dictionary of American Political Slang (2004). Grant also serves as a vice president for the American Dialect Society, an academic organization devoted to the study of English in North America since 1889. He contributes to the “Among the New Words” column of the society’s journal American Speech, is a member of the journal’s editorial board, and participates in the society’s annual “Word of the Year” vote. A widely quoted authority on slang, Grant has worked as a business and music journalist, and has written on language for such newspapers as the Washington Post and the New York Times. Grant holds a degree in French from Columbia University. Visit Grant’s blog, The Lexicographer’s Rules, and his Double-Tongued Dictionary.
This web site’s domain name is inspired by our 24/7 toll-free number, (877) 929-9673, which on a telephone keypad spells 877 WAY WORD, and is, in turn, a shortened form of our show’s name. Plus, of course, we get the pun on “wayward”—there’s no doubt that we often wander far afield of our subject matter.
UPDATE (9/28/07): The show stays! A deal is struck that will keep it on the air.