Happy Intergalactic Star Wars Day! May the 4th (Be with You)!

Did we really just say that?

Okay, on to our own latest episode: "Like Death Eating a Cracker" features silly ways to tell time, like Bob o’clock (8:08), Big o’clock (8:19), and even Pi o’clock.

We also discuss the term for that gesture you use to make an image larger on a multitouch screen, whether anyone uses the expression "fat chance" nowadays, and whether creepy 19th century burial practices led to the terms "graveyard shift," "saved by the bell," and "dead ringer."

Listen here:


This week, we also learned about grammar and taste vigilantes on Twitter:


What we should call this online grammatical "Gotcha!" gang? Twigilantes? Over on the "A Way with Words" Facebook group, Cheryl Churchek suggested they be called "Twitterpated." We also liked Gm Quinn Rossi's name for them: "Twitpickers." Read more:


What are you left with after you expend the focused mental energy needed to read a novel? In the new "American Scholar," Sven Birkerts, director of the Bennington Writing Seminars, ponders that question. We like his description of an author building a "linguistic density" that results in a particular "aftertaste."


We also read this week about a highly effective vocabulary program in some San Diego schools. It aims to reduce the learning gap between children from rich and poor homes.


Grant's lexicographic sleuthing was highlighted this week in The New York Times. In the "On Language" column, Ben Zimmer wrote about corporations that manufacture bogus stories to enhance the iconic standing of their products. The company that makes Keds, for example, claimed that the word "sneakers" was coined in 1917 specifically for that product.

Grant helped debunk that corporate myth by finding written citations of the term going back at least 30 years earlier.


Speaking of corporations, did you know that "A Way with Words" isn't produced by a big radio network, or even by a local public radio station? Nope, our show is independently produced by a small, nonprofit organization of word lovers. Your help is vital to sustaining our mission. To do your part, go here:


Up, up, and away!

Martha and Grant

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