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Help Us Make the Hoodies Come Off

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Not long ago, I made a speech to a high school in San Diego. I was asked by those in charge to talk about careers. How I got to be a dictionary editor, a journalist, a radio show host, and so forth.

Now, this school is a special school. You might call it a last-chance school. It’s where kids are sent when they’ve had too many problems elsewhere.

Well, none of the students wanted to hear about degrees and job interviews and why failing can be good if you don’t let it get you down.

But you know, I hate to bomb in front of any crowd. So in desperation, at the end I threw in a bunch of stuff about slang. Where it comes from, why we use it, a few new terms.

Then the hoodies came off. Students sat up. They looked right at me. They raised hands and blurted out questions. They were interested. They wanted to know.

I’ll never give another speech about careers again. But I’ve been giving versions of that slang presentation ever since. No matter where I go, students chime in with their experiences, their ideas, and their information.

Which is why when Martha and I ask for your donations for our nonprofit we want you to know that A Way with Words is more than an hour of radio. It’s an educational mission carried out by just four key people working part-time, two secondary part-timers, and a volunteer. There are no full-time employees on the A Way with Words staff. And we receive no funding from NPR or any public radio station.

For every hour of radio you hear, my coworkers and I have put in about 120 hours of work managing the off-air affairs of the show, and speaking to — educating — students, business fraternities, corporations, museum-goers, and more. We’re working as hard off-air as we do on.

We’re out to change the way English speakers think about their language and we need your help to do it.

Give right now to support A Way with Words. How much is 120 hours of work a week worth? What will you give to an organization trying to educate more than 250,000 people each week?


Grant Barrett
co-host and co-producer of A Way with Words

PS: Did you see our new thing we’re in love with? It’s a word wall, where we post pictures of listeners and fans showing us their favorite words. Browse it and send in yours.

A Way with Words is a production of Wayword, Inc., a small nonprofit 501(c)3 corporation. It receives no funding from NPR, PRI, PBS, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, or any public radio station or network.

Help support the show with a tax-deductible donation.

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Walkie Talkie (episode #1541)

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Tiger Tail (episode #1540)

You may have a favorite word in English, but what about your favorite in another language? The Spanish term ojalá is especially handy for expressing hopefulness and derives from Arabic for “God willing.” In Trinidad, if you want to ask...

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