Hi, all —

In this week’s archive edition, we discuss not-so-smartphones, “Erin” vs. “Aaron,” “who” vs. “whom,” what happens when you “overegg the pudding,” and what it means to “ride the cow, look for the horse.”


New episodes start next week!

Meanwhile, imagine you’re driving through an intersection. What do you call the point you must reach in order to make it through before the light changes?

A caller recently asked us that question. We posted our conversation about it in a brief, online-only mini-podcast. Do you have a better term for that moment?


Ever notice how corporate types increasing avoid articles like “the” and “a” when discussing their products? In a recent TV interview, for example, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos consistently shortened “the Kindle” to just “Kindle.”

The Wall Street Journal says that lopping off the article may be a shrewd marketing move.


Why do some languages sound as if they’re spoken faster than others? Different languages tend to convey varying amounts of meaning in a single syllable. Mandarin and English, for example, tend to be information-dense. Consider how the simple word “bliss” is laden with meaning.

A new study finds that languages that pack less meaning into a single syllable, such as Japanese and Spanish, tend to be spoken faster in order to convey similar amounts of information in the same amount of time. Time magazine has a report:


Here’s the original study, published in the journal Language.


Speaking of packing lots of information into few syllables, if you’ve been trying to crack the cartoon caption contest in The New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal has some helpful hints.


Check out the latest New Yorker cartoon contest here.


BEHIND THE SCENES: Teachers change lives. In Martha’s case, it was Dr. Leonard Latkovski, who tutored her for 12 years in ancient Greek. Professor Latkovski was fluent in 18 languages and able to translate 14 more.

He would have been 106 years old today. Her remembrance of their relationship forms the exordium of one of her books:


More about him and his efforts to preserve the Latgalian language of what is now Latvia:


Also, a big welcome to our new listeners in Maryland. “A Way with Words” now airs at 9 p.m. on Sundays on Delmarva Public Radio in Salisbury.


Don’t forget! New episodes of “A Way with Words” start September 23. Stay strong. 🙂

Martha and Grant

Tagged with →