Word Matters Word Matters is a show for readers, writers, and anyone who ever loved their English class. Join Merriam-Webster editors as they challenge supposed grammar rules, reveal the surprising origins behind words, tackle common questions, and generally geek out about the beautiful nightmare that is language.
Word Matters

Word Matters

From New England Public Media

Word Matters is a show for readers, writers, and anyone who ever loved their English class. Join Merriam-Webster editors as they challenge supposed grammar rules, reveal the surprising origins behind words, tackle common questions, and generally geek out about the beautiful nightmare that is language.

Most Recent Episodes

19. The Word of the Year 2020

What can the most frequently searched words of the year tell us about 2020? On this special edition, Emily Brewster and Peter Sokolowski reveal our 2020 Word of the Year, along with 11 more of the words that shaped a year like no other. Hosted by Emily Brewster, Neil Serven, Ammon Shea, and Peter Sokolowski. Produced in collaboration with New England Public Media. Transcript available here.

18. Is "Try And" a Proper Use? plus More Listener Questions

We're going back to the mailbag for more of our listeners' most pressing and intriguing questions. Plus, we issue our first correction! Exciting! Hosted by Emily Brewster, Neil Serven, Ammon Shea, and Peter Sokolowski. Produced in collaboration with New England Public Media. Transcript available here.

17. How to Read a Dictionary Entry

When you read a definition, what do you see? Is one meaning of a word more important than another? Who decides this, anyway? Join us for a deep dive into the myths and mysteries of the dictionary. Hosted by Emily Brewster, Neil Serven, Ammon Shea, and Peter Sokolowski. Produced in collaboration with New England Public Media. Transcript available here.

16. 'Contact' and 'Impact': Acceptable Verbs?

For many, the term 'bounty hunter' might evoke the Old West (or at the very least, Star Wars). But is it a much newer word than expected? We'll investigate. Then, we look at two of the most-maligned verbs of the past century: 'contact' and 'impact.' Hosted by Emily Brewster, Neil Serven, Ammon Shea, and Peter Sokolowski. Produced in collaboration with New England Public Media. Transcript available here.

15. Why Are American and British English Different?

This week is all about spelling. Some attempts to reform it have succeeded. (You've probably noticed that words are spelled differently in the US than in British English.) Others have failed hilariously. (You'll see.) But we're burying the lede; our first topic is that word itself: 'lede.' How did it find its current form? Then, we'll discuss the godfather of American English himself, Noah Webster. (Yes, that's where we got half our name.) Hosted by Emily Brewster, Neil Serven, Ammon Shea, and Peter Sokolowski. Produced in collaboration with New England Public Media. Transcript available here.

14. Everything Is 'Awesome.' Or Is It?

On a dark and stormy night many years ago in Springfield, Massachusetts, a fake word rose to take its place among the living. Or at least among the pages of our dictionary. Today we're telling the haunting tale of that ghost word. Then, we'll look at a word that (to some) is even scarier: the dreaded 'awesome.' Hosted by Emily Brewster, Neil Serven, Ammon Shea, and Peter Sokolowski. Produced in collaboration with New England Public Media. Transcript available here.

13. What's Up with 'Biweekly'? and Other Listener Questions

You asked, we answered. This week, we go to the mailbag to look into some of the questions, complaints, and vexing language concerns sent in by you, dear Word Matters listeners. Hosted by Emily Brewster, Neil Serven, Ammon Shea, and Peter Sokolowski. Produced in collaboration with New England Public Media. Transcript available here.

12. A Collection of Obscure Words for People Who Annoy You

If there's one activity that has bonded English users throughout the centuries, it is the creation of new words to describe those who are unpleasant or otherwise disagreeable. Here's Ammon Shea with some forgotten words you might need when dealing with annoying people. Hosted by Emily Brewster, Neil Serven, Ammon Shea, and Peter Sokolowski. Produced in collaboration with New England Public Media. Transcript available here.

11. Can Something Be "Very Unique"?

Most adjectives can be ranked — something can be good, better, or best — but are there any that can't? Are some adjectives already absolute? Does the English language love to confuse and beguile? We'll get into that, plus the tricky usage of 'than' in phrases like "than I" and "than me." Hosted by Emily Brewster, Neil Serven, Ammon Shea, and Peter Sokolowski. Produced in collaboration with New England Public Media. Transcript available here.

10. How "Not" to Start a Sentence

You've probably, at some point, been taught that there are certain words that should never, ever start a sentence. Today you will learn that this rule is a bunch of hooey. If anything, you should never, ever trust an 18th-century grammarian. After that, we'll look into what exactly is going on, language-wise, when a Top Chef judge says a dish "eats salty." Hosted by Emily Brewster, Neil Serven, Ammon Shea, and Peter Sokolowski. Produced in collaboration with New England Public Media. Transcript available here.

Back To Top