Use Your Words Wisely: Idioms, Expression, and Meaning with Martha Barnette and Beth Kobliner

Original Air Date Wednesday, January 26, 2022 

There are approximately 6,500 languages spoken in the world. In each of those, there are multiple dialects, meanings, and expressions.

While some Cincinnatians may say ‘Jeezle Petes’ when they are confused by someone’s behavior. Our friends across the pond say ‘for Pete’s sake’ with a similar connotation, even though both groups are both speaking English. Consider some of your favorite words and expressions. Where do they originate? Did your grandparents create it out of thin air or is it a turn of phrase rooted deep into linguistic history?

To investigate all the joy this human communication tool can offer, Positive Psychology Podcast Host Lisa Cypers Kamen speaks with two wordsmiths about the origin story of age-old expressions and how language is ever-evolving. Martha Barnette is the host of A Way with Words, a radio show that investigates the connection between dialects and linguistic diversity in languages as well as the origin of widely-used phrases. Beth Kobliner recounts her parents’ journey of collecting 11,000 different language expressions which they compiled in their book, So to Speak: 11,000 Expressions That’ll Knock Your Socks Off. Beth also engages Lisa with some fun word and expression games.

Martha Barnette — Use Your Words Wisely:

  • American English is ripe with geographical dialects, linguistic diversity, and slang. [1:39]
  • Familects and idiolects are examples of family linguistic heirlooms. [6:16]
  • Navigating grammar rules and embracing the miracle of language. [11:17]. [8:45]
  • Martha shares how she ended up being a part of the A Way with Words radio show. [17:16]
  • Martha suggests multiple ways to relax and have fun with the joys of language. [22:48]

Woman with yellow hair, red shirt and clear eyes. Guest of new podcast episode about idioms, words and expression with Martha Barnette and Beth KoblinerMartha Barnette is co-host of the public-radio show A Way with Words, heard each week by listeners on National Public Radio affiliates across North America, and worldwide by podcast. Before her work in radio, Martha was a reporter for the Washington Post and an editorial writer for the Louisville Courier-Journal. She’s the author of three books on word origins.




A Way with Words

@WayWord on Twitter

Way Word Radio on Facebook

Beth Kobliner — Expressions and Their Origins:

  • Beth’s parents compiled 13-years of expressions for the book So to Speak: 11,000 Expressions That’ll Knock Your Socks Off. [28:47]
  • Games you can play with the So to Speak book. [35:35]
  • Language evolves and is a living, breathing organism. [42:24]
  • Modern lexicons and the origin of common expressions. [46:54]

Woman with black jacket and dark hair and glasses combined with red shirt. Guest of new podcast episode about idioms, words and expression with Martha Barnette and Beth KoblinerBeth Kobliner is a commentator and journalist. A New York Times Best-selling author several times over, Beth has contributed to many well-known US magazines and newspapers including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Huffington Post. A graduate of Brown University, she lives in New York with her family. Her parents authored the book So to Speak and passed away before it reached final publication.

Book: So to Speak: 11,000 Expressions That’ll Knock Your Socks Off


 Beth Kobliner

So to Speak Book

@BethKobliner on Twitter

Beth Kobliner on Facebook

@bkobliner on Instagram

This podcast episode about idioms & expressions is sponsored by:

Daigle Bites — On today’s inaugural Season two episode, Lauren is inviting on psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, Lori Gottlieb! The two dive in right away as Lauren asks Lori if she always envisioned being a counsellor and how to create incredible connection with others through storytelling and music. The pair also chat about: what Lori believes drives the narrative of isolation, Lauren’s personal story with counselling and mental health, how to identify what ‘wise compassion’ is, the difference between productive anxiety vs unproductive anxiety and exactly where to start to breed more compassion. If you’re ready to understand a little more about yourself, and those around you, to ultimately cultivate deeper relationships – this episode is for you. In addition to her clinical practice, Lori writes The Atlantic’s weekly “Dear Therapist” advice column and is co-host of the popular “Dear Therapists” podcast produced by Katie Couric. Listen here:

Are We Happy Yet? Eight Keys to Unlocking a Joyful Life A boot camp manual for greater emotional fitness. Happiness waits for no one and sometimes we all need support. What is getting in the way of your happiness right now? 

HFactor: Where is Your Heart? — Lisa’s documentary film that explores the journey of human happiness. Emotions are contagious and happiness is a universally desired state. We tend to forget we all have the freedom to be happy or the liberty to be miserable each day.

“Words exist to communicate. If somebody is communicating their thoughts or feelings at the end of the day that is what is important, not the correctness of the delivery.” @LisaKamen on @HHTalkRadio Click To Tweet“1% of the world speaks five languages fluently and 3% of the world speak more than four languages fluently.” @LisaKamen on @HHTalkRadio Click To Tweet“Language evolves and is a living, breathing organism.” @LisaKamen on @HHTalkRadio Click To Tweet“In the US, there are approximately 23 different pronunciations of the word water.” @MarthaBarnette on @HHTalkRadio Click To Tweet“An idiolect is a linguist term for your own way of speaking.” @MarthaBarnette on @HHTalkRadio Click To Tweet“There is so much happiness to derive from the great diversity of language.“ @MarthaBarnette on @HHTalkRadio Click To Tweet“Language itself really is a miracle.” @MarthaBarnette on @HHTalkRadio Click To Tweet“There are a lot of words in various languages that are actually connected to each other. They actually have a common root.” @MarthaBarnette on @HHTalkRadio Click To Tweet“If you hear somebody saying a word or phrase that wrankles you, maybe think about why they say it.” @MarthaBarnette on @HHTalkRadio Click To Tweet“America and Britain are two countries separated by a common language.” @MarthaBarnette on @HHTalkRadio Click To Tweet“The main point my parents wanted for this book was to be a catalyst for conversation.” @BethKobliner on @HHTalkRadio Click To Tweet“Dictionaries are now adapting instead of having right and wrong expressions. People have very mixed feelings about it.” @BethKobliner on @HHTalkRadio Click To Tweet“My parents noticed that mostly expressions for men are happy and positive and expressions for women tend to be more of a bummer.” @BethKobliner on @HHTalkRadio Click To Tweet“There are three-times more devil and hell expressions than there are angel and heaven expressions.” @BethKobliner on @HHTalkRadio Click To Tweet



On Becoming a Virtuoso of Life

On Becoming a Virtuoso of Life

On Becoming a Virtuoso of Life with Kenny Werner Original Air Date Wednesday, February 22, 2023  Many people criticize their abilities. Whether it is taming an instrument or their voice, they judge themselves in lieu of experiencing the joy of the music they aspire to...

read more
Cultivating Dignity and Selfhood for the Deeply Forgetful

Cultivating Dignity and Selfhood for the Deeply Forgetful

Cultivating Dignity and Selfhood for the Deeply Forgetful with Stephen Post PhD Original Air Date Wednesday, February 1, 2023  Age-related memory loss is a natural part of the aging process. Some people experience a more deeply-rooted memory issue, such as...

read more