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OnWords

About This Section
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An exploration and celebration of language and all of it's many quirks, with KMUW commentator Lael Ewy.

Hear OnWords on alternate Tuesdays or find it on iTunes.



  • You might be wondering why young people are calling each other a type of women’s underwear.But “brah,” is really a version of “bro,” a term with which…
  • Metaphorical language is powerful.We use it to make the unfamiliar familiar and to make us see the familiar in a different light.A reporter may speak of…
  • With the rise of esports, we see also the re-emergence of the e-prefix.Esports are, as the name implies, video games played competitively and for paying…
  • For some reason, the word “hoax” has been on my mind a lot lately.“Hoax” is a word with a storied past. Famous examples range from faux autobiographies of…
  • When you hear this, the term “OK Boomer” will probably already be fading from public view.As you may recall, the term was briefly noteworthy as a way for…
  • As an English teacher, I warn students away from Wikipedia. Yet the way it builds meanings and information collectively, from users rather than only…
  • There is nothing wrong with numbering off talking points while speaking publicly. It helps listeners keep track of what you’re saying, helping the…
  • Virtue signaling is a term describing people publicly declaring their positions on various issues of the day, using print, speech, or social media to…
  • As we move into the holiday season, it seems like a good time to consider the ways we use the word holiday and its implications.Originally meaning “holy…
  • Social media have spawned many new words, and now they bring us “influencer.”Social media influencers are distinguished by their use of YouTube,…
  • As a new school year gets under way, both students and teachers are likely to report some anxiety.“Anxiety” is a word with both clinical and common…
  • For a one-syllable word of little sparkle or fire, “dope” has an interesting variety of meanings.Prominent over the last century or so is the use of…