OnWords

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.

OnWords: Tweet

Jul 25, 2017

Remember when tweets were only reserved for birds?

OnWords: Leaker

Jul 11, 2017

Not since the Watergate break-in of the early 1970s has the word “leaker” gotten more attention than over the past few months.

OnWords: Salt

Jun 27, 2017

Occasionally, I like to focus in on an everyday word and really listen to it, observe its missed qualities. One of those words is “salt.”

OnWords: Newspeak

Jun 13, 2017

George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 has been flying off the shelves recently, perhaps in response to the growing number of authoritarian leaders across the globe.

OnWords: Populist

May 30, 2017

The word “populist” has been used to describe politicians as different as self-described socialist Bernie Sanders and France’s right-wing Marine LePen.

My trusty 1971 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary contends that populists were either members of the 19th century political American party of the same name or members of a similar Russian movement.

Given that this form of populism promoted state ownership of the railroads, limited private ownership of land, and a progressive income tax, we can rule out LePen as a populist, and even Sanders barely qualifies.

OnWords: Philosophy

May 16, 2017

I recently heard a well-respected radio host describe Donald Trump’s “America First” approach as a (quote) “philosophy.”

Hearing this caused me a bit of cognitive dissonance.

OnWords: Earned

May 2, 2017

As we move out of tax season, you may be thinking a lot about what you’ve earned.

Few public intellectuals have influenced the way we talk about communication more than Marshall McLuhan.

Best known for the phrase “the medium is the message,” McLuhan is also responsible for popularizing the way that we refer to content as the substance of a message in contrast to its medium of delivery. That idea predated McLuhan, but he made it acceptable for English teachers to use it when critiquing a freshman composition and for “content creators” to exist in the Internet Age.

OnWords: Quality

Apr 4, 2017

You can usually tell that an organization has stopped caring about quality when it becomes the only thing they talk about.

“Quality” is one of those words that is necessarily vague, and, therefore, becomes a smoke screen behind which much mischief can hide.

Consider the continual quality improvement efforts so in vogue for the past few decades. They have all been accompanied by increasingly onerous and minute numeric evaluations and assessments. This data-gathering is then obsessed over for just long enough to justify the predetermined decisions of those in charge.

OnWords: Divisiveness

Mar 21, 2017

At first blush, the word “divisiveness” appears to be yet another term used to describe something another person does that you don’t like.

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