Luke Taylor

Grammar Grater®

with Luke Taylor

About the Podcast

Grammar Grater® is a weekly podcast about English words, grammar and usage for the Information Age. Because we live in a time of e-mail, blogs, instant messaging, even online product reviews—everybody's a writer. And with the global nature of communication, there's not a single style guide everyone uses. To help sort through some of the confusion, host Luke Taylor and the Grammatis Personae Players™ take linguistic bugbears and put 'em through the Grammar Grater.

To subscribe, click here or paste this URL into your podcast software:
XML http://minnesota.publicradio.org/tools/podcasts/grammar_grater.xml Itunes link to podcast

If you enjoy this podcast, consider supporting it by becoming a member of Minnesota Public Radio.

Recent Episodes

Episode 125: Pretty Mysterious
This week, we investigate the casual and formal uses of the word pretty. Also, we announce that the podcast will be taking a brief hiatus.
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Episode 124: Literally? Actually, yes
This week, journalist Andrew Haeg joins us to talk about when to use literally — and when not to use it.
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Episode 123: A Chapter about Averse
This week, we examine two easily confused words: adverse and averse.

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Episode 122: A Halloween Special
(Repeat Episode) We look at interesting words having to do with Halloween. We're joined by MPR News arts reporter, Euan Kerr.

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Episode 121: Ellipsis Incorporated
This week, we're talking about the ellipsis. What's an ellipsis, you ask? Listen to the podcast to find out...

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Episode 120: Little-Known Side Effects
We investigate the seldom-told story about the meanings of the words affect and effect.

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Episode 119: Intensify
(Repeat episode) Adding intensifiers can give emphasis to your speech and writing; but sometimes they serve to weaken the message and are best left out.

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Episode 118: Mixed Feelings ... or Mixed Message?
(Repeat episode) We address a couple of words that sound somewhat alike and come fairly close in meaning, yet can cause a bit of confusion: ambivalent and ambiguous.

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Episode 117: Word on the Street
This week, we investigate a figure of speech called metonymy.

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Episode 116: Adverbs are Everywhere
As the title suggests, this week's episode is all about adverbs.

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Episode 115: Homespun Language
We're back at the Minnesota State Fair to gain insights about vocabulary that comes from the crafts of weaving and spinning. Our special guest is Judy Payne of the Weavers Guild of Minnesota.

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Episode 114: Whizz-Bang!
This week, we visit the Minnesota State Fair to talk about a literary device called onomatopoeia.

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Episode 113: Street Cred
We investigate a trio of words that share a common root and all have something to do with some aspect of belief, trust or worth: credible, creditable and credulous.

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Episode 112: Disco!
This week, we examine three words that sound similar yet have subtle differences in meaning: discomfit, discomfort and disconcert.

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Episode 111: Look it Up
Lexicographer Wendalyn Nichols joins us to give advice on how to best use and choose dictionaries.

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Episode 110: Pesky Plurals (Repeat episode)
No other part of speech causes as much confusion—and demonstrates the continuous evolution of the English language—quite like plural nouns. Today we'll try to clear up some misunderstandings about some plural nouns that tend to give writers trouble.

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Episode 109: Some Spicy Expressions
We feature some lighthearted summer fare by looking at expressions that include the word mustard. Joining us is Barry Levenson, an author of three books and the founder and curator of the Mustard Museum in Wisconsin.

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Episode 108: Animal Farm (Repeat episode)
We dissect a veritable carnival of idiomatic expressions, including "the elephant in the room" and "the 800 pound gorilla."

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Episode 107: Misnomers and Malapropisms
Editor Catherine Winter joins us to talk about two common types of word confusion.

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Episode 106: Now or Then?
We investigate the meaning and history of the word erstwhile.

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Episode 105: On Principle
This week, we look at a pair of commonly confused homophones: principal and principle.

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Episode 104: Even the Nouns are Better
This week marks our 100th original episode, as well as the 2nd anniversary of Grammar Grater. We're celebrating the occasion by presenting a "clip show" of some of our favorite moments from the past two years.

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Episode 103: A-Muse and B-Muse
We examine another pair of words that can cause confusion: amuse and bemuse.

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Episode 102: The English Language®, part 2
This week, we continue our two-part look at the issue of trademarks in writing.

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Episode 101: The English Language®, part 1
This week, we begin our two-part look at the issue of trademarks in writing.

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Episode 100: Pique-a-boo
This week, we look at the words peak, peek and pique.

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Episode 99: Data Control
Is the word "data" singular or plural?

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Episode 98: Poetry in Motion
This week, poet Steve Kowit gives us a grammar lesson.

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Episode 97: Way Beyond Compare (repeat episode)
A visit to the dog park helps us understand the comparative and superlative forms of adjectives.

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Episode 96: Unwilling to Talk or Simply Unwilling?
This week, we investigate a shift in meaning of the word reticent with respect to the word reluctant. Michael Quinion joins the discussion.

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Episode 95: Pundits, Hacks and Wonks
This week, we’ll be looking at a number of words that frequently appear in news reporting and news commentary. Those words are pundit, wonk and hack.

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Episode 94: Some Burning Confusion
This week, we look at the words inflammable and flammable.

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Episode 93: AWESOME — Acronymic Words Encode Some Obscure Matters Easily
This week, we talk about acronyms. The episode includes a chat with linguist and author Michael Quinion, who shares some history of acronyms and debunks a few tall tales.

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Episode 92: Dazed and Nonplussed
This week, we look at what's so confusing about the word nonplussed.

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Episode 91: A Misleading Past
This week, we look at a common mix-up involving the past tense of the verb, "to lead."

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Episode 90: A Noun in Verb's Clothing
This week, we explore an odd little thing called a gerund.

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Episode 89: I Never Metaphor I Didn't Like
Special guest Dr. Mardy Grothe joins us to talk about two powerful literary devices: metaphor and simile.

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Episode 88: Heavyweight Title
This week, wrestle a common style question to the ground: do titles appear underlined, in italics or inside quotation marks?

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Episode 87: Going Downhill
We investigate the meanings of the verbs career and careen.

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Episode 86: Style Counsel
This week, we explore two different opinions on the pronunciation of forte.

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Episode 85: A Tangled Web
Do the words "Internet" and "Web" warrant capital letters? We explore a variety of expert opinion on the topic.

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Episode 84: The Reflexives Are the First to Go.
Today we're discussing pronouns, or more specifically, when to use or not use reflexive pronouns.

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Episode 83: Mail Call
This week, we dig into the many questions that have been building up in our mailbag.

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Episode 82: A Question from the Field
Inspired by a question we received from an emergency medical technician, we have a look at the words orient and orientate.

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Episode 81: A Cumbersome Combo
This week, we're talking about a couple of words that sound alike and can be easily confused: incumbent and recumbent.

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Episode 80: Not Very Cool
Weekend America's John Moe helps us understand the origins and meaning of the cliché, "drinking the Kool-Aid."

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Episode 79: Grammar Grater's New Year's Special
Grammar Grater celebrates the New Year by talking a little about the apostrophe and by discussing the meaning of "Auld Lang Syne" with Minnesota Public Radio's Euan Kerr. Cory Busse and Amy Ault sing "Auld Lang Syne" and Bob Barnes plays the tune on accordion.

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Episode 78: Letters to Santa (Part II)
In the spirit of clearing up confusion in the English language, we continue our saga of setting the record straight on what some of those more arcane Christmas carol lyrics mean.

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Episode 77: Letters to Santa (Part I)
In the spirit of clearing up confusion in the English language, it's time to set the record straight on what some of those more arcane Christmas carol lyrics mean.

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Episode 76: A Very Very Very Useful Word
According to most usage guides, the word very is perfectly acceptable in writing of virtually every kind. But the word does have its detractors. We tackle the debate: is very a flabby "weasel word?"

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Episode 75: Separated by a Common History
An exploration of why recapitulate means to summarize briefly when capitulate means to surrender.

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Episode 74: Clean, Well-Lighted Sentences
This week, we talk to Janis Bell, author of a new book designed to help people overcome their most common grammatical pitfalls.

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Episode 73: A Box of Quackers
We dig into the origins and meanings of a phrase that will be popping up frequently in news coverage in the next several weeks. Lame duck.

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Episode 72: Until or Till
This week, we look at the words until and till — and their much-maligned cousin, 'til.

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Episode 71: What's Your Function, Again?
We put to rest the grammatical myth that it is forbidden to begin a sentence with a coordinating conjunction.

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Episode 70: A Halloween Special
We look at interesting words having to do with Halloween. We're joined by MPR News arts reporter, Euan Kerr.

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Episode 69: Histrionics
Why do some people say "an historical event"?

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Episode 68: Relatively Good
Larry, Gladys and Schwartz help us understand irregular forms of comparative adjectives, as well as those with relative or absolute meaning.

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Episode 67: Way Beyond Compare
A visit to the dog park helps us understand the comparative and superlative forms of adjectives.

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Episode 66: Er
This week, we look at a couple of suffixes used in agent-nouns: -ER and -OR.

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Episode 65: It's!
This week on Grammar Grater, we try to settle the score between it's and its.

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Episode 64: Animal Farm
We dissect a veritable carnival of idiomatic expressions, including "the elephant in the room" and "the 800 pound gorilla."

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Episode 63: Woulda Shoulda Coulda
In this week's episode, we discuss contractions that are often misspelled or confused when they make their way from spoken English into written English.

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Episode 62: Delegate and Relegate
Riffed from the headlines: This week, we're looking at the words delegate and relegate. These words touch on everything from politics to soccer.

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Episode 61: Decade of Decadence
Does the word decadence mean decaying or indulgent?

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Episode 60: Intensify
Adding intensifiers can give emphasis to your speech and writing; but sometimes they serve to weaken the message and are best left out.

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Episode 59: What's in a Name?
Why do we say Beijing when it used to be correct to say Peking? University of Minnesota professor Joseph Allen helps us understand this important change.

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Episode 58: It's Greek to Us
With the Beijing Olympics getting underway this week, we're talking about words related to the Olympic Games.

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Episode 57: Representin'
This week, we look at a figure of speech called synecdoche: what it means and how it's used.

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Episode 56: The essence of an expression
This week, lawyer Paul Muilenberg helps us understand the legal and conversational usage of the phrase, time is of the essence.

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Episode 55: Comma Chameleon
What's a serial comma and when it is appropriate to use one? When do you need to take it up a notch and go with something bolder—the semicolon?

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Episode 54: An Ounce of Prevention
Which is correct, preventative or preventive? Author and linguist Michael Quinion joins us again to help sort out the mess.

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Episode 53: How Soon is Now?
Does the word "presently" mean right now — or soon?

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Episode 52: Anyway You Want It
We're taking a look at anyway — a transitional phrase that really grates on some people's nerves when an "s" is added to it.

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Episode 51: Pesky Plurals
No other part of speech causes as much confusion—and demonstrates the continuous evolution of the English language—quite like plural nouns. Today we'll try to clear up some misunderstandings about some plural nouns that tend to give writers trouble.

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Episode 50: A Purposeful Debate
A listener from Massachusetts asks us to examine the words purposely and purposefully.

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Episode 49: Mixed Feelings ... or Mixed Message?
We address a couple of words that sound somewhat alike and come fairly close in meaning, yet can cause a bit of confusion: ambivalent and ambiguous.

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Episode 48: Subjunctivitis
This week, on Grammar Grater, we're going explore the confusion surrounding the use of the subjunctive mood in English.

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Episode 47: Eye of the Storm
Given recent headlines, Minnesota Public Radio's chief meteorologist Paul Huttner helps us understand the words that are used to describe tropical storms.

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Episode 46: Warranty or Guarantee (This is not a guarantee)
This week, we get some legal advice. Special guest Paul Muilenberg helps us understand the difference between guarantee and warranty.

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Episode 45: Reading Between the Lines
Think peruse just means to skim or glance through a document? Don't find out the hard way—you might miss something.

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Episode 44: Further/Farther Falderal
This week, we demystify the difference between further and farther... and give writers a guaranteed way never to be wrong.

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Episode 43: Either a Borrower or a Lender Be
This week, we look at the differences and points of confusion with the words borrow and lend.

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Episode 42: Itinerant Editors
This week, we welcome special guest Jeff Deck of the Typo Eradication Advancement League, or TEAL. Deck and his friends are touring the United States in the hope of eliminating misspellings and bad punctuation from public signage.

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Episode 41: Working Hard... or Hardly Working?
This week, we're joined by special guest Catherine Winter who explains what's wrong with "I feel badly." Meanwhile, The Morning Show's Jim Ed Poole sits in with the Grammatis Personae players to provide the voice of Clancy the Dog.

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Episode 40: A Topic of Interest
This week, we examine a pair of words that are easily confused: disinterested and uninterested.

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Episode 39: What's Up?
Today we're going to dig into the definitions and etymologies of two words that often get confused and used interchangeably: upside and upshot.

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Episode 38: A Point Worth Debating
This week, special guest Michael Quinion describes the meaning of moot point and explains how and why a lot of people have a tendency to say mute point.

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Episode 37: What's Next?
People have a tendency to use the words next and this differently, which can cause confusion, especially when making plans. We explore these differences and search for a helpful solution.

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Episode 36: A Timely Matter
This week, we look at the linguistic components of daylight saving time. Special guest appearance by Euan Kerr of Minnesota Public Radio News.

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Episode 35: Infer—no—Imply
Two words—imply and infer—are sometimes confused with each other, but they are both ways people exchange information beneath the surface—sometimes accidentally.

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Episode 34: A Question from the Field
Inspired by a question we received from an emergency medical technician, we have a look at the words orient and orientate.

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Episode 33: A Sure Thing
To help us distinguish the words assure, ensure and insure, we speak with special guest Ruth Weber Kelley of ING. Because she works in communications in the financial services industry, Weber Kelley and her team come across these words every single day. She has some helpful tips to share.

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Episode 32: A Caucus Cacophony
With so much political news, the word caucus has been all over the place. This week, we'll take a look at the word caucus: what it means, how it's used and where it came from. We'll also touch on a couple of like-sounding but unrelated words.

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Episode 31: Some Prodigal Fun
What is it that makes the prodigal son ... prodigal? For a lot of people, it's the fact that he left and came back. But that's not really the case. Our special guest on Grammar Grater is journalist Andrew Haeg, who helps us understand there's a lot more to being prodigal than coming and going.

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Episode 30: Lie Detector
Today we tackle one of the most confusing bits of word choice in common language; lay versus lie. Usage for these words is difficult for lots of reasons: They sound alike. They mean similar things. And both lay and lie are used as nouns, verbs and idioms in dozens of different ways.

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Episode 29: Grammar Gone Wild
Our topic on Grammar Grater this week is ripped from the headlines. Last week, the Minnesota Wild, a team in the National Hockey League, had a change of ownership. With it, a lesson in collective nouns and verb agreement.

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Episode 28: Which Begs the Question?
In our last episode, we had a discussion about prescriptivism v. descriptivism. This week, we examine another linguistic lightning rod that tends to perturb one camp or the other when it's perceived that it has been used incorrectly: begs the question.

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Episode 27: An Interesting Compromise
We take a look at a shift in meaning of the word comprise relative to the word compose. To help us out, we're joined in studio by David McKoskey, a PhD student in computational linguistics from the University of Minnesota.

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Episode 26: Grammar Grater's New Year's Special
Grammar Grater celebrates the New Year by talking a little about the apostrophe and by discussing the meaning of "Auld Lang Syne" with Minnesota Public Radio's Euan Kerr. Cory Busse and Amy Ault sing "Auld Lang Syne" and Bob Barnes plays the tune on accordion.

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Episode 25: Take it or Bring it
We've received some messages asking about the words bring and take, so we'll try to put the words into ... perspective, so to speak.

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Episode 24: Temptations of the Flush
It's so easy to confuse the expressions flesh out and flush out, so we examine what the two expressions mean and give examples of their use.

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Episode 23: Flip-Flop Fever
In this special edition, Grammar Grater explores the word "flip-flop" as part of Minnesota Public Radio's program In The Loop. Introduction by In The Loop's Jeff Horwich, and special guest appearances by Euan Kerr, Gordon Jarvie, Michael Bayly and David Roach.

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Episode 22: Can-Can...and May
We explore the age-old argument of can versus may and find some vital differences between written and spoken English.

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Episode 21: A Spicy Latin Flavor
To paraphrase Mark Twain, rumors of Latin's death have been greatly exaggerated. We'll explore some common Latin terms that appear in writing and in conversation.

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Episode 20: Unfinished Business
Don't let sentences ending in prepositions leave you hanging. Special guest appearance by John Birge of Classical Minnesota Public Radio.

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Episode 19: Passive Aggressive
Sometimes grammatical constructions get a bum rap. This week, we defend one of the red pen's favorite targets: passive voice.

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Episode 18: A Timely Matter
This week, we look at the linguistic components of daylight saving time. Special guest appearance by Euan Kerr of Minnesota Public Radio News.

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Episode 17: An Eerie Discovery
Thanks to a couple fishermen and a mystery-solving dog, we sort out the meanings of four similar-sounding words: eerie, leery, weary and wary.

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Episode 16: One Thing Leads to Another
The "ultimate" guide to navigating the slang usage of penultimate.

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Episode 15: Painting a Picture
This week, we look at a word that is often misused—then explore numerous, more appropriate alternatives.

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Episode 14: Acts of the Apostrophe, Part 2
More discussion on the apostrophe takes us to a signmaker's shop and a short trip through history.

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Episode 13: Acts of the Apostrophe
We examine the roles of that little punctuation mark, the apostrophe. In so doing, we take a trip back to the supermarket.

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Episode 12: Who Are You?
We discuss the use of who versus whom and whether it's really all that important.

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Episode 11: A Triple Threat
Three characters help us sort out a trio of words that sound the same but have unique spellings and meanings: palate, palette and pallet.

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Episode 10: Rough Seas
This week, we head out to sea to investigate the distinction between nauseous and nauseated. You may want to bring a bucket.

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Episode 9: Lost in the Supermarket
This week, we visit the supermarket to explore the difference between less and fewer.

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Episode 8: Never Tear Us Apart
A little drama, a little music, a little punctuation: who could ask for more? This week, we explore how two complete thoughts can stay together thanks to the help of a semicolon.

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Episode 7: Jive Talking
This week, we navigate some sailing terms that frequently get confused with similar-sounding words. Fortunately, we've got some music from the Bee Gees to help us out.

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Episode 6: I Gotta Be Me
The word "me" seems to get a bad rap, but the gang from Grammar Grater gets some help from a furry friend to prove the little word is a useful and correct pronoun.

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Episode 5: Walking the Line
Dashes are much more than just lines. They have very specific grammatical jobs. There are actually three types of dashes (excluding track and field events).

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Episode 4: In Effect
The words affect and effect are highly useful—and easily confused. We recruit a doctor, accountant, flight attendant and others to help us sort out the mess.

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Episode 3: The Art of the Compliment
With an I or with an E? That's the question we set out to answer — with the help of a comedy classic.

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Episode 2: Premier vs. Premiere
We examine these easily confused, sound-alike words, taking listeners from the crowded terraces of England's top-flight soccer grounds to the red carpets and flashbulbs of Hollywood galas.

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Episode 1: With or Up?
We take a look at the power of prepositions and how the addition of some innocuous words can change a chat for better ...or worse.

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