Word Maven

Liz West / Flickr

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Patricia O'Conner, word maven and founder of “Grammarphobia.” They discuss the word itself, its interesting etymology, what it means in the US and the UK, and the origin of the phrase “knee high by the fourth of July.”


Euphemisms can be used for many purposes, but perhaps none more useful than substituting for swear words.

Halloween can almost generate a dictionary of its own.

Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever wondered where the word "soccer" come from and why we use it?

Emily Woodbury

Many of this year’s blockbusters, video games, and books are set in post-apocalyptic worlds - a growing trend in the past few years.

Today on River To River, we take a look at why this is such a common theme. Host Ben Kieffer talks with Iowans who are prepared to face an apocalyptic scenario, and he sits down with an Iowa Homeland Security representative, to find out how prepared the state of Iowa is for disaster.

Scott McLeod

Beanball, bender, bleeder, brushback, bull pen… baseball has a language all its own. Today on Talk of Iowa, English language expert Patricia O’Conner "plays ball." Host Charity Nebbe talks to O'Connor about baseball lingo and, of course, she answers your language questions.

Join host Charity Nebbe for this talk with Patricia O'Connor to talk about words of the year for 2013, and "banned words." What's your "word of the year"?

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Host Charity Nebbe and Patricia O'Connor, aka The Word Maven, discuss the words and phrases of summer.  O'Connor reveals the origins of dog days, bikini, lemonade and barbecue.

f2point8 / flickr

Forty years ago this month Nixon’s top White House staffers, HR Haldeman and John Ehrlichman resigned over the Watergate Scandal.  On today's Talk of Iowa we talk about how Watergate changed our culture and our language with historian Colin Gordon and English language expert Patricia O’Connor.  

Open vocabulary book
Deb Stgo / Flickr

Boom, shimmy, giggle, squeak… these words are called echoic words, words whose sound echo what they stand for. Host Charity Nebbe talks with English language expert Patricia O’Conner about these and other onomatopes that belong to the English language.

The Word Maven

Aug 2, 2012

Words like tornado and Derecho fascinate and frighten and they both have surprising histories. Charity talks with English language expert Patricia O’Connor who looks at  the origins of weather related words.  Patricia answers all questions that relate to the English language.

For the past five years, we've been talking more about money than ever before.  From the 2007 Global Financial Crisis, to the recent mammoth loss at J.P. Morgan Chase, the language of finance seems to occupy more of our brain space.  Today, Charity speaks to our "Word Maven," Patricia O'Conner about the origins and changing use of such terms as "buck," "salary," "credit," "two bits," and many more.  O'Conner is the author of popular word books including "Origins of the Specious," "Woe is I," and "Words Fail Me."

There are movie lines so iconic that not only does almost everyone instantly recognize them, but they’ve actually become a part of our lexicon. Today, Charity talks with English Language expert and Iowa native Patricia O’Conner about the movie lines that endure and shape our language. O'Conner is the author of a number of popular word books, including "Woe is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English; Words Fail Me, and others.

Henry James once said, “Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the most beautiful words in the English language.” On today's Talk of Iowa we’ll talk about the words you think are the most beautiful...for what they mean or for how they sound. Language expert and Iowa native Patricia O’Conner is the guest. She is the author of the popular "Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English" and several other language books.