My main work is co-host of the extraordinarily fun-to-make language-related public radio show A Way with Words, which is independently produced and broadcast over the air each week to listeners coast-to-coast in the United States and heard by podcast around the world. I love that we are able to share the stories and voices of people of many ethnicities, races, education levels, accents, dialects, ages, and geographies. My pronouns are he/il/él.
I am also an American lexicographer and dictionary editor specializing in slang and new words. I wrote Perfect English Grammar (2016, Zephyros Press), compiled and edited the Official Dictionary of Unofficial English (2006, McGraw-Hill) and the Oxford Dictionary of American Political Slang (2004, Oxford University Press), and created of the online Double-Tongued Dictionary which tracked slang, jargon, and neologisms from the fringes of English (but has now been merged with the A Way with Words website). I am also a co-founder of Wordnik, an online dictionary.
My other dictionary contributions include dozens of monolingual and bilingual dictionaries in the English-speaking world, including serving as project editor of the four-volume Historical Dictionary of American Slang (2003-2006, Oxford University Press). I have contributed as a lexicographer to the Cambridge Dictionary of American English (second edition, 2008), the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary (2008), the Collins British English Advanced Dictionary (2008), Collins Cobuild English/Japanese Dictionary of Advanced English (2008), the Collins Spanish Intermediate Dictionary (2008), the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus (first edition, 2004), the New Oxford American Dictionary (2001, first edition, and 2005, second edition), the Concise Oxford American Thesaurus (2006), and the Concise Oxford American Dictionary (2006).
Besides being often quoted about language (and often consulted on background for my linguistic expertise), I have written about it for such newspapers as the Washington Post and the New York Times, have contributed to the British book series The Language Report, and am a public speaker about language, dictionaries and slang. I have also written for the Malaysia Star, the journal and website Copyediting, and have worked as a business and music journalist for dailies and weeklies. I first started working in radio and print journalism in 1988.
Among other academic involvements, I have am a vice president of the American Dialect Society, an academic organization devoted since 1889 to the study of English in North America. I have been the chair of its New Words Committee, have edited the “Among the New Words” column of the society’s journal American Speech, have served as a member of the journal’s editorial review board, and still help organize the society’s annual “word of the year” vote.
I am also a member of the Dictionary Society of North America and the Linguistic Society of America.
For the nonprofit Wayword, Inc., which produces and distributes A Way with Words, I have been the executive director and served on its nonprofit board. I also formerly served on the board of San Diego Writers, Ink, which fosters a literary community. I also have advised companies which make smartphone apps.
I hold a degree in French from Columbia University and have studied at the Université Paris Diderot and the University of Missouri, Columbia.
Though born and raised in Missouri, I have lived at length in New York City, Paris, and the U.S. Virgin Islands and now live in sunny Southern California with my wife — a linguist, lexicographer, and editor — and our young son.
You can get photos of me, Grant Barrett, here to use in your publicity materials, programs, schedules, website, etc. My current bio is always the one on this page.