|Order or download
this beautiful book of poems,
prayers, meditations, songs,
Prayers, Meditations, and Songs,
Vol. 1, by Mary Campbell
accept change as an inevitable and even beautiful quality of our language,
I've become more flexible, less rigid, and more adventurous about
choosing and arranging words on a page.
Right. When pigs fly and hell freezes over. I hate change. If it were up to
me, the Dodgers would still be in Brooklyn.
Change is sometimes necessary, even beneficial. I get that. Pantyhose
had to go. Lard in the cupboard, lead in the gasoline... I don't miss them.
But the English language is, for the most part, nontoxic and fat-free, so
let's not mess with it more than we have to.
There must be a better way to write respectfully than this:
one talks like that, just as no one answers the question "Who's there?" by
saying—correctly—"It is I." We can be forgiven for colloquial speech that
breaks the rules... until it descends into grunts and snarls. I've been
embarrassed by my own mumbles lately during the half-block stroll to the
grocery store. I usually pass other pedestrians, and one of us says
something on the order of
report, I used to answer...
...but lately what comes out of my mouth sounds more like this:
Speaking is work...
...a highly complex motor task that involves approximately 100
orofacial, laryngeal, pharyngeal, and respiratory muscles....(1)
Human nature leans toward the "least effort principle."(2) Over time, our
sloppy speech becomes formalized in the language. What's a contraction,
after all, except sanctioned laziness? It's easier to say "didn't" than "did
not," and even easier to say "di'n't," dropping that second pesky plosive
This is nothing new. The word lord, for example, comes from the Old
English hlāfweard, "loaf ward," with a meaning similar to "bread-winner."
(4) I learned this from Kevin Stroud on his excellent History of English
Podcast (mandatory listening for English-language and British-history
enthusiasts). Kevin explains how our language evolves to reflect the way
we actually speak. A word's journey from its earliest appearance—quite
possibly among the ancient Indo-European people long before there was
an alphabet—to its current spelling, pronunciation, and usage, can be a
fascinating tale. When you know a word's story, you don't like to see it
(2) The principle of least effort is a broad theory that covers diverse fields from
evolutionary biology to web-page design. It postulates that animals, people, even well
designed machines will naturally choose the path of least resistance or "effort."
(3) Plosives are the kinds of sounds usually associated with the letters p, t, k; b, d, g, in
which air flow from the lungs is interrupted by a complete closure being made in the
mouth. —World Atlas of Language Structures Online http://wals.info/chapter/4
(4) According to the Oxford Dictionary of English, the etymology of the word can be traced
back to the Old English word hlāford which originated from hlāfweard meaning "loaf-
ward" or "bread keeper", reflecting the Germanic tribal custom of a chieftain providing
food for his followers. —Wikipedia
a medieval church—came into Middle English “through channels,” you
might say, if you don't mind perpetrating a vicious pun that relies on a
clumsy reference to the English Channel, which separates France and
England. In any case, lectern came through Old French letrun, from
medieval Latin lectrum, from legere “to read.”
2. We stand on a podium.
If you can remember that, my work here is done.
Podium is related to the Greek word pous “foot,” which in turn goes back
(way back, possibly to 4000 BCE) to the Proto-Indo-European root ped-
“foot." Thus, podium has something like five or six thousand years of
history to its credit, as summarized below:
The Life & Times of Podium
Norman French invaded England in 1066. The army—led by the Duke of
Normandy (who was about to become King William I of England)—mopped
the floor with weary English foot soldiers at the Battle of Hastings in
1066. In the aftermath, Normans and their families arrived in great
waves, bringing their culture, their customs, and their language. Podiums
not yet being in use, podium wasn't part of the initial inundation.
The podium | podiums – foot | feet connection
What, precisely, do podium and foot have in common? I guess I always
assumed, without giving it much thought, that the podium got its name
because people stand on it. You know, with their feet. But that's not it at
all—though it's a useful way to remember the difference.
The "foot" in this equation isn't a human foot but an architectural or
artistic one, as illustrated above ("the Foot Factor"). Apparently the
Romans, who invented and named the podium, thought it resembled the
foot of a vase (Greek podion).
If you have one podium and you get a second one, then you have two
podiums. Podia is acceptable, in a pinkie-finger sort of way. If you say
podia, I guarantee, people will smirk when your back is turned. Me, I'm a
Nebraska girl. I don't say celli or concerti or podia or gymnasia, I don't
eat raw fish, and I never pay retail.
surely podium is that word. It's expected to do not only its own job—that
is, to be the word associated with a low platform of the type shown in
Fig. B (above right)—but also the job of another word, which was
assigned hundreds of years ago to objects such as that shown in Fig. A
(above left); and that word is lectern.
Let's set the record straight right now:
consequences. If I say "Pass the salt" when I mean to say "Pass the sugar,"
the outcome could be... well, not disastrous but possibly unpleasant. A
teaspoon of salt in a cup of coffee, first thing in the morning? Most
unfortunate. But if I say "Meet me at the podium" when in fact there is
no podium—only a lectern (Fig. B, above)—nobody gets hurt. Podium,
lectern, whatever. Everyone knows what I mean—which might not have
been the case if I'd said "Meet me at the lectern."
With podium vs. lectern, miscommunication isn't usually a problem. The
issue, as I see it, is etymology.
|Illustrations from "What Is a Lectern or a Podium?" Message Masters Toastmasters
The West Wing? She was spectacular, and I’m sure she didn’t mean to
stomp on my heart every time she spoke of the "podium" in the White
House press-briefing room, night after night, week after week, for seven
agonizing years. As White House press secretary, C. J. spent a great deal
of time at, behind, beside, or otherwise in the force field of the
During 155 episodes in seven seasons, certainly hundreds of people, if not
thousands, had to have noticed the solecism: There's a lectern on your
television screen for all the world to see, and a star of the show is calling
it a podium. No doubt many viewers contacted the show. But the lectern
remained a “podium” throughout the program’s run, and that means one
of two things:
(b) Lectern is yesterday's soggy Rice Krispies. It's been written out
of The West Wing and drop-kicked out of our lives. If it were a
lame horse it would be taken out and shot, and We the Righteous
are going to have to suck it up... unless...
Hey! You guys wouldn't want to join me in putting our collective foot
down and making a stand for standing on (not at or behind) a podium,
would you? Email email@example.com for a list of public officials
and prominent educators to contact, starting with the Secretary-General
of the United Nations. The man conducts his entire life behind a lectern.
Okay, maybe it's not a global hot button, but the podium | lectern
controversy isn’t just about little me with a bug in my brassiere. The
experts and scholars are unanimous in their assent: A lectern isn’t a
podium and it’s not okay to call it one. Here’s a heartening comment
from a Toastmaster, followed by another from an authority on public
A podium is a platform upon which a speaker stands while
speaking. If that sounds like a stage, you are correct. It is like a
stage. A podium can have a lectern on it, [as]... can a stage. You
could have a lectern on a podium on a stage. A speaker stands on a
podium. —Message Masters Toastmasters
is the slant-topped high desk that you as the speaker stand behind
and use when reading your presentation notes. It can be placed in
the middle of the stage or off to one side. To remember lectern,
think lecture.... A podium is a raised platform on which a speaker
stands during a presentation. To remember podium think
podiatrist--which is a foot doctor. You will want to use a podium,
especially if you are short or there are more than three rows of
chairs, to ensure everyone in the back of the room can see you.
Does it really matter?
No and yes. If it were only a matter of clarity, using podium instead of
lectern might actually be the better choice. If you ask for a podium, you'll
probably get a lectern. If you ask for a lectern, you'll probably get a blank
From the Daily Chronicle story cited above...
Mose asked a hotel staff member for a lectern, describing its
intended use: to hold notes for the presentation. “You mean a
podium?” the young man asked. “No, a lectern,” Mose insisted,
though he should have known better. The man came back a few
minutes later with a lectern, which he continued to refer to as a
I won't give up, but I’m not optimistic. When the White House falls, can
the entire free world be far behind? Maybe I'll reach out to the Lectern
people, see if they're interested in a combination fundraiser |
podium/lectern-awareness event: Pennies for Podiums... in the U. K.,
maybe Pounds for Podiums and, um, Lbs. for Lecterns? Meanwhile, if
you're looking for me, I shouldn't be hard to spot; I'll be (sigh) the Last
July 23, 2016
Artful doesn't mean artistic.
Historically, artful alludes to clever
and calculating qualities such as
those perfected by the Artful
Dodger in Dickens's Oliver Twist.
Artful Dodger, is... [called [as a
Importantly, often misused to
introduce a statement the speaker
considers important (as in
Importantly, Hillary Clinton is
experienced in statesmanship),
actually has a negative cast. It
means "in a pompous, self-
important manner": The mayor
strode importantly across the
stage to the lectern.
Actionable, new shorthand to
describe something you can quickly
and easily put into action, has a
much older and stronger
connotation of illegality. If it's
actionable—like, for example,
medical malpractice—you can be
sued for it.
Chauvinism originally referred to
extreme patriotism, over-the-top
allegiance to one's country. Male
chauvinism thus means over-the-
top allegiance to the male
gender... sexism, in other words.
To call a man a "chauvinist" is to
criticize his nationalistic fervor. If
you want to criticize his sexist
attitudes, call him a "male
chauvinist," or maybe just a jerk.
Twist, watercolor by 'Kyd' (Joseph
Clayton Clarke), c. 1890