Write Better Right Now (It Could
Save Your Life)
(under revision) by Mary Campbell
Order or download
this beautiful book of poems,
prayers, meditations, songs,
Unfamiliar Territory:
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:

    Someone’s at the door. I wonder what they want.

    ...or this:

    Someone's at the door. I wonder what he or she wants.

    The latter is correct, but neither is going to win a prize for dialogue. No
    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

    "How ya' doin''?"

    Understanding that the questioner doesn't want a cell-by-cell medical
    report, I used to answer...

    I'm doing well, thanks. How are you?

    ...but lately what comes out of my mouth sounds more like this:

    Doin' gud. H'bocherself?

    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

    (1) Wikipedia
    (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

    Unlike podium, the word lectern—originally referring to a reading desk in
    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.”

    1. We read at a lectern.
    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

Starts out as ped- with the Indo-Europeans, c. 2000-4000 BCE.
Evolves as pous among the Greeks, arty souls that they were, who
refined it as podion, meaning "foot of a vase."
Borrowed into Latin, where the Romans fiddled with it and came up
with podium "raised platform."
Word and meaning arrived intact in English, late 17th or early 18th
century—not the typical way for Latin words to enter the language.

    Most of our Latin vocabulary came through the French language after the
    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.
    CONSIDER THE BELEAGUERED PODIUM. If ever a word deserved mercy,
    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:

A podium is a platform upon which a speaker stands.
A lectern is the tall desk or stand, usually with a slanted top, that
holds the speaker’s books, notes, sermons, and so forth.
You stand on a podium and behind a lectern.

    In some cases, picking the wrong word for the job has adverse
    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

    Remember Allison Janney in the role of C. J. Cregg on NBC television's
    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
    mislabeled “podium."

    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:
    (a) Nobody in the real White House ever referred to the thing as a
    lectern, or
    (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 mary@annagrammatica.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

    Many people confuse the words lectern... and podium.... A lectern
    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.

  • More voices for the good and the true

    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...

    Just before a speaking engagement at a hotel several years ago,
    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
    Man Standing.

    Mary Campbell
    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.
    Jack Dawkins, better known as the
    Artful Dodger, is...  [called [as a
    pickpocket]. Wikipedia

    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.
    Classy Janney at the press-room lectern
    The Artful Dodger from Oliver
    Twist, watercolor by 'Kyd' (Joseph
    Clayton Clarke), c. 1890
lectern for a podium”