Monday, May 05, 2008

What We Talk About When We Talk About Talking

One of the more arcane (but nearly universal) shibboleths of the copy-editing profession is the knowledge that that thing that everybody else calls a podium is actually a lectern.

It's hard to argue with the pod-/ped-* root, but, as I keep saying, please use your brain and not the search-and-replace function. OK, fine, a politician doesn't stand behind a podium to make a speech, but he or she most certainly could take the podium. (Who's to say such a reference is necessarily to the thing the speaker is standing behind, as opposed to the thing the politician is standing on?) Of course, you have to make sure the context is a rally, or something of that sort, rather than the White House press room, where the lectern simply stands on the floor, but if you're going to get all eggheady about what podium means, you should stick around in that frame of mind and acknowledge that it does mean something, and you should realize that there are plenty of cases in which either word would work.

*One of my favorite stupid everyday jokes goes something like: "We're going to be walking a lot, and we'll want to know how far, so don't forget to bring your pedophile!"


DV said...

Speaking of which, how long do you think it will be before Fritzl becomes a word meaning "incestuous pedophile"?

harry buttle said...

British English spellers unfortunately (?) don't have that joke (because for them it's a paedophile of course).

BBB said...

Even worse: vigils. "Vigil" has come to mean a whole bunch of people standing around holding candles.

I'm sorry, but if no angel is rising, or people aren't waiting for Cher to finally retire, or something good, it's not a vigil.

Mellerson said...

I also hear "rostrum" being used sometimes, how does that one fit in with the others?