Sunday, July 12, 2009
A visit from the Lectern/Podium Police Patrol
When I posted our article from the District 15 newsletter about fear of public speaking on June 23, I was hoping for at least one favorable comment. Instead I got a visitor from the self-appointed Lectern/Podium Police Patrol. His comment took issue with our closing line using the word podium to describe an object you could either stand behind of (or in front of) when you speak. He said that a podium only was something you stand on, and he eventually quoted me the etymology for both podium and lectern.
In my blog reply to his comment I noted that our use of podium in fact was consistent with current use, as shown both in the online Oxford English Dictionary and the Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage (1989). Current use is lexicography. I have looked around further since then. I quickly found five recent books on speaking which also use the word podium the way we did:
In the book on The Art of Lecturing by Parham Aarabi (Cambridge University Press, 2007), on page 72 you will find that he talks about standing behind the podium.
In the book The How of WOW by Tony Carlson (Amacom, 2005), on page 207 he talks about using a half-inch tall speech box to hold your text in place on the podium.
In the book Trust Me by Nick Morgan (Jossey-Bass, 2009), on page 148 he talks about standing behind a podium.
In the book The Complete Presentation Skills Handbook (Kogan Page, 2008) by Suzy Siddons, on page 114 she talks about being trapped behind the podium.
In the book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Public Speaking (Macmillan, 1999) by Laurie Rozakis, on page 15 she talks about standing behind the podium.
Lexicography is about seeing where you are right now. It is useful because word meanings can and do change over time. Etymology just is about seeing where you have been. Etymology is like driving by only looking through your rear-view mirror. It works well for backing up, but is silly otherwise.