Be Careful Where You Stand

Readers following this blog know that I’ve been happily (and gainfully) employed as the Digital Media Editor for Baltimore’s Urbanite magazine since April’s end. It’s a fine job, one that entails largely the understanding and analysis of how readers interact with the Web—from where Urbanite‘s traffic comes (direct links versus referring sites, for instance), in what ways online publications can boost online and mobile readership, and some strategy with respect to how traditionally print publications can attract online readership and loyalty while still turning a profit.

And then, of course, there’s some additional wrangling with various content management system fixes, editing of e-mail newsletters, and the share of writing for the print magazine.

One part of the job I wasn’t alerted to initially was the task of proofreading the magazine (though it certainly wasn’t a task I took on begrudgingly, having learned the importance of editing from former professor turned internship supervisor turned professional colleague, John McIntyre).

In one story, I noted the author’s use of the word “podium,” which was intended as that wooden thing people stand behind while giving a speech or lecture of some kind. At once the blue pen came out. I quickly changed the aforementioned word to “lectern” and forgave the error.

The word “podium,” from the Greek root “podos,” meaning foot (do a Google search), is the wooden dais upon which a person stands so as to be slightly elevated. The “lectern,” derived from the Latin “legere,” meaning to read—it turns out that preparatory school education served some purpose—is the wooden stand, often with a slanted top, behind which a person stands to read from prepared remarks or a book.

In all probability, the distinction—like the “who-whom” distinction—will eventually die out, and either word will suffice for a person thinking of a podium (but actually meaning lectern). Until then, I’ll continue to insist that words have definitions for a reason.