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Strictly Speaking

Saying What You Mean

SYNONYM

A word related to another by identity, or near identity. Therefore synonyms are erythrocytes in the life blood of a thesaurus. Ostensibly an inevitability of the diversity in the root languages of origin, the belief in modular identities can also become limiting, in suggesting that one word is as good as, or interchangeable with another. Almost never is this the case. Almost always, even words with convergent denotations have quite distinct connotations, and connotations are essential in calculating the way that a word will be heard and processed. A good example would be “policeman,” and “cop.” Read More 
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Please Report to the Podium?

PODIUM


Podium means literally footing, or step up and corresponds to a slightly raised platform giving speakers, an advantage in being heard while projecting their voices over the heads of the crowd. It comes from the same root word as podiatrist, or foot doctor. Properly applied it does not mean counter, as those in airline lounges, where passengers are asked to report to the podium, and looking around, find no podium.

The counters passing themselves off as podiums (or podia) are not set on a slightly raised platform. Nor can a speaker on a stage be asked to take the podium, as he or she is already on the podium, left only the opportunity of advancing to the lectern, or speaker’s stand,. This is usually a rectilinear stand with a titled top for papers and a microphone for audio pick-up. Even modern speakers, afraid to seem overly educated, might prefer asking a speaker to come to the microphone, in that the microphone is actually still unconfusingly a microphone.

The problem with the expansion of meanings in words like podium is that they gradually eliminate previously common and more distinctive words from use. Pity, that. Only words that are narrowly distinctive facilitate clear understanding immediately. If, per the trend, the core vocabulary continues to shrink, the end point will be the time when one size fits all. So any noun will be called a “thing” and another object in the same space will be “the other thing,” even when there are many things to be confused. The sole benefit would be to improve consensus. All could agree on a thing that is unbounded by denotation.  Read More 
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