Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Confession: My Ultimate Pet Peeve

I'm going to get personal with this post and dive into my biggest pet peeve. This irritation has been a thorn in my side for years, and it has only worsened over time.

I won't leave you hanging for long. I can barely contain my feelings about it in real life, let alone on this blog. That's right, today I'm going to talk about... lecterns!

Don't believe me that neither of the above can be considered a podium? Behold, the proper definitions:

One might ask, "Why does this bother you so much? Sure, nobody says 'lectern' and everyone says 'podium,' but who cares?" Yet in fact, I feel downright justified in my pet peeve for a myriad of reasons. May I present a sampling:

  • Especially if you need to plan an event (and especially if you are a Public Diplomacy Officer), you should know the difference so you can request the correct props from your venue for your event. If you request a podium and don't get a lectern, you're not allowed to get mad and deserve 100% of the flak.
  • If you describe a lectern as a podium, then what do you call an actual podium? A stage? Often a podium refers to an additional raised platform on a stage, so this error has now cost everyone descriptive power.
  • Knowledge of this crucial distinction does not at all correlate with intelligence or relevant experience. I am surprised to hear instructors and colleagues way above my pay grade make this mistake over and over again, especially at the Foreign Service Institute. Thus, I never know whether someone saying "podium" is referring to a proper podium or a lectern. If I assume they know the difference, I'm usually wrong; however, if I assume they don't know, then I'm a condescending jerk for asking.
  • There's no particular need for language to evolve here. The word "lectern" is neither difficult nor obscure for the average English speaker, and the term "podium" - as previously discussed - is not redundant.

It feels so good to let that all out in the comfort of the Internet. Yes, I do cringe internally every single time I hear this mistake. You can read another, more detailed rant from a like-minded soul here. (That's also where I got the second image for this post.)