‘Podiuming’: it may look wrong, but it is a word

·1-min read
<span>Photograph: Stoyan Nenov/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Stoyan Nenov/Reuters

Have you been podiuming this week? Depending on your point of view, this is either winning a medal (and so stepping on to the podium) at the Olympics, or it is jumping up and down and shouting hoarsely into an uncaring gale that “podium is not a verb”.

In ancient Rome the podium was the raised platform around the arena that seated the emperor and other VIPs (ultimately from the Greek podion, literally “little foot”, meaning “base” or “pedestal”). Adopted into English in the 18th century, a podium was the projecting base of a wall or column, or simply a plinth, and latterly a raised platform or lectern. It was applied to the familiar three-tiered sporting structure only in 1948. In the very same year, however, it was also used as a (non-sporting) verb in a Portland newspaper: “I podiumed as I had never podiumed before, because Eleanor was on the dais next to me.”

This old verbing will still attract its critics, such as those who also claim every four years that “to medal” is not a verb. But do you know what else wasn’t a verb until someone decided to use it that way? “Rain”. And also “drink”.

Steven Poole’s A Word for Every Day of the Year is published by Quercus.

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