Thursday, February 16, 2006

More Olympic speak

The Sacramento Bee has a story about podium as a verb, complete with a nod of approval from Geoffrey Nunberg.

"I like 'to podium,' " says Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist at the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley, and the chairman of the American Heritage Dictionary's usage panel. "About 20 percent of the verbs in English began their lives as (nouns), and most don't encounter much resistance on the way in."

In these Games alone, you can hear such verbal cousins of the word podium as ski, bobsled, skate, lap and slalom.

"Not to mention the old reliable 'He nailed it!' " Nunberg says. "Nouns in French, Italian and German can't pinch-hit as verbs with such abandon. Think of it as a sign of the versatility of the English language."

Language Log also has a bit on podium as a verb, and Benjamin Zimmer cites an example as far back as 1992.

In a separate piece, Zimmer nicely sums up the Turin/Torino debate, pointing out that USA Today is one of the few news outlets using Torino. He also shares part of a Wall Street Journal Article on the history of the area:
Italians cringe at English names for their cities, such as Florence for Firenze and Leghorn for Livorno. The irony is that Turin isn't an anglicized form of Torino at all. The area around the city was first settled by Celtic tribes in the third century B.C., and the name Turin derives from the Celtic word "tau" for mountains. Torino is the Italian derivation, and happens to mean "little bull." The city was known as Turin when it became the first capital of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861.

David Kertzer, a professor of anthropology and Italian studies at Brown University, notes that, in the fading dialect of the local Piedmont region, the city is still known as Turin, with the accent on the second syllable. Historically, he says, the region "is closer to France than Italy linguistically and geographically."


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