Every four years we have to get used to two new verbs: to medal and to podium. Those of us who feel we disapprove (even if we’re not sure why) can comfort ourselves with the thoughts that (a) they are used, and it’s usage that counts in English, and (b) they only seem to be in use when the Olympics come round.
But as they are verbs, how are we to we spell their different verbal forms?
‘Medal’ is easy. We can look at ‘pedal’, and using its forms we can get to
- He, she or it medals (What kind of Olympian qualifies as ‘it’? Best scrub that.)
- We are medalling
- You medalled.
These sound right, and they look right.
But how do we conjugate ‘podium’?
- He or she podiums: fine.
- But are we podiuming, or podiumming?
- Have you podiumed, or podiummed?
‘Podiumed’ looks as if it ought to be pronounced poh-dee-oomed, and ‘podiuming’ as poh-dee-oo-ming. But the double ‘m’ in ‘podiummed’ and ‘podiumming’ looks bizarre.
Is there a word in use we can copy, like ‘pedal’ for ‘medal’? How about ‘drum’? That would take us back to ‘podiumming’ and ‘podiummed’. Which get worse every time I look at them.
One answer is: Fortunately these are synonyms, so if you really have to write one of these sporting neologisms, use ‘medal’. Only use ‘podium’ in speech ….