Read “Lederer on Language” every Saturday in the San Diego Union Tribune and on this site.
Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

At the nearly completed Rio De Janeiro Olympic Games, Usain (pronounced Yoo-sane) Bolt, the jet-propelled Jamaican dash man, retained his title as the fastest man in the history of our planet. Note how the surname Bolt is so wonderfully spot on and target perfect for a human flash, the electrifying smasher of world records in the 100- and 200-meter dashes.

Margaret Smith Court acquired through marriage the perfect surname for one who has won more grand slam singles titles in tennis (24) than any other player. In fact, at the Australian Open in Melbourne, I have watched matches played on the Margaret Court court.

Long ago, the Romans created the expression nomen est omen, or “name is destiny.”

In the late 19th century, Louis Jean and Auguste Marie Lumiere created the first movies that told stories. In French, Lumiere means “light.”

Names such as Bolt, Court and Lumiere that are especially suited to the profession or a characteristic of their owners are called aptronyms. Believe it or not, Daniel Druff is a barber, C. Sharpe Minor a church organist and James Bugg an exterminator.

It is the famous aptronymic personages that I most enjoy identifying:

• football star Jim Kiick;

• baseball stars Early Wynn, Herb Score, Johnny Bench and Cecil and Prince Fielder;

• golf stars Gary Player and Tiger Woods (woods are golf clubs);

• long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad (a naiad is a water nymph);

• astronaut Sally Ride;

• presidential spokesperson Larry Speakes;

• romantic poet William Wordsworth;

• World Series of Poker champions Jamie Gold and Chris Moneymaker;

• American judge Learned Hand;

• manufacturer of toilets Thomas Crapper;

Speaking of the Olympics, you may have noticed how the announcers and athletes use the word podium as a verb, as in “Simone Biles will certainly podium in the floor exercise.” This reminds us that a podium is a block of wood upon which stand athletes, orchestra conductors and speakers.

But nowadays, we hear the likes of “Senator Mudslinger is walking up onto the podium. Now he steps onto the podium and lays his notes on the podium.”

What goes here? Can a podium be a stage, a small base and a slant-topped desk behind which speakers stand and on which they place their notes?

Apparently a podium can be all these things, but for discriminating writers and speakers, a lectern (from the Latin legere, “to read”) is the slant-topped desk, a podium (from the Greek podion, “foot”) the small base. The whole stage is a platform, dais or rostrum.

About a month ago, Pope Francis challenged hundreds of thousands of young people who gathered in a sprawling meadow in Poland to reject being a “couch potato” who retreats into video games and computer screens and instead engage in social activism and politics to create a more just world.

Couch potato compares lumpish watchers of television to lumpy potatoes: The longer couch potatoes sit, the deeper they put down their roots and the more they come to resemble potatoes. But there’s more than just a vegetable image here. Couch potato is a pun on the word tuber. A potato is the tuber of a plant, and boob tuber was an early term for someone watching television, which used to be called the boob tube.

The musical “October Sky” is playing at The Old Globe until Oct. 23. The beloved 1999 movie and the musical are based on Homer Hickam’s luminous memoir “Rocket Boys,” about a boy named Sonny Hickam growing up in the coal town of Coalwood, W.Va. Inspired by the launch of Sputnik in 1957, Sonny and his friends build and launch rockets. Curiously, “October Sky” is a perfect anagram of “Rocket Boys,” a rearrangement of every letter in the title of the memoir.

Ahoy originated as a word used to signal a ship or boat. Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, insisted on ahoy as the correct way of answering the telephone, but it was his rival inventor Thomas Edison who coined what became the universal word to answer the telephone – hello, itself an alteration of the earlier English holla!, “Stop! Pay attention!” Nowadays, only Montgomery Burns, “The Simpsons” animated superannuated scrooge, employs “Ahoy-hoy” to take a telephone call.