Grammar 101: Winning Medals Made of Metal

It’s an error that I have been seeing more and more often in the last couple of weeks, thanks largely to the start of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Yup, the Opening Ceremonies are tonight, kicking off two full weeks of intense competition.

When an athlete wins his event, earning the right to ascend that podium, does he win himself a medal or a metal? For some, the answer seems obvious enough, but you’d be surprised how many people get it wrong.

A medal is awarded to the winning athlete and it is made of metal. Over the course of the next two weeks, you’ll be hearing a lot of people talking about the medal counts of various countries and whether Canada will finally win its first Olympic gold medal on home soil. Even though we refer to the top three places as gold, silver, and bronze, the actual piece of hardware given to the winning athletes are called medals and not metals.

I can understand why some people may have trouble with this distinction, given the relationship between the two words and the fact that they can sound quite similar. Just as you need to differentiate between complement and compliment, you’ll want to know the difference between medal and metal.

On that note, I’m thinking that the 2010 Olympic Games will be the most successful Winter Olympics for Canada of all time. As the host country, we’re guaranteed as least one entry in every event and we’ve got some seriously good shots in several of those events. Patrick Chan is a great figure skater and both Canadian hockey teams are as formidable as ever.

Eh! O’ Canada Go!