Let’s Table That

What does it mean when you table a motion at a meeting?

It depends on where you live.

For those in the non-US parts of the English-speaking world, to table means to submit something formally for discussion or consideration.

The expression comes from act of laying your submission on the table of a legislative assembly or other decision-making body (like a board of directors). This usage goes back at least as far as the 1650s.

The Glossary of Parliamentary Procedure use table as a noun and verb in these senses: https://www.ourcommons.ca/About/Glossary/Index-e.html#LetterT

In the USA, however, tabling has, since the mid 1800s, meant postponing or even shelving a matter indefinitely.

Winston Churchill noted the difference in World War II: British officials wanted to table (i.e. raise) something as a matter of urgency; their American counterparts thought they meant ‘putting it away in a drawer and forgetting about it’ (The Second World War (1950)).

In Canada, we see both; but the non-US usage makes more sense when you think of the actual table of the deliberative body.

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)

Start the discussion!

Leave a Reply

(Your email address will not be published or distributed)