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Mind the table

In American British journalistic prose, to “table” a bill, amendment or other measure is to offer or propose it. But in British American usage, to “table” a measure means to suspend consideration (i.e. to “shelve” it). In other words, “table” has more or less opposite meanings in the UK and America. Many an editorial ship has crashed on this particular shoal. Beware, and make sure that when you see this word, you know whether your source is British or American.


  1. Avatar for Tim Curran stephelinda : June 12, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    no, that’s exactly backward — in Br. English, and throughout the English-speaking world outside the United States, to “table” is to offer or propose a bill, amendment or other measure. In the U.S. only, to “table” is to suspend consideration.
    This is further complicated in the revised Roberts Rules of Order (in the U.S. obviously) by controversy surrounding the term “table.” It tends to be misused in various ways having to do with majority vote, or 2/3 majority, and whether the “tabled” item is temporarily postponed to be reconsidered later or “shelved” rather indefinitely.

  2. D’oh. Thanks, stephelinda.

  3. […] already mentioned a few cases where I had to learn about other systems of government, or phraseology, or currency. Another translation issue that frequently crops up writing ledes is ‘to proper […]

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