Trend Watch

Wasserman Schultz Will Not Gavel In Convention

Yes, 'gavel' can be used as a verb

The Democratic National Convention was to be convened by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, as is customary, but in the wake of leaked emails showing DNC bias against Bernie Sanders, she announced that she would not gavel in the convention—leading to a spike in lookups from people who may have been confused to see gavel used as a verb.

Wasserman Schultz was originally supposed to gavel in the convention when it began and close the Democratic convention officially this week, but it became clear that her presence revealed divisiveness in the party when she was booed and jeered throughout a brief address to her home state delegation of Florida at a breakfast Monday morning., “Wasserman Schultz will not gavel in Democratic Convention,” 25 July 2016

The convention will instead be opened by Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the mayor of Baltimore. A headline on the Baltimore Sun blog read, “Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will gavel in Democratic National Convention.”

Gavel began as a noun meaning “a mallet used (as by a presiding officer or auctioneer) for commanding attention or confirming an action (as a vote or sale).” The exact origin of the term is unknown, but its use dates back to 1835. When used as a verb, gavel in means “to call a meeting to order.”

There are a number of older senses of gavel used as a verb, including “to rake or collect grain or hay in sheafs,” and “to subject to or distribute according to the custom of gavelkind.” The sense employed here, referring to the action of calling a meeting to order through use of the gavel, appears to be North American in origin, with our earliest citation dating from 1884.

At 12:20 the convention was gaveled to order by Hon. O. M. Barnes, Chairman of the State Central Committee.
The Detroit Free Press, 19 June 1884

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