Convener/Convening

Some may be surprised to learn that these are venerable words with an ancient pedigree. The Oxford English Dictionary traces CONVENER to at least the 16th century, and the noun CONVENING to the 18th. But you’d never know it from the howls of derision the two words summon from fed-up nonprofit and foundation officials.

And in fact, the deriders are right: Although these words are correct English, they are pretentious and antiquated. (Indeed, not one usage from the OED is more recent than the mid-19th century, and nearly all are older.) In modern-day use, the word is nothing more than a posh disguise for ordinary meetings, conventions, and conferences. The self-styled CONVENER is simply whatever outfit hosts the meetings.

There is, in fact, something slightly pathetic about the bloated self-importance of the CONVENE clan. To insist on referring to the drudgery of meetings and conferences as if they were a summons to Buckingham Palace suggests a life starved for excitement. Said one foundation officer: “Whenever I’m invited to a ‘convening,’ I make it a point to decline. If they’re calling it that, they must be desperate for participation, and that means it’s the last place I’ll want to be.” The whole matter could not be put more succinctly.

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