Learning A New Word

By James H. Burns: Is it possible for a new turn of phrase to enter fandom, or pop culturish affiliated events, without realizing it?

Sunday, when visiting MOCCA Fest, the annual two-day festival sponsored by Manhattan’s Society of Illustrators to celebrate all that’s new and alternative in comics art, I heard a word new to me.

When talking to a couple of twenty-something writers and artists gathered amongst three floors of exhibitors and displays (including a few major publishers), I heard the process of buying space at a gathering refered to as:


I was astonished.

In my day, which I thought was still this day, we called getting a table, “getting a table.” Or, “I’ll be doing that convention.” And, sometimes, “I’ve bought some space;” or even, “I’ll be at that show.”

But “Tabling?”

I thought this was an entirely fresh coinage. But when I Googled, I was surprised to learn that the expression has been around for at least a few years.

As someone who has been friends with some of the “legendary” dealers of the American scene, going back decades, I am compelled to ask:

When oh when, did this happen?

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14 thoughts on “Learning A New Word

  1. Probably around the same time newer authors started talking about “paneling” at conventions. Some neologisms are good. Some are just kind of ugly and feel to me like they’re putting a too-commercial aspect on participating in conventions.

  2. In the convention world that I am involved in, we refer to it as having a table, as in “at “X” convention we will have a table”, meaning a presence. To me “tabling” means to put aside, as in let’s table this discussion. Not that I’m saying let’s table THIS discussion.

  3. I second Robert Reynolds’ motion.

    I am an enthusiatic neologician, but in this case no me gusta.

  4. Hmm… Back in the day, the only paneling we spoke of were some of the lesser accoutrements, at the Statler Hilton…


  5. I have been a fan of Japanese animation since the 1970s, and I have watched as several words of both the regular Japanese language and Japanese fanspeak have entered regular American English over the decades. Most Americans today know kawaii and chibi as well as they know French and German like hors-d’oeuvres and kindergarten. Before anime fandom came to America, both the general public and fans talked about masquerading or costuming. Today, the Japanese fannish word cosplay has almost entirely replaced it.

  6. Fred, if you think “most” Americans know “kawaii” and “chibi”, I think your sample may be skewed. I’d be surprised if you stopped 10 people at random on major city streets in the US and as many as 5 knew both of those words. As an SF fan with some Japanese language skills, but almost no interest in modern Japanese pop culture, I know the word “kawaii”, but I have no idea what “chibi” means.
    And while “tabling” may be in current usage in comic art convention, I don’t think it’s entered my fandom yet.

  7. I have to agree with Morris.

    I was a first generation “anime” fan, watching the original imports, as a tot, on New York TV, in the mid ’60s.

    A little over a decade later, I was writing some of the first histories of fantasy TV animation, in the mass distributed, newsstand press.

    And I like to think many of my palettes (ahem), are generally sort of informed.

    But this is also new to me.

    I did, however, once see a Sonny Chibi movie on the island of Kawaii.

  8. Misusing a noun to make a new verb (“verbing”, which technically creates a gerund) is a practice going back many, many years — Mr. Nero Wolfe, particular about his English, would not allow the word “contact” to be used as a verb in his house under any circumstances.

    I had heard of “tabling” as a verb before, but only as something which happened according to Robert’s Rules of Order.

  9. I believe “tabling” came out of the comics crowd, as many comic artists and writers frequently “table” to earn a living. It’s funny, at something like Emerald City Comic-Con I’d expect to hear the term a lot but I wouldn’t expect to hear it at Worlcon.

  10. This all reminds me, Sherman:

    You do know where the Greek poet liked to take his meals?

    Why, Aesop’s tables, of course…

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