Conference or Syndication?

One of my colleagues was mystified to read yesterday that in Britain we do not call conference rooms conference rooms, but syndicate rooms.

Of course we do. As if the only thing you would do in a large, plush meeting room would be to confer. No. That large plush meeting room is the room where the syndics conduct their hushed and multifarious business.

The Syndics of the Drapers' Guild – Rembrandt van Rijn

The Syndics of the Drapers’ Guild – Rembrandt van Rijn

Because in Cambridge, if nowhere else, we have syndics. Dependent institutions of the University (as opposed to the colleges) are often run by appointed syndicates, whose individual members are naturally enough called syndics  – thus we have the Syndics of the Fitzwilliam Museum, or the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press.

A Syndic is a delegate, one who is delegated to administer something or other. It is cognate in various Latin languages (especially Occitan and Catalonian) with mayor or trade union (in the USA, of course, the Unions are called the Syndicates), and in Andorra, that odd relic in the Pyrenees, the  head of the parliamentary body is called the Sindic General, and his deputy the Subsindic.

Sad to say, I do not think the university appoints subsindics, but there are so-called Syndicate Rooms dotted around (in Clare College, for instance, and in the Old Schools). There is also a new crowdfunding organisation based at ideaSpace in Cambridge, called Syndicate Room.

So there we go. I think we have happily forgotten that it is possible to hold a meeting somewhere so inappropriately named as a conference room. Having said which, I am tickled by the thought of an unconference room…

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