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Sometimes I hear this phrase at the end of the meeting, as in "anything else for the good of the order?".

The context implies that it means "Does anyone else have something to say?". But I wonder what the origin of the phrase is, and if there is any meaning beyond what I am inferring.

I would have just intuititvely guessed that the "order" was referring to a sort of masonic / Knights Templar sort of "order". But when researching this myself, I came across this link which suggests it derives from parliamentary procedure. I also found this, which suggests its a way of asking for off-topic "general conversation" topics to be raised.

Can anyone here speak more authoritatively on the origin and correct usage of this term?

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    We'd need more context, but my feeling is Order should probably be capitalised. Presumably the speaker is referring to some context-specific order (society of monks, nuns, knights, etc.) that stands to benefit from whatever might be discussed. – FumbleFingers Nov 2 '17 at 14:40
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    @FumbleFingers It sounds more likely to me that "Order" is being used ironically - e.g. at a meeting of the Dog and Duck's darts team. However, I agree that in any event it needs a capital O. – WS2 Nov 2 '17 at 15:38
  • Above gentlemen, why couldn't for the good the order be used (uncapitalized) in the way for the good of the team/club/organization is used in a discourse about a specific team/club/organization? – AmE speaker Nov 2 '17 at 16:39
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    @WS2: For the good of the order / club / team / company / country / etc.. It's all the same, and I really can't see why OP thinks "order" might somehow be fundamentally different to any alternatives. Obviously if we'd been told that OP sometimes hears this at the end of a darts club meeting, we'd lean strongly towards your "facetious" interpretation. But if we knew it was a meeting of, say, Freemasons, the more "literal" interpretation would be naturally understood. – FumbleFingers Nov 3 '17 at 16:37
  • ...also, I'm a bit iffy about the suggestion that for the good of the order is some kind of "set phrase" predicated on the idea that an organisation should specifically arrange the sequence of "items to be discussed" at board meetings so that all "self-referential" items concerned with matters internal to organisation itself are dealt with after those concerning "external" matters. It strikes me as something of a quaint Victorian thing, and searching for the phrase in Google Books I found only one such instance (dated 1874) in the first few dozen matches returned. – FumbleFingers Nov 3 '17 at 16:52
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The phrasing will be familiar to those who participate in deliberative bodies which follow any of the many editions of Robert's Rules of Order, a system for parliamentary procedure, so-called because it is descended from the rules of conducting debate that originated in parliamentary government.

Robert's Rules are by leaps and bounds the most popular authority for parliamentary procedure in the United States, to the point where most people have heard of them, yet even experienced chairs may be unfamiliar with competitors like the Sturgis Standard (used by some academic bodies) or Demeter's Manual (adopted by some fraternal and labor organizations). A criticism of Robert's Rules is its use of old-fashioned or legalistic terminology, such as making a motion to previous question as opposed to close debate, or to order the yeas and nays instead of call for a voice vote. In my opinion, a call for the good of the order would qualify as well.

In any case, parliamentary manuals will have a set of rules for the order of business in a meeting, typically starting with a call to order, attendance, approval of minutes from the previous meeting, reports, and regular business. Then, the 11th edition says, chair may optionally call for

Good of the Order, General Good and Welfare, or Open Forum. This heading, included by some types of societies in their order of business, refers to the general welfare of the organization, and may vary in character. Under this heading (in contrast to the general parliamentary rule that allows discussion only with reference to a pending motion), members who obtain the floor commonly are permitted to offer informal observations regarding the work of the organization, the public reputation of the society or its membership, or the like. Certain types of announcements may tend to fall here. Although the Good of the Order often involves no business or motions, the practice of some organizations would place motions or resolutions relating to formal disciplinary procedures for offenses outside a meeting (Section 63) at this point.…

It is described thusly in Webster's New World Robert's Rules of Order Simplified and Applied:

Some organizations take time right before adjournment for the "good of the order." This segment allows members to give suggestions for improvement or to give compliments concerning the work of the organization. Usually business is not brought up during this portion of the meeting. Any ideas for new business that come from this segment are brought up at another meeting. However, if something urgent is brought to the attention of the members, a member can present it as a main motion during this segment. Until someone moves to adjourn the meeting, members can bring forward business.

In other words, this is the section of the meeting where people can bring up news or topics of general interest that are not on the main agenda for discussion. You don't need a full agenda item to say thanks for giving me a ride home after last month's meeting. I have seen it on some boards as a period for open discussion offering praise or criticism of officers or projects, and in others as the time to plug pet projects or ask for personal favors.

The phrasing is not found in the earliest editions of Robert's Rules, and may have been adopted from Freemasonry, where it appears in some rituals and oaths but is also found in casual use to refer to praise someone's contributions to the society— good in the simple sense of something beneficial, and order thus referring originally to the Freemasons. The alternative good and welfare is also found in Masonic texts, but is also something of a fixed binomial expression found in legal and other non-Masonic contexts.

In the modern day, order can also be read to mean the order of the day, in the narrow sense the daily agenda or the broader sense of the proper disposition of things and the smooth functioning of the organization. You can also read it as order meaning organization, as that term can loosely be applied to any organized group or class without any connection to fraternal or religious groups. The more modern term might be open forum.

  • This Wikipedia entry deals with the whole subject of Parliamentary Procedure. Whilst UK practice is not embodied in a codified manual such as "Robert's Rules", the latter has clearly grown out of the same tradition. The word "order" is widely used, as in "Order of Ceremonies", "good order" (for the sake of...) etc. – WS2 Nov 2 '17 at 16:41
  • @WS2 That is good to know; I had a hard time finding online examples of this phrasing from British sources, but I will reword. – choster Nov 2 '17 at 17:09
  • Wow, thanks for this very thorough explanation. I learned something & I really appreciate it. – JosephStyons Nov 2 '17 at 19:25
  • @choster The leading authority on parliamentary procedure in Britain is Erskine May. Thomas Erskine May published his first treatise on the subject in 1844, and it continues to be updated today. It deals essentially with the rules of the Parliament at Westminster. However those rules are undoubtedly influential throughout organs in society, governmental and other, in the same way that Robert's are. – WS2 Nov 2 '17 at 19:34
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Contemporary use of the question "anything else for the good of the order?", as a set request for additional discussion prefacing the end of formal or semiformal meetings, grew out of early literal uses of what became a set phrase, "for the good of the Order".

In the 1600 – 1700s, for example, uses of the phrase "for the good of the Order" referred to the good of religious and military orders, such as the Order of St. Francis, or the Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem (also known as the Order of Saint John, the Order of Hospitallers, Knights Hospitaller, Knights Hospitalier, the Hospitallers, or later the Knights of Malta, etc.).

Three uses in the 1618 The Chronicle and Institution of the Order of the Seraphicall Father S. Francis refer to various benefits for his "Religious" (the monks in the Order of St. Francis).

(1) The necessity of choosing a Cardinal of the Catholic church for the benefit of his Order:

Such was the intention of S. Francis, to subject his Religious unto the Catholike church, ordayning that they should alwayes choose a Cardinall of it for their protectour, as a thing that he knew to be necessary for the good of the Order.

op. cit.

(2) What God dictated to him [S. Francis] for the benefit of his Order on the subject of possessing only one habit with cord and linen breeches:

The holie Father answered him: Know brother, that such was my first intention and shalbe my last, if all the Religious would beleeve me, that none of them possesse any other thinge then one habitt, with the cord and linnen breeches, as the rule permitteth. Therefore to them that afterward affirmed that the holie Father S. Francis caused not the same to be observed in his time, his companions answered that among many wordes which the S. used to his Religous, and caused to be written according as fro[m] day to day God did dictate unto him in his prayers and revelations for the good of the Order, he divers times said, that he supported many thinges by reason of the scandall which might happe[n] betweene his Religious & himselfe in the beginning of the Order....

op. cit.

(3) The mistake of the Pope in appointing Brother Helias to be Religious Generall over the Order:

Brother Helias then answeared S. Anthony, that he had lyed: whereatt the Pope who was well enformed of the truth of his life, did much admire, and would no further testimony against him, then this his proud answeare, which made cleare the rest: and therfore having comanded silence to all, with teares in his eyes, he uttered these wordes; whe[n] I resolved to make this Religious Generall, I thought it would have bin for the good of the Order: but alas I experience the contrarie, and see that he is a disturber and ruinour therof.

op. cit.

Referring to the Hospitallers, a use in The Life of the Renowned Peter D'Aubusson, Grand Master of Rhodes appears in 1689:

The Grand Master observing this Grecian fickleness, told them in friendly manner that the Resolutions he had taken, were refolv'd upon upon mature deliberation; which consultations were to be kept secret that they might not come to the Enemies knowledge, and that it was more for their safety then for the good of the Order, that they made any conditions at all.

Although a bit difficult to unravel, however, the precedent for formulaic use of the phrase was set much earlier, in 1256, as shown by extracts from the following formal document reproduced in 1723 in The History of the Antient Abbeys, Monasteries, Hospitals, Cathedral and Collegiate Churches:

Those Friers aspiring to Learning, much Industry was us'd to procure them a Dwelling at Oxford. At length, at the Request of Henry Hanne, Provincial of the Order, they obtain'd an Habitation in Sockwell-street, in the Suburbs of Oxford, Anno 1254...I will subjoin a certain Instrument, by which, besides other Particulars worth knowing, it will appear who gave that Habitation to the Carmelite Friers.

To all the Faithful of CHRIST, to whom these Presents shall come,...I do fully empower our beloved Brother John Raph, Priest, the Bearer hereof, in our stead, to Receive and Inhabit that Place, according to wholsom Obedience; and to compound and transact with all those who shall claim any Right within or without the same, or to dispose of the same Place, as shall appear expedient, according tot he Lord, as well in Spirituals, as Temporals, without any Exception; obliging myself to ratify, and agree to whatsoever, and in the Presence of whomsoever he shall do, in Relation to that Place in Form, and for the Good of the Order in the Premisses; and I, moreover, devoutly intreat your Venerable University, that you will endeavour...to assist the aforesaid Brother John, and his Companion, whomsoever he shall make his Associate about the said Affairs, in their going and returning, resting and labouring; and that you will extend to those same Poor in CHRIST, begging for his Sake, and with him, and Possessing nothing at all of their own.... Given at Cambridge, in the Year of Grace 1256, the 12th of the Kalends of September.

In The History of the Antient Abbeys, as well as in the second example from the history of the Order of St. Francis, coded language refers 'for the good of the Order' to communal ownership and control ("none of them possesse any other thinge then one habitt, with the cord and linnen breeches" and "Possessing nothing at all of their own").

It is the emphasis on the lack of personal interest in any further proceedings that may arise after the formulaic query that underlies formalized contemporary use of the phrase at the end of meetings. Unsurprisingly, in contemporary use, it is this sense of the phrase that is ordinarily lost or forgotten.

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