Chuntering from a sedentary position

John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, likes to pick up on members who ‘chunter from a sedentary position’ – a slightly politer, and perhaps archaic, way of saying ‘shut up and stop muttering’.

Here are some examples from the past few years. You can listen to the audio here:

External link to audio

Example 1

or- order
we cannot have people chuntering from a sedentary position
particularly when they have already spoken
we have heard the honourable lady
we know what she wanted to say
and we are most grateful to her for that
we don’t need sedentary chuntering
it is not helpful and it is unseemly
stop it 

Example 2

the honourable gentleman’s sedentary chuntering 
would constitute a book in itself
and it might sell rather well
topical questions
Emma Reynolds 

Example 3

the honourable gentleman the member for Gainsborough
is chuntering from a sedentary position to no obvious benefit or purpose
for the simple reason
that I have not the foggiest idea from this distance
what he’s chuntering about 

Example 4

well actually there are people on both sides
chuntering from a sedentary position
certainly not something I ever remember doing myself
when I was on the back benches

Example 5

the honourable gentleman the member for Huddersfield
is an extremely senior and cerebral member of the house
keeps chuntering from a sedentary position
about buried money
just in case colleagues hadn’t heard what he was chuntering about
but anyway
it would be good if he ceased chuntering

House of Commons


The word ‘chunter’, meaning to ‘mumble, find fault’, has found favour with the Speaker, John Bercow, when he reprimands a member of the chamber.

SP: auditioning to be a statesman doesn’t
    include chuntering from a sedentary position man

The word first appeared in the House of Commons in 1950 but has become more frequent in recent years as shown by a search of the Hansard Corpus:



Sedentary: Seated or relaxed. So the phrase ‘chuntering from a sedentary position’ means an MP in the House of Commons is shouting, or heckling, or mumbling something when they do not have the floor of the House. The floor of the House can only be given by The Speaker and only one person can have the floor at any one time. If The Speaker thinks someone is making too much noise when they do not have the floor, he may reprimand them with this expression. Basically, it is a polite way of saying ‘shut up’!

Listen to some examples of John Bercow in the House of Commons reprimanding members here with the expression ‘chuntering from a sedentary position’.



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