You've probably heard the term alderman, but what does it mean and what exactly do they do? Soon, it won't matter because a bill on Beacon Hill is going to wipe the term alderman off the books for good.

Pass along the word, Boards of Aldermen are on the verge of extinction in Massachusetts, and it's about time. Officials from Melrose, the last remaining city with a Board of Aldermen, asked Beacon Hill to sign off on a charter change, renaming the body as the Melrose City Council.

An alderman is a city councilor, but there's a general unfamiliarity with the term. Plus, can you imagine referring to the New Bedford female city councilors as an alderman? That's definitely off-center. The title is derived from the Old English word ealdorman, literally meaning "elder man."

Somerville's Board of Aldermen became a city council recently, and a few years ago Newton, Everette, Chicopee, Chelsea, and Holyoke swapped over. It's odd, but the Woburn City Councilors are still called aldermen for some reason. In Dartmouth, they used to be called a Board of Selectmen, but they changed over to select board, as did Stoneham, North Reading and Needham.

In language, words evolve and transform. Some call it an adjustment. In this case, I call it progress.

Phil Paleologos is the host The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.


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