Ray Hudson
Ray Hudson
Ray Hudson

This week I thought it would be useful to tie “You Don’t Say” to the news of the day, specifically all about logging and lumbering. Even into the 1970’s and 1980’s “the woods” was one of the major economic engines of BC, along with Fishing and Mining, and to everyone the names MacMillan Bloedell, Crown Zellerbach and Weyerhauser were, in stature, the Microsofts, Googles and Amazons of today.

Many of the thriving cities of the province were the saw and pulp mill towns of Vancouver Island (Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Campbell River) the Coast (Prince Rupert, Powell River, Port Mellon, Vancouver) and the Interior (Prince George, Quesnel, Kamloops, Castlegar) but times have changed and although forestry is still a significant industry, it’s a shadow of what it was.

What also remains is the influence it had on our language, starting with some common idioms.

Easy as rolling off a log: Falling off a log was exceptionally easy, especially if you were riding it down a river like a kayak. That’s about as easy as it gets – uncomfortable but easy!

Sleeping like a log: means you were like dead wood. But I think the reference means that you just lie in bed and don’t move. Don’t spend too much time at it, you’ll either grow moss or wake up and find someone trying to count your growth rings.
Sawing logs a not so kindly reference to how your snoring is perceived by the people around you, maybe even your next door neighbours. You might be sleeping like a log, but to everyone else, you’re more like a logger with a chain saw.

Bump on a log: still with logs, the phrase may be complimentary, you’re as quiet as a bump on a log (of course they’re quiet – bumps don’t have vocal cords), but it may also be a reference to your inactivity while everyone else is doing all the work.

Babe in the woods is a reference to being a very inexperienced, naïve tenderfoot. Now if they were referring to Hugh Hefner’s annual playmate camping trip … hey, this is a family show!

Same neck of the woods: generally applies to someone from the same general region as you, but what’s with this “neck” thing?

Can’t see the forest for the trees is an appropriate comment when a person is too close to what they’re doing to have any perspective. I’ve even been too far into the trees to see the forest, and if it wasn’t for the bread crumb trail I left as I went, I’d have never found my way back. You might even say I could have been stumped (trapped)! Possibly a reference to logging practices of old growth logging where the trees were so huge they had to climb up eight to ten feet before they could even begin to cut them down.

If not up a stump, you may find yourself out on a limb, a perilous or precarious situation particularly if that vicious squirrel, raccoon or mountain lion won’t let you back to the trunk.

Finally, how many times did your parents remind you that money doesn’t grow on trees, meaning you can’t zip out to the dollar bush and grab a hand-full of currency. True, unless you work in the forest industry, then the money at least grows out of the trees. Sort of the same thing.

Now, part two: Talk like a lumberjack!

A “Faller” is the guy who cuts the trees down, not stumbles over them.
A “crummy” is the appropriate term for the beat up old truck or bus that took the loggers to and from the logging show (the site where logging gets done).

Cat skinner as in Caterpillar or bulldozer driver. No felines were ever abused in the woods.
Bull of the woods – logging boss or camp foreman. The title alone is intimidating – no bull!

And finally the Butt Cut –  not the result of sitting on a chainsaw – it’s the first and largest diameter cut, directly above the stump

Remember, in the woods, if you can’t cut it …. maybe your whip saw or chain needs sharpening. File that for future reference!