Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wednesday Words ~ lumber

I'm on a neighborhood email listserv.  Neighbors watch out for each other's pets that get loose, ask for recommendations for appliance repairs, and offer each other various items the sender no longer needs.  Emails go out to everyone who signs up.  A recent email had a subject line that perplexed me.
"Lumber available, still needs to be split."
After reading the contents, I went back and confirmed my definition of the word "lumber" by going to an online dictionary.  Yes, "lumber" is timber that has been sawed or split into planks or boards.  (Timber would be the trees themselves.)  So the wood is not LUMBER until after being sawed or split.  Saying "still needs to be split" means there's no LUMBER yet.  Here's the content of that email:
"I have a large sugar maple that has been cut into firewood length logs.  The logs are various sizes and still need to be split.  The larger logs will take 2-3 people to lift and a truck.  Help yourself."
Now he's changed the word to "logs," which would be correct.  "Lumber" is for building construction, and people "split logs" for their fireplaces.  Maybe I'm an old fuddy-duddy because I expect people to use words correctly.  But how can we really communicate if we don't know what we're talking about?

My mother's father was a sawyer, a person whose occupation is sawing wood.  In the late 1920s, his job was to find stands of wood for his company, which then set up a saw mill to make the lumber.  When they exhausted that place, they moved on to the next stand of wood, taking their saw mill with them.

1 comment:

Emily said...

I agree with you on using the correct word. I like clarifications in conversations too.