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In keeping with the Mooner theme this week, I wanted to share some of my vocabulary that I used for the story. Part of what I love about the logging era of history is the language. It’s so rough and crass and gloriously beautiful. There’s a real musicality about it. It didn’t make writing Mooner easy, but I can’t imagine the story without it.
Now I frequented a lot of historical sites and a lot of language sites, but my very favorite lumberjack dictionary is here This one is also fun. But for the sake of the story, here is a list of most of the terms and their definitions.
mackinaw – heavy coat that could keep out the weather, usually brightly colored
shanty man – one of the terms for loggers/lumberjacks
girl house – brothel
turkey – the grain sack that many kept their personal effects in
firewater – alcohol
swamper – brush cutter
pants rabbits – lice and other body critters
pat on the lip – punch in the face
hit the pike – quiting the job
blanket fever – the habit of staying in bed when the other lumberjacks are up; a lazy lumberjack
floater – itinterant worker, also a hobo
blanket hoist – a game and punishment, also an initiation for newcomers. A lumberjack would be put in a blanket while the others grabbed the sides and hoisted him into the air a few times
mooner – a mythical creature in a logging woods
limbing out – cutting the limbs from a tree
dunghister – a farmer; to call a true lumberjack a farmer was fighting words
get his teeth fixed – go to a prostitute
sluiced – killed
caulks – boots used by loggers, spiked on the bottom to keep lumberjacks from slipping off logs when they rode them down river (also to drive moss between logs or spikes on horseshoes)
smallpox – the resulting marks/wound when a lumberjack would kick someone with his caulks on
catcher’s ax – narrow ax with five-foot handle, used to cut side marks in logs before they were floated down river
yaps – crazy
fever n’ ague – fever and ache, term used for various ailments
dozy – moldy
knock his ears down – to thrash someone
wolf tree – large old tree with no value as timber but can house wildlife
rot gut – cheap whiskey
sent down the road – fired
river rat – lumberjack who worked on a log drive
skid road – road made from half-buried logs used to ease the dragging of logs
6 thoughts on “The language of lumber”
Selah Jane, I couldn’t click through from this spot to any of your book vendors. Check up on this won’t you?
hrm…I clicked on them all and they all worked…but if it’s still giving you problems, here are the actual links without me trying to be fancy. I have noticed on NBP that sometimes it goes to the pre-sale post, but if you go to the store front on their main page you should be able to order it through there. Everything else took me directly to the buy page on the others.
Great list of words, Got to love some Rot Gut, you know in this hard times.
oh totally. Rot gut makes everything better!
Ah, I had wondered what the ‘Mooner’ as your title actually meant. Well, now I know it’s not somebody who drops their pants at passing cars! lol
And ‘pants rabbits’ is hilarious! Such colourful language – it’ll make reading your book so much fun 🙂
I have to admit that when I found the term ‘pants rabbits’ I went out of my way to work that into the dialogue. That was WAY too good to pass up!
And I’m surprised that I haven’t gotten more jokes about the title (and slightly disappointed lol)