The language of lumber

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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 manone of the terms for loggers/lumberjacks

girl housebrothel

turkeythe grain sack that many kept their personal effects in


swamper – brush cutter

pants rabbitslice and other body critters

pat on the lippunch in the face

hit the pike quiting the job

blanket feverthe habit of staying in bed when the other lumberjacks are up; a lazy lumberjack

floater itinterant worker, also a hobo

blanket hoista 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

moonera mythical creature in a logging woods

limbing outcutting the limbs from a tree

dunghistera farmer; to call a true lumberjack a farmer was fighting words

get his teeth fixed – go to  a prostitute


caulksboots 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)

smallpoxthe resulting marks/wound when a lumberjack would kick someone with his caulks on

catcher’s axnarrow ax with five-foot handle, used to cut side marks in logs before they were floated down river

yaps –  crazy

fever n’ aguefever and ache, term used for various ailments


knock his ears downto thrash someone

wolf treelarge old tree with no value as timber but can house wildlife

rot gutcheap whiskey

sent down the roadfired

river ratlumberjack who worked on a log drive

skid roadroad made from half-buried logs used to ease the dragging of logs

6 thoughts on “The language of lumber

  1. Selah Jane, I couldn’t click through from this spot to any of your book vendors. Check up on this won’t you?

    1. 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.

  2. 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 🙂

    1. 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)

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