I recently learned of the untimely passing of Cherie Woodworth, a historian who was an internet friend and occasional LH commenter. She first wrote me in July 2008 about Tolstoy’s use of French and Russian in War and Peace, and we were soon in regular correspondence; I believe her first LH comments were the typically learned and helpful ones in this thread. She was a big fan of LH (I was chuffed when she wrote me “I used your observations on Tolstoy’s French just yesterday in class”); more importantly, she was a fine scholar and delightful person. The last exchange we had was about a paper she was writing on the historical difference between “timber” and “wood” (the former was the material you got from the trunks of large trees and was used for large building projects, while “wood” used to refer to branches and poles, material too small to be used as beams or sawed into planks, but because the North American colonists did not follow the wood husbandry practices of England, American English lost the distinction); she sent me a passage from her presentation on the topic that I will quote here as a sample of her way with facts and words, stamped with her personal touch:
Woodworth is not my name; it is one that I acquired, and it was inherited from generations back, from Hezekiah Woodworth, Elisha, Ezekiel, and Abigail Woodworth of 17th c. Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. The name is a corruption (or variant spelling) of “woodward”—the guardian of the wood.
There were “Woodwards” who preserved the name—not the profession—here in New Haven colony. Woodward Ave. is named after that family.
But the name could be mistaken because, in colonial southern New England, the term “woodward” no longer had an active meaning. The American colonists were already using the forest differently—not “warding” it, protecting it and cultivating it, as a limited, but renewable, resource.
I’m sorry I never got a chance to meet her. There’s a moving reminiscence of her here; for more in memoriam links, see her Facebook page. My sincerest condolences go to her family and to everyone who knew and loved her.