HORSEFEATHERS.

I have long known, and enjoyed, the classic American slang term horsefeathers (meaning ‘nonsense,’ a euphemism for horseshit), but Gene Wolfe (see this post) has taught me another meaning, unrecorded in any of my dictionaries (including Webster’s Third New International and the Historical Dictionary of American Slang). He writes about farmhouses “with walls of logs, covered now by clapboards or horsefeathers,” and Google Books turned up plenty of hits that elucidated the sense: “Beveled wood strips called ‘horsefeathers’ are used to level up the surface” (Ernest H. Cirou, Practical Carpentry, Goodheart-Willcox, 1953, p. 148); “Feathering strips, called horsefeathers, can be used to level cedar-shingle roof” (Popular Mechanics, April 1978, p. 160); “Beveled wood strips, commonly called ‘horsefeathers,’ are obtainable — and these can be applied to even up the wall surfaces” (American Lumberman & Building Products Merchandiser, 1957, p. 302). I pass on the fruits of my research as a public service; I hope the OED will get around to covering it so we can find out how far back it goes. (They do have the sense ‘nonsense, rubbish, balderdash,’ first citation from 1928: Amer. Speech 4 98 “Mr. William De Beck, the comic-strip comedian..assumes credit for the first actual use of the word horsefeathers.”)

Comments

  1. Oliver Rackham, the distinguished botanical historian, says that Americans don’t make the distinction between “wood” and “timber” that’s made in Britain. Izzatso?

  2. dearieme, i don’;t what distinction is made in the UK, but in the US “wood” is the very general term for the material, so general that it can refer to an area with trees – “a wood” – but here in the West that really only applies to broad-leafed trees, and it usually refers only to woods in other parts of the world – Britain, east of the rockies, etc. Broad-leafed trees can’t really be considered “forest” here, since they are so much smaller that the trees that make up actual forests, such as redwoods, douglas fir or yellow pine. It’s a rare oak that egts much over 100, 120 feet.
    “Timber” on the other hand I have only heard used to refer to standing trees as in “There’s a lot of timber in those mountains”. I have never heard it used to refer to [sawn] lumber, or logs or anything but standing trees.

  3. A timber can also be a big piece of wood used in the construction of a building or a ship.

  4. marie-lucie says:

    Jim, in Western Canada “wood” is the material, and you rarely see “a wood” since the vast majority of treed land belongs to large logging companies or is leased by them from “Crown land” which is publicly owned land. People who say “woods” or “forests” tend to be city dwellers who see them from a distance; people who spend a lot of time among trees, in order to cut them or to hunt, use “the bush”. As for “timber”, if I heard “there’s a lot of timber there” I would think that the speaker was interested in the potential log harvest of a given area of standing trees or rather “standing timber”.

  5. No, dearie’s quite right.
    In Britain an architect will (& did) say to me, of a brand-new plywood reception desk, “It’s made out of timber”, which to US ears is weird and rustic sounding. They’d say “It’s made of wood”. Even weirder, to my English-speaking ears, the Norwegian who then used the literally-translated expression (calque?) “It’s made of tree” (from den er laget av tre), tree & wood being the same word.

  6. tree & wood being the same word
    - Can’t see the wood for the trees.

  7. Jeffry House says:

    It would be interesting to know the life history for the other Norwegian word for wood, “ved” which is surely the same origin as “wood”.
    When I lived in Norway (1961) (!) it was mostly used for firewood.

  8. Horsefeathers sound to me like what would more often be called shims, which led me to this interesting Wikipedia page called Shim (fencing) – I thought it meant timber fencing.

  9. Ved – When I lived in Norway (1961) (!) it was mostly used for firewood.
    Yes, still is. I’ll see if I can find out more, but we really need Trond.

  10. Oh, I guess horsefeathers are much longer than shims. A lovely expression, anyway.

  11. In America timber has two meanings. As a non-count noun it means standing trees (“standing timber”), or cut-down trees that have been only minimally processed (“a shipload of timber”). As a countable noun it means large pieces of wood used in construction, usually still minimally processed, just squared off maybe (“three large timbers supported the roof”).
    When timber goes to the sawmill it comes out as lumber or just wood. If I were building a shed I would buy lumber, if I were making a flute I would buy a piece of wood.
    In Ireland they talk about a timber flute, but in America it would be a wooden flute (except for that one festival in West Virginia).
    What is the distinction between “wood” and “timber” that’s made in Britain? Can anyone explain?

  12. Also lumber only exists as a raw building material. If I bought lumber to build a shed, when I was done I would have a wooden shed and no lumber. Also lumber doesn’t burn unless a lumberyard catches fire. If it goes in the fireplace, it’s wood.

  13. What is the distinction between “wood” and “timber” that’s made in Britain? Can anyone explain?
    According to Rackham, historically “wood” is the small bits got by coppicing, pollarding, thinning hedges, or taking small branches off felled timber trees. “Timber” refers to the trunk and major branches of substantial trees grown without being coppiced or pollarded: yer mighty oak or that sort of thing. So wood was used as fuel, and for making tools, fences and such: timber was used in major construction (including boats and ships).
    Separately, “a wood” refers to a delineated patch of woodland (what Americans might call a “woodlot”?).
    He’s a wonderful writer, Rackham, but I’m reluctant to consider him inerrant.

  14. What is the distinction between “wood” and “timber” that’s made in Britain? Can anyone explain?
    Standing trees: a wood, a forest, a plantation (for monoculture trees), or lots of other words for small groups of trees like hanger, copse, etc. A wood can be natural or planted. Forest is generally bigger. But there’s a lot of overlap: Winnie the Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood is also known as Ashdown Forest. Also, a forest needn’t have any trees in it; it can also mean a large area of open ground. Deer forests in the Highlands, for example, are generally open moorland.
    Standing trees are never timber except in a very technical/commercial context.
    Felled trees: wood is the generic term; timber for big bits. You wouldn’t say that a desk or a chair was made of timber. Timber implies huge beams or trunks.

  15. I would also say that once it has been made into something it stops being timber. You wouldn’t talk about a timber bridge or a timber ship in BrE. They’re wooden. A timber bridge would be the bridge over which timber is brought.

  16. Historically a forest was a hunting preserve, and it was a matter of accident whether it had trees on it or not.

  17. Quite right, JC. In some of his writing Rackham uses “Forest” for the technical sense – i.e. places where there used to be rules reserving hunting (usually of deer) e.g. the New Forest, Sherwood Forest, Selkirk Forest – and “forest” for the slack sense. (Slack in Britain, that is, not in the US.) But since large modern conifer plantations have proper names such as Forest of Ae, or Kielder Forest, I don’t think his trick really works. The triumph of the slack, eh?
    P.S. I think WKPD is wrong when it says “The word was introduced by the Norman rulers of England as a legal term … denoting an uncultivated area legally set aside for hunting by feudal nobility … .” There was no need that the area be uncultivated: it was routine for it to contain farmland – it’s just that the landlord and peasants were told that they mustn’t hunt deer (or hare, or what have you), those animals being reserved to the king, the Abbott or whomsoever. (It would of course be picky to observe that neither King nor Abbott was “feudal nobility”.)

  18. mollymooly says:

    My definitions of “timber” match those of the Cambridge Advanced Learners’ Dictionary. I would not use “lumber” for wood, except in “lumberjack”. A lumber room is not a woodshed.
    I’ve never heard of a timber flute, though maybe I’ve heard a timber flute. My musical sensibility is rudimentary.

  19. Maidhc, that count noun distinction works for me too. i missed that one.
    M-L, that’s interesting. Of course in Western Canada the West Coast interpretation still holds too. Coniferous forests.
    ” Even weirder, to my English-speaking ears, the Norwegian who then used the literally-translated expression (calque?) “It’s made of tree” (from den er laget av tre), tree & wood being the same word.”
    AJP, I don’t know if this is true for Norwegian, but Swedish has a word ‘ved’. It means only firewood.
    Forests in America can also be treeless, as in Britain, sometimes laughably so:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toiyabe_National_Forest
    The Toiyabe national Forest is mostly high desert – sagebrush and not much else.
    Speaking of forests, Swedish uses the word ‘skog’. I think the English word ‘shaw’ is related, but obsolescent and unused except as a fossil in a surname – just like ‘weald’ or ‘-wold’. Swedish does not have anything related to ‘Holz’ or ‘holt’ that know of.
    And that brings it full circle. ‘Holz’ means both the terrain feature and the substance, while ‘holt’ doesn’t.

  20. Hugh Rawson says:

    Use of “horsefeathers” by builders is reported by Charles Earle Funk in “Horsefeathers & Other Curious Words” (1958) and drawn upon by me in my entry on the term in “Rawson’s Dictionary of Euphemisms & Other Doubletalk” (1995).

  21. Lumberjacks who came to BC from down East would have had to get used to being called logger, mollymooly. I think American woodsworkers brought the word logger up from Warshington (which is what natives [I mean people born there] used to call the state).
    And in coonection with flute, I think the word is timbre.

  22. Jim: AJP, I don’t know if this is true for Norwegian, but Swedish has a word ‘ved’. It means only firewood.
    Well, it also means “by”, but that’s what I meant to say too: ved means firewood in Norwegian and no other kind of wood. It had never struck me that it’s so close to “wood” (I think I’m slightly linguistically challenged), and I think Trond, LH’s Norwegian expert, may have more to say about this.
    iakon: in coonection with flute, I think the word is timbre
    I wondered the same thing because “timber” in such a context seems so peculiar, but if you google “timber flute” you’ll see there’s a huge pile of Irish references to the timber flute (in contrast to metal flutes).

  23. Cool legal vocabulary related to forests: common pasture (the right to feed horses and sheep on grass), estovers (the right to gather wood for fuel), turbary (ditto for peat), marl (the right to dig clay), pannage (the right to feed pigs on beechnuts and acorns), and fern (the right to gather bracken as litter for animals). Jointly these are the rights of common, and those who exercise them are commoners.

  24. ajay: [in England] wood is the generic term; timber for big bits. You wouldn’t say that a desk or a chair was made of timber. Timber implies huge beams or trunks.
    You’re quite wrong about this. In England a professional woodworker (carpenter, joiner, cabinetmaker) or an architect or even possibly a designer or antique dealer would call the material of a chair or desk “timber”, not “wood”. As I said above, to these people “timber” is even used about plywood constructions. In England there is an unspoken professional machismo: in wooden constructions the word “wood” must be avoided at all costs (because it’s what civilians would say). Also, trunks when they’re cut are logs.

  25. More forest-related terms and discussion here.

  26. I suspect the Toiyabe National Forest is only a forest by quirk of its being administered by the U.S. Forest Service, although come to think of it, there’s probably a lot of unforested land in the National Forests out west. Otherwise, I think you can expect american forests to have trees.
    East of the mississippi, “woods” and “forest” are pretty interchangeable, and can be either pine or deciduous, whichever happens to grow in any particular climate. Both kinds of trees grow to about the same height and density.

  27. AJP
    “Well, it also means “by”, but that’s what I meant to say too: ‘
    Well if the Norwegians would take the potato out of their mouths and pronounce it ‘vid’ the way civlized people do, there wouldn’t be that ambiguity!
    s/o
    “East of the mississippi, “woods” and “forest” are pretty interchangeable, and can be either pine or deciduous, ”
    Yes. I think this is a regional difference in usage.
    “Cool legal vocabulary related to forests: common pasture (the right to feed horses and sheep on grass), estovers (the right to gather wood for fuel), turbary (ditto for peat), marl (the right to dig clay), pannage (the right to feed pigs on beechnuts and acorns), and fern (the right to gather bracken as litter for animals). Jointly these are the rights of common, and those who exercise them are commoners.”
    Those are the vestiges of a general access people still have in Sweden. It’s called “allamanrätt”. It’s not an explicit right but rather a series of gaps in restrictions on land use by non-owners. it goes back to the time of the beginning.

  28. AJP
    “Well, it also means “by”, but that’s what I meant to say too: ‘
    Well if the Norwegians would take the potato out of their mouths and pronounce it ‘vid’ the way civlized people do, there wouldn’t be that ambiguity!
    s/o
    “East of the mississippi, “woods” and “forest” are pretty interchangeable, and can be either pine or deciduous, ”
    Yes. I think this is a regional difference in usage.
    “Cool legal vocabulary related to forests: common pasture (the right to feed horses and sheep on grass), estovers (the right to gather wood for fuel), turbary (ditto for peat), marl (the right to dig clay), pannage (the right to feed pigs on beechnuts and acorns), and fern (the right to gather bracken as litter for animals). Jointly these are the rights of common, and those who exercise them are commoners.”
    Those are the vestiges of a general access people still have in Sweden. It’s called “allamanrätt”. It’s not an explicit right but rather a series of gaps in restrictions on land use by non-owners. it goes back to the time of the beginning.

  29. Trond Engen says:

    we really need Trond
    Trond, LH’s Norwegian expert
    See, it soesn’t take more than a little effort. (Though I’m afraid it says more about the general level of Norwegian expertise than it does of said expert.)
    Norwegian words for wooden stuff:
    tre, “tree; wood (material)” but also disparaging for bodyparts: treskalle “woodenhead”, trehendt “wood-handed”. Swedish has reinvented a tree/wood distinction by reinterpreting the definite form as träd “wood (material)”. (This also hints to an older, wider usage of the definite form that I think is still occasionally found in northern Swedish dialects.)
    ved, mainly “firewood” but alse about the wood as a medium for aestethic qualities for furniture etc.: Flammebjørk er varm og rødlig i veden lit. “Flame-birch is warm and reddish in the wood”. Metaphorically it can mean “solid material” Hvis vi limer med epoxy og støper vått-i-vått blir det hel ved lit. “If we glue with epoxy and cast wet-in-wet, it [the concrete] becomes whole wood” (typical building site manager). The original meaning of the word was more like the modern English, and when used in toponyms (e.g. Myrkved, Veum) it denotes “forest”. Interestingly, it seems to be a Germano-Celtic isogloss.
    skog “forest, wood (area with trees)” is a fairly new word that replaced ved in the “forest” sense. It seems to be formed as an o-grade of the “shaw”-word, and the idea is that it developed from a sense “something standing out”. I imagine it to be a reinterprative back-formation from compounds like bjørkeskog “birch-forest” &lt-”cluster of birches standing out into a field”.
    tømmer “timber”, that interesting Germanic word that also became German Zimmer. It’s used for logs and trees for logging but also verbed in tømre “do a carpenter’s job” and tømmermann “carpenter” (which I think may be a calque from German). It also denotes whole logs as a building material: tømmerkoie “log cabin”. The IE cognates point to an original meaning “material for housebuilding”.
    holt “small wood, cluster of trees”. Bjorvand & Lundeman suggest that it originally was the plural form that had this collective meaning, while the singular denoted the material or single tree like in German.
    lund “(sacred) grove, cluster of broadleaved trees”. According to B&L a local Scandinavian word without any other place to go etymologically than land. Now I wonder if one could to anything out of Eng. lumber. This should not be confused with the now rare lunn “log”, lunne “staple of logs” &lt- hlunnr, hlunnar.
    bom “barrier, boom; miss”. This is a loan from Low German without any real cognate in NG.
    There are probably more, and much more to say about each word, but this is how far I got now.

  30. You showed up just in time; I was about to run an ad for a new Norwegian expert.

  31. Trond Engen says:

    You could apply for one with better command of his keyboard.

  32. “Forests in America can also be treeless, as in Britain, sometimes laughably so:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toiyabe_National_Forest
    The Toiyabe national Forest is mostly high desert – sagebrush and not much else.”
    Elsewith, not much else may very well be much more than you would elsewise imagine. A question of seeing with, not through the eye…

  33. A question of seeing with, not through the eye…
    Yes, starting with Krummholz, at the tree line.

  34. marie-lucie says:

    Trond, it is nice to learn how to interpret names which include holt, skog or lund, among others.
    JC, thank you for the interesting list of commoners’ rights, and for the origin of commoner itself. Here in Halifax (Nova Scotia) we have a large piece of grassland in the middle of the city, still called the Commons (no longer used for grazing but for walking and other recreational activities).

  35. It struck me yesterday that the enclosure acts that carved up the commons in England in the late 18C are analogous to the paywalls being set up all over the worldwide web (which was designed with the intention of providing free access to information).

  36. In England a professional woodworker (carpenter, joiner, cabinetmaker) or an architect or even possibly a designer or antique dealer would call the material of a chair or desk “timber”, not “wood”…
    That’s very interesting, and I like your explanation (similarly, you won’t hear a soldier talking about a rifle being a “gun”). But I should have clarified that I was talking about common usage; and you won’t find many non-professionals in Britain talking about timber chairs or desks. They’re wood.
    Logs, I would say, are trunks (or branches) that have been cut up but not dressed. Once it’s a rectilinear block, it’s timber.

  37. “Had I but known, Tam Lin, Tam Lin,
    A lady would ransom thee,
    I’d have taken out thy two gray eyes
    And put in two eyes of tree.”

  38. “It struck me yesterday that the enclosure acts that carved up the commons in England in the late 18C are analogous to the paywalls being set up all over the worldwide web”: not really. (a) The commoners were given land, or money, in compensation for loss of their rights, and (b) only the commoners – not any Tom, Dick or Harry – had had commoners’ rights in the first place. One of the things that the Commissioners had to sort out for each manor was who had had common rights.
    Where I grew up, when the last of the common land was enclosed the Burgh ended up with a fair bit of the now divided land, sold it, and spent the money on a new Academy which I attended a century and a half later.

  39. I should, of course, have said “the Royal Burgh”. Oh yes.

  40. Trond,
    “lund “(sacred) grove, cluster of broadleaved trees”. According to B&L a local Scandinavian word without any other place to go etymologically than land. Now I wonder if one could to anything out of Eng. lumber.”
    Maybe it is realted to ‘lumber’. I never heard that a ‘lund’ was a sacred wood, but now that makes sense. That may be whay Lund was chosen as a diocesan seat. That kind of thing was standard in those days.
    But what really ‘lund’ really does look like it’s related to is Welsh ‘llan’ and Irish ‘lan’. ‘Llan’ still has the connotation of sacredness, obviouslsy, while ‘lan’ does not.

  41. Just as some people may not have had access to the commons, not everyone has or had a computer. But really the similarity is that in both cases a resource that had previously been available to most people has been to some extent appropriated by the few who only see it as a cash opportunity. That’s the point: are you motivated by the common good or are you thinking “What’s in it for me?” Are you a Wikipedia or an Encyclopedia Britannica? I suppose the role of Wikipedia in my analogy would have been played by the royal parks. Don’t beat me up over the rigour of this; it’s only an analogy, not a legal document.
    As I recently mentioned elsewhere, every other borough in London now calls itself “The Royal Borough of”. I don’t know how they’ve achieved this, but it looks damn silly to see “The Royal Borough of Dagenham”, or whatever, “The Royal Borough of East Cheam”, on the street signs.

  42. The 18th C enclosure acts just cleaned up the remaining mess; the real damage to the old system was done in the 16th C by private enclosures (at least in England, I don’t know what the story was in Scotland then). But in any system in which (economic) rent is privately appropriated, there will always be a nasty conflict between efficiency and equality, and consequently between capital and labor. Where the rent is more equally distributed, high profits and high wages go hand in hand. Feudalism had its extremely dismal side, but at least the taxes fell firmly where they belong, on the landed interest. Shifting them to capital and labor, as if making and working were bads rather than goods, was a dreadful act of expropriation.
    It’s of particular modern interest that rights of common were individual and not collective rights. People who talk about “the tragedy of the commons” have rarely gotten beyond the title of Hardin’s strictly limited article. They don’t realize that in a real historic commons any commoner could sue anyone who committed “waste”, as it was called, for the full extent of the damage done (by uncommonable beasts or excessive numbers of commonable beasts, typically), and not merely for the commoner’s proportional share of it.

  43. Trond Engen says:

    lund
    First some clarification:
    I don’t think “sacred” is inherent to lund, it’s just that this is thought to be the meaning of it in many old toponyms, especially, I suppose, where a church was built after christianization. Lund in Skåne is such a place (although I understand that the marketplace that also is a forerunner of the city has been found in a village a few kilometers south of Lund).
    I said “of broadleaved trees” because that’s what lund means to me, but place-slash-surnames like Granlund “sprucegrove” and Furulund “pinegrove” are counterexamples. They sound recent and rather poetic, though, so I’m not sure how significant it is.
    I know nothing about lumber beyond what EtymOnline tells me, and that’s not very promising.
    The connection to Celtic llan et al. &lt *landa: f. follows from the connection to land. Semantically, land is the better fit to the Celtic forms, but formally, both lund and *landa:- are zero-grade formations (&lt ln.dho- f.).
    Now to soemthing new. There’s also an almost lost homonym lund/i> f. with interesting semantics.
    In ON it meant “loin, back muscle”, in Icelandic and Faroese the plural
    lundir means “back muscles; sirloin”. It’s also present in OE/OFris lund-laga m. “kidney” and OE lynde f. “fat”. This points to Germanic *lundo:- f. &lt (if I’m not too mistaken) a zero-grade derivation *ln.dho:-.
    That’s interesting.
    In modern Scandinavian it’s lost in this sense but survives in fossilized compounds and idioms as an element meaning “circumstancially; -wise”: E.g. Sw. annorlunda, Arch. NNo. i onnor lund “different”, Da. ingenlunde “under no circumstance”.
    That’s interesting.
    Also No., Da. lynne n. “temper”, godlynt “mild-tempered, cheerful”. B&L (wherefrom I’ve lifted most of this) suggest identification of the kidneys with the personality — body fluid psychology — but I suggest much of this could be united in “side, inclination”. A land is what is on one side of a sea/strait/river/fence/whatever.
    If so, I believe the adjective Ger. lind(e) “mild, soft”, No. linn “flexible, mild” etc. could belong here. Also, the form of the noun No. lend f. “loin, hip” etc. &lt *landijo:- is reconcileable with the semantics of the causative ending in “make lean, bend”.
    There are possible further root connections in No. ledd “joint”, lem “limb”, alen “ell” and a few more, but this looks so vague and messy that I’ll stay clear.
    Lean, however, is not related.
    Oh, I almost forgot: What has this got to do with lund? We’re back to B&L’s suggestion that it originally denoted the bordering woods around a land. And “sacred” goes with “enclosure”.
    This would of course be much more appealing if I could explain semantically all derivations from the different grades of the derivational stem.

  44. Feudalism had its extremely dismal side, but at least the taxes fell firmly where they belong, on the landed interest. Shifting them to capital and labor, as if making and working were bads rather than goods, was a dreadful act of expropriation.
    Sounds like somebody’s been reading Henry George!

  45. “are you motivated by the common good”: commoners weren’t indulging in some sentimental pursuit of a common good – as John says they were just exercising individual rights that happened to take the form of using some land together rather than separately. The problems were well known – for example if you graze some pasture in common, it’s difficult to control the breeding of your animals, and difficult to control the spread of disease. If a group of you have rights to collect firewood it can be difficult to stop someone taking more than his fair share and leaving the others short. And of course you can’t sell your rights and buy something else with the money. It’s not surprising to me that where the open field system was enclosed (in many parts of the country it didn’t exist in the 18th century and it’s not clear whether it had ever existed there) the common pasture was enclosed too. Whether common woodland was usually enclosed too I don’t know: it takes an awful lot of labour to clear woodland for the plough – British broad-leaved trees of decent diameter won’t burn and they don’t just give up the ghost when you ringbark them. You have to fell them and grub out the roots and also dispose of the trunks and bigger branches somehow. It must often have seemed not worth the bother, especially since the land you were recovering was probably treed because earlier generations had decided it wouldn’t make good ploughland or meadow anyway.

  46. Yes, I’m a Georgist.

  47. Just to get back to the original post topic, I agree with AJP Crown that horsefeathers are the same as shims. But the reference to farmhouses “with walls of logs, covered now by clapboards or horsefeathers” indicates that horsefeathers can also be shingles, which are essentially the same as shims but wider. You’ll find horsefeathers used in reference to shims and shingles here and there today in the lumber trade, for example:
    http://www.kanewoodwork.com/pdf/4mcatalg.pdf
    http://www.stillriverlumber.com/productsscroll2.html

  48. J.W. Brewer says:

    Now I want someone to describe some current internet copyright-holders v. information-wants-to-be-free controversy with strained analogies to the Highland Clearances and crofters’ rights, just so dearieme can set us straight.

  49. Boy, you said it, Brewer! I hate copyright and feel very sorry for the poor crofters, so there you have it. On the other hand Harold MacMillan claimed to have come from a family of crofters but as far as I know, as a member of the family firm he never objected to copyright. How ironic.
    Martin, thanks. It seems from the picture that horsefeathers are similar to ordinary shims & shingles except they’re much longer, several feet long. It’s too late for this knowledge to do me any good, but I’m still very glad to know.
    Dearie, it’s a good question about woodland clearance. So much of it was done both in Britain and the US. Roots and tree stumps are the devil of a job to remove even with tractors, and yet unless you’re planning to use the land for grazing they must be removed. I suppose they used a team of oxen, but you never hear about it.
    Now I’ll look up Henry George.

  50. In that link, you have to then click on ’3-4″ Horsefeathers (Pic 2)’.

  51. AJP: ..and now the Royal Borough of Greenwich. Its coat of arms, according to an elaborately calliagraphed document on display at the Town Hall, includes “an Astrolab.” However, it is an astrolabe and not some space-faring laboratory. Sigh…

  52. Trond: also
    holt
    n. Archaic
    A wood or grove; a copse.
    [Middle English, from Old English.]
    From American Heritage via FreeDict Online.

  53. What did George say about tax incidence- i.e. the point that he who pays the tax is not necessarily the person on whom the economic burden falls? (A common example is company tax – companies are mere abstractions so that who bears the burden will be some combination of actual people: shareholders, employees, customers and suppliers. Another is employers’ “national insurance” contributions ["social security" in the US] – I think it’s generally agreed that the burden is born by the employee.)

  54. Trond Engen says:

    holt
    n. Archaic
    A wood or grove; a copse.

    Copse? I didn’t know that. Could that be &lt hold? There’s a Scandinavian word hold “flesh; side, direction, distance; team”. Looks like a semantic parallel to my land etymology, too. Thanks!

  55. Paul, having parachuted into the stadium at the Olympics maybe now the queen could attempt a jump from the royal astrolab.

  56. Trond Engen says:

    Oh, copse, not corpse. Whoops. Dangers of cut-and-paste.
    So, what made me think of hold is irrelevant, but there’s still hold in the semantic parallel.

  57. George certainly agreed about the shiftability of most taxes. Taxes on the unimproved value of land and other natural resources (trees growing spontaneously, oil in the ground, radio spectrum, etc.) cannot be shifted to the users of the resource, because the supply is inflexible (no amount of demand for land will create new land, though it’s possible to improve existing land) and private owners are already charging all that the traffic will bear. What is more, they are taxes on a monopoly, a bad rather than a good.
    In essence, George is the last and most comprehensive of the classical economists. He makes mistakes, of course (his discussion of interest is nothing but muddle), and he is not quantitative. But at least he deals with the real world, not Marshall’s imaginary world. It’s interesting that the first neoclassical economics department in the New World (if not the whole world, I’m not sure) was at Cornell, which was founded by a man who had enormous real-estate interests in Midwestern timberlands (granted, the money he made benefited the University, not Ezra himself, who had already made his pile in the telegraphy business).

  58. Thank you, Mr C.

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