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.


  1. Do you mean ‘not “warding” it, [but instead] protecting it and cultivating it, as a limited, but renewable, resource’?
    Or do you mean ‘not “warding” it [i.e. not] protecting it and cultivating it, as a limited, but renewable, resource’?

  2. I’m sure she meant the latter. And it occurs to me that her discussion of the name would fit nicely into this thread.

  3. My sympathies, but I think I will have to found the (probably doomed to be one-person) American Society for the Use of the Words “Dead” and “Death”. When one of my wife’s students (“tutees”?) failed to show up or call in sick (very unlike him), she went to his house to find out what was up. She returned with a dreadful look and a blotchy red-white face, and I blurted out “What, is he dead?” I meant it sarcastically, but he was dead indeed, and in the end it was she who arranged for his cremation and memorial service. I don’t think it would have helped if I said “What, has he passed?”

  4. Thanks, Hat. So I suppose “using the forest differently” meant clearing it for the plough.
    @John; do you have issues with “passing”?

  5. My sympathies, but I think I will have to found the (probably doomed to be one-person) American Society for the Use of the Words “Dead” and “Death”.
    You are, of course, welcome to your preferences, but a lot of people find those words too brutal in connection with a recent personal loss, and faced with the choice between “I like straight talk and simple words, I call a spade a spade, so the hell with your feelings” and “I will use a commonly accepted alternative phrasing so as to spare your feelings,” I tend to go with the latter.

  6. Yes, I was feeling peevish last night and took the opportunity to vent one of my long-standing prejudices against euphemisms for death. As someone or other says, the question “What’s a good euphemism for ‘sociology’?” suggests not only that the word sociology should be avoided, but that there’s something wrong with sociology, the subject matter.

  7. From long ago, I remember New Haven, I remember Woodward, and I salute your lost friend.

  8. J.W. Brewer says

    Woodward Avenue in Detroit is so well known it has a wikipedia page By contrast, I didn’t remember Woodward at all from my New Haven days, but I see from google maps it’s on the other side of the Quinnipiac, where I rarely ventured.
    Some fraction of bereaved people may on the other hand cordially dislike “passed” and suchlike euphemisms because they don’t want their experience to be euphemized/evaded. But as with a number of other contexts of language use there may be some people rubbed the wrong way no matter which alternative you choose so the best one can hope for is for people to interpret each other’s words charitably (especially when someone who doesn’t necessarily know you particularly well is obviously in context trying to be polite in a potentially awkward context). It is interesting that “RIP” has drifted far enough from its original religious matrix that apparently pretty much no one worries about any risk of giving offense by using it without prior inquiry into the precise religious beliefs of the decedent and/or survivors.

  9. My impression growing up in Virginia in the ’70s was that “pass away” was the standard euphemistic verb (though the noun was “passing”, with no “away”). “Pass” on its own, which I encountered later, seemed to be part of African-American dialect, but then suddenly it was everywhere. Do my impressions have any connection to reality beyond the limits of my own experience?

  10. I correspondended briefly with Cherie a few years ago, occasioned by a comment she made at the Hattery and my subsequent reading of an article she had published in Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, entitled “Where Did The East European Jews Come From?” The article is a review – and much, much more – of the English translation, including its 750 pages of footnotes (!), of YIVO founder Max Weinreich’s magnum opus, History of the Jewish Language.
    My link is to a pre-publication proof of Cherie’s article, as evidenced by the occasional interpolation of an editor’s comments. It’s a best-of-breed review, mixing fine scholarship with easy readability. At almost 20 pages, you may want to print it before reading.
    She’ll be missed.

  11. J.W. Brewer says

    That was an interesting article. I am grateful to Paul for having linked it and to the late Dr. Woodworth for having written it. May her memory be for a blessing, as they say in some circles.

  12. “Passed away in his sleep” seems to me to be rather different from dying in a car crash, a suicide, or a sudden heart attack. Anyway, if John’s discomfort arises from a suspicion that to suppress reference to the nature of death is a sign of infantilisation, I’d bow to his superior knowledge of American society.

  13. I’m with John. I don’t like euphemisms for death. Euphemisms imply there’s something wrong with death – which there isn’t (sad though it may be, it’s an inevitable part of life for us all). I also find “passed” to be spooky, and “passed on” and “passed away” to be, at least in Britain, lower-middle-class. When I die, I plan to die. “Passing” is for exams.
    Because I trained as an architect in the United States, I tend to use the word “wood” for the material that a Briton calls “timber”. I think of “Timber!” as the caution that a lumberjack shouts when a large tree is about to fall. I once heard a British architect talking about a shiny & fragile maple-veneered plywood reception desk in a shiny jewellery boutique as being made of “timber”. It sounded all wrong to me. Timber is rough-hewn in my mind’s eye.

  14. What have you got against the lower middle class, Crown?
    Anyway your wood and timber remark is wildly off the mark: the architect you overheard was being inaccurate and (probably) pretentious. I’ve never heard wood – as in a desk – referred to as timber. Timber is big stuff – trunks or major branches. It’s used in construction or boat-building. That distinction is many hundreds of years old according to the great sage of woodland history, Oliver Rackham.

  15. J.W. Brewer says

    May I suggest (at least in an AmEng context) the option of “loss,” as in “I’m sorry for your loss” or “Dear X: I was very saddened to hear of the recent loss of your parent/sibling/spouse”? It may be less jarring to some than “death” (if one accepts hat’s point that these issues may come up at a time when telling people they should not be all hiding behind euphemisms and taboos may not be the most helpful message) but is to my ear less evasive (or non-U, if that’s the other thing going on) than “passed” or “passing.” If it’s a euphemism, it’s a very well-established one: ships are traditionally “lost with all hands” and “how many men did we lose” is what not-very-squeamish-about-bloodshed generals say in the old movies after some tactical decision has gone poorly, innit? No one’s really gonna think it implies “temporarily mislaid,” which ought to reduce the odds of anyone getting into a peeving-about-euphemisms mode.

  16. I started looking for the “Farmer” satire and turned up other examples of her Mormon satires, which led me to wonder what was up with her and the LDS in general, which lead me to this comment, also by her.

  17. I don’t like euphemisms for death.
    Neither does my wife, and neither do I when it’s a matter of discussing my own future: I say “When I die,” not some circumlocution. But as I said above, I don’t place my own linguistic preferences above the comfort of others, and unless I’m dead certain about their own call-a-spade-a-spade-ism, I use the commonly accepted phrasing. I also say things like “царство ему небесное” (“may he be taken into the kingdom of heaven”) and “alevasholem” in appropriate circumstances, even though I am neither Russian Orthodox nor Ashkenazi Jewish. I like variety.

  18. No, I see why you’re doing it and it’s typical that you’d be so considerate, Language. But how do you know who would prefer that you said “passed” instead of “died”? I try not to use euphemisms and things like “f–k” or “G-d” because I don’t want to give even more power to the words that are being dodged.
    What have you got against the lower middle class, Crown?
    A good question, dearie. I’m not sure of the answer. When I was younger, I’d have said they represented everything I hated culturally and politically, but I suppose they’re no more certain to share values than the upper-middle class or any other class.
    I think you’ll find many English architects using “timber” much more loosely than you or I would. It may be an architect thing. God knows, they’re all practically illiterate.

  19. Hat, quite rightly, deleted not only my quadruple post at 10:38 above, but my explanation thereof, that my mouse was behaving badly. Equipped with a new mouse ($8.70 at Best Buy including tax), I joyously return to the fray.
    Keith Ivey: I concur.
    Dearieme: “I hope to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather, not screaming in terror like his passengers.”
    Various people on timber: In North America, timber consists of hewn trees (hence Timber! ‘The tree is hewn!’), with occasional extensions to not-yet-hewn trees (standing timber) and minimally worked large poles (as in timber-frame construction). Once milled or sawn or whatever, it becomes lumber. Alas, this useful distinction is not available elsewhere in the Anglosphere, because lumber continues to mean ‘miscellaneous junk’ (possibly influenced by the homonym meaning ‘pawnbroker’s shop’ < Lombard). So the material remains timber until it is actually incorporated into a piece of furniture or whatever. But pace Dearieme, perhaps this is not so in Scotland, or perhaps it is only true of technical usage.
    J. W. Brewer: “I’m sorry for your loss” is tainted as officialese for me: it’s something the cops say on Law and Order.

  20. Oops, forgot one. JWB: The people whose ancestors inhabited America before the Europeans came are similarly hard to refer to, for if you call them Indians, there are Native Americans who will object, and if you call them Native Americans there are, by the same token, Indians who will object.

  21. David Marjanović says

    “царство ему небесное” (“may he be taken into the kingdom of heaven”)

    As there’s no “take” (or any other verb) in the original, I wonder if a better translation is possible (given the lack of an identifiable dative in English*). “May he receive the kingdom of heaven”? “May the kingdom of heaven be his”?
    * …A literal translation wouldn’t work in German either, though, despite the fact that ihm is unambiguously a dative.

  22. A literal translation wouldn’t work in German either, though, despite the fact that ihm is unambiguously a dative.
    Try something like “Ihm sei der Himmel beschert” (with a tip o’ the hat to Schiller).

  23. A literal translation never works. That’s why it’s called literal, a euphemism for “awkward syntactic mimicry”. It’s a consumer warning, like “this product may contain traces of nuts”.

  24. “So the material remains timber until it is actually incorporated into a piece of furniture or whatever.” I’m not clear whether you’re alluding there to American or British practice, but I’m confident that you’re wrong if you mean British. I cite four sources (i) the aforementioned Rackham (ii) my own experience of boat-building as boy and teenager. We used both “timber” (which we pronounced timmer) and wood, and decades later I was struck to learn that we were making just the same ancient distinction that the scholarly Rackham discusses. (iii) My adult experience of working with engineers, and with instrument makers and other skilled tradesmen. (iv) The opinion of the joiner/cabinet-maker who is this morning building us a new wardrobe: his stab at it is that timber is “vast”, “structural”, wood is small stuff. He uses wood.

  25. “The people whose ancestors inhabited America before the Europeans came are similarly hard to refer to”: I don’t see why. Since “aboriginal” might cause confusion – at least outwith the USA – why not “Indigenous Americans”? At least it’s less wrong than “Native Americans” – hell, many of my distant cousins are Native Americans, having been born there.
    There is also the point that “natives” used sometimes to be used to imply something like “the local savages” – I’d have thought that might put the Injuns off adopting the term.
    And I might add that two of my distant cousins claim to be partly Injun.

  26. More on “timber”: I’ve thought of one caveat to my previous comment. In my experience, the people who sell both wood and timber seem to call themselves “timber merchants” not “wood and timber merchants”.

  27. J.W. Brewer says

    Does BrEng “timber merchant” = AmEng “lumber store”?

  28. More on “timber”
    In Canada, or at least the English-speaking parts thereof, you buy wood, even for fine for carpentry work, at a lumber yard. In rural areas, you buy a cord of wood for the fireplace. Timber can refer to a group of trees ripe for the cutting (“a stand of timber”) as well as to cut trees, whose branches are typically removed before felling. To me, the term timber applies anywhere pre-sawmill, after which lumber takes over.
    Searching for that pic of a cord of wood took me to the Wiki entry for timber – which redirects to the entry for lumber – and thence to an entry on forestry. There I discovered that at least six early journals about forestry are still published today. The oldest is the Polish-language Sylwan. Sylwan first saw light in 1820 but keeps up with the times: it’s available as PDF and also for Kindle. Only cellulose editions are suitable for kindling.

  29. J.W. Brewer says

    OK, even though a bit old-fashioned to my urbanized/suburbanized ear, the AmEng subcorpus of the google books ngram viewer confirms that “lumber yard” is still significantly more common than “lumber store.” But, e.g., the 84 Lumber chain’s website explains how it grew from a single “lumber yard” (in Eighty Four, Pennsylvania) which it now refers to six decades later as the “original store.”

  30. Okay, time to fire up the mighty engine. Here’s the OED entry, unfortunately not updated since 1912 save for a single quotation 1968; I haven’t marked this up to match the original (too much labor). Note the spelling “timmer” in several of the Scottish quotations, and the interesting specialization of the original Germanic meaning ‘house’ to English ‘material of which a house is made’ vs. German zimmer ‘room (in a house)’.
    a. A building, structure, edifice, house. Also fig. Obs. (? only Old English.)
    c825 Vesp. Psalter ci. 8 Swe swe spearwa se anga in timbre [L. unicus in aedificio].
    c825 Vesp. Psalter cxxviii. 6 Sien swe swe heg timbra [L. faenum aedificiorum].
    a900 tr. Bede Eccl. Hist. (1890) iii. xiv. [xvii.] 204 Þa næglas..þe heo mid þæm to þæm timbre [L. aedificio] gefæstnad wæs.
    a900 tr. Bede Eccl. Hist. (1890) iv. iii. 262 Þæt..þa lifigendan stanas þære cirican of eorðlicum seþlum to þæm heofonlican timbre gebær.
    c950 Lindisf. Gosp. Mark xiii. 1 gesih hulco stanas & hulig timber [Ags. Gosp. hwylce getimbrunga, L. quales structuræ].
    OE Genesis 135 Þa seo tid gewat ofer timber [MS. tiber] sceacan middangeardes.
    c1000 Sax. Leechd. II. 198 Sio [liver] is blodes timber, & blodes hus & fostor.
    c1330 R. Mannyng Chron. Wace (Rolls) 3692 Þey logged hem, & tymber teld [Petyt MS. timbred teld = constructed tents (which is prob. the correct reading)].
    †b. The process of building. Obs. (only Old English.)
    c1000 Sax. Leechd. III. 178 On .vi. nihtne monan..he is..god circan on to timbrane and eac scipes timber on to anginnanne.
    †2. Building material generally; material for the construction of houses, ships, etc., or (in extended sense) of any manufactured article; the matter or substance of which anything is built up or composed; matter, material, stuff. Obs. Cf. belly-timber n., flesh-timber (flesh n. Compounds 2).
    In early use including 3; in later use prob. fig. from it.
    a900 tr. Bede Eccl. Hist. (1890) iii. xvi. [xxii.] 224 Þætte ne meahten godo beon, þa ðe monna hondum geworhte wæron of eorðlicum timbre, oðþe of treom, oðþe of stanum.
    a1000 Confess. Ecgberti in B. Thorpe Anc. Laws Eng. (1840) Addit. 16 II. 234 Ne sceal cyrcean timber [L. ligna ecclesiæ] to ænigum oðrum weorce.
    a1300 Cursor M. 333–4 (Cott.) , Þis wright..Fra al oþer, sundri and sere, For þai most oþer timber take, Bot he þis self can timber make.
    1612 Bacon Ess. (new ed.) 18 Such dispositions are..the fittest timber to make great Politiques of.
    1840 M. F. Shepherd in Life of Adam Clarke viii. 261 There is much sound timber in these sermons.
    a. spec. Wood used for the building of houses, ships, etc., or for the use of the carpenter, joiner, or other artisan; wood in general as a material; esp. after it has been suitably trimmed and squared into logs, or further adapted to constructive uses.
    (A restricted use of sense 2, and in early quots. often not distinguishable from it.)
    a1100 Gerefa in Anglia (1886) IX. 261 On wintra erian and in miclum gefyrstum timber cleofan.
    c1200 Vices & Virtues 27 And ðe wrihte his timber to keruen after ðare mone.
    c1275 (▸?a1200) Laȝamon Brut (Calig.) (1978) l. 11442 Timber me lete biwinnen. and þat beord bi-ginnen.
    a1300 Cursor Mundi 1724 Now wat sir noe quat wark to do And hent timber þat fel þar-to.
    1398 J. Trevisa tr. Bartholomew de Glanville De Proprietatibus Rerum (Tollem. MS) xiv. ii, Ararat is þe hyȝest hill of Armenia;..and ȝit to þis day þe tymber of þe schip is sene in þe mounteyne.
    1466 in J. D. Marwick Extracts Rec. Burgh Edinb. (1869) I. 23 Mak the ruiffes of guid tymmer and theik thame with sclaitt.
    1562 W. Turner 2nd Pt. Herball f. 29, Ye tymmer of ye larche very..profitable for bildyng.
    a1674 Milton Brief Hist. Moscovia (1682) i. 4 Their Boats of Timber without any Iron in them.
    1712 W. Rogers Cruising Voy. 338 Vessels..chiefly imploy’d in carrying Timber, Salt,..and other Commodities.
    1830 J. Lindley Introd. Nat. Syst. Bot. 84 The timber of the Beam Tree (Pyrus Aria) is invaluable for axletrees.
    1831 On Planting (Libr. Useful Knowl.) vii. 92 When the wood of a stem or branch of any species of plant attains to the dimensions of 24 inches in circumference, or upwards of eight inches in diameter, it is termed timber.
    b. Wood as a substance, or as the material of small utensils or parts of them. Now dial.
    1530 J. Rastell New Bk. Purgatory ii. xii, A cup of tymber or metal.
    1622 M. Drayton 2nd Pt. Poly-olbion xxvi. 122 Their Arrowes finely pair’d, for Timber, and for Feather.
    1663 A. Wood Life & Times (1891) I. 503 For setting up a strip of timber on my window, 6d.
    1688 R. Holme Acad. Armory ii. 84/2 The Wood, or Timberr, is between the Sap and Heart.
    1793 T. Scott Poems 364 A breast o’ timmer an’ a heart o’ stane.
    1834 A. Smart Rambling Rhymes 135 (E.D.D.) Her wheels were made o’ timmer.
    a. Applied to the wood of growing trees capable of being used for structural purposes; hence collectively to the trees themselves: standing timber, trees, woods. Rarely in pl. tall timber: see tall adj. 7e.
    c893 tr. Orosius Hist. iv. vi. §2 Æfter siextegum daga þæs þe ðæt timber [L. arbores] acorfen wæs.
    1426 Lydgate tr. G. de Guileville Pilgrimage Lyf Man 11808 A kanker..the werm..That ffreteth the herte off a tre, And..Doth to tymber gret damage.
    1566 in Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot. 1584. 209/1 Habere lie wattillis et lie fallin tymmer de silva de Cleue.
    1634 W. Wood New Englands Prospect i. v. 15 The Timber of the Countrey growes straight, and tall.
    1718 Free-thinker No. 59. 2 A naked Ground, blest only with a small Group of Timber.
    1789 G. White Nat. Hist. Selborne 22 A rough estimate of the value of the timbers..growing at that time in the district of The Holt.
    1841 W. Robinson Descr. Acct. Asam 41 Another large and elegant timber indigenous to the forests of Assam, is the Cedrela Toona.
    1880 C. R. Markham Peruvian Bark 158 We continued our journey..through a forest of grand timber.
    b. spec. in English Law, Trees growing upon land, and forming part of the freehold inheritance: embracing generally the oak, ash, and elm, of the age of twenty years or more; in particular districts, by local custom, including other trees, with various limitations as to age.
    As to the legal bearing of this, see quots. 1766, 1818.
    1766 W. Blackstone Comm. Laws Eng. II. xviii. §6. 281 Timber also is part of the inheritance. Such are oak, ash, and elm in all places: and in some particular countries, by local custom, where other trees are generally used for building, they are thereupon considered as timber; and to cut down such trees, or top them, or do any other act whereby the timber may decay, is waste.
    1818 W. Cruise Digest Laws Eng. Real Prop. (ed. 2) I. 131 By the custom of some countries, certain trees, not usually considered as timber, are deemed to be such, being there used for building… And all the Justices at Serjeants’ Inn were of opinion that in the county of York birch trees were timber, and belonged to the inheritance; therefore they could not be taken by the tenant for life.
    1891 Daily News 19 Jan. 5/4 By the custom of the county of Buckingham beech trees are timber.
    c. int. The warning call of the feller when a tree is about to fall.
    1912 J. Sandilands Western Canad. Dict. (ed. 2) 47 Timber-r-r! the long-drawn melodious warning call of the sawyers in a lumber camp when a tree is about to fall.
    1935 ‘L. Ford’ Burn Forever 56 There was a stentorian shout: ‘Timber!!’
    1968 Islander (Victoria, Brit. Columbia) 15 Dec. 2/1 The sharp ring of Father’s axe echoed in the icy air, and we cried ‘timber’ as our tree fell.
    a. transf. Applied to any object familiar to the speaker, composed wholly or chiefly of wood, as †a spear-shaft; †a bowl; a ship; the stocks (slang); wooden gates and fences (Hunting slang); a wicket (Cricket slang); an arrow (rare); small timber, lucifer matches (street slang).
    c1400 Rowland & O. 455 Theyre Ioynynge was so harde that tyde That theyre timbir in sondire gan ryde.
    a1500 (▸?c1450) Merlin (1899) vii. 117 [They] mette to-geder on the sheldis, so that the horse ne myght not passe ferther till the tymbres were broken.
    a1500 (▸?a1400) Sir Torrent of Portyngale (1887) l. 2349, [I pray] that thou woldist my son lere, Hys Tymber ffor to asay.
    1725 A. Ramsay Gentle Shepherd iii. ii, Come, turn the timmer to laird Patie’s health.
    1791 ‘G. Gambado’ Ann. Horsemanship vi. 26 The leaps large and frequent, and a great deal of timber to get over.
    1840 Bell’s Life in London 2 Aug. 2/2 Morewood joined Morrier, who at length received a ‘Winchester screw’, which shattered his timber.
    1851–4 D. Jerrold C. Snub in Men of Char. i, The me over to the beadle, who claps me here in the timber.
    1857 G. A. Lawrence Guy Livingstone iii. 17 They..would grind over..the March Gibbon double timber as..undauntedly as over the accommodating Bullingdon hurdles.
    1871 R. Ellis tr. Catullus Poems iv. 3 Nor yet a timber o’er the waves alertly flew.
    1876 in Bettesworth Walkers of Southgate (1900) 332 Appleby..dislodged Webbe’s timbers by his second ball in the first over.
    c1879 G. M. Hopkins Poems (1967) 180 Yet Arthur is a Bowman: his three-heeled timber’ll hit The bald and bóld blínking gold when áll’s dóne.
    b. spec. A wooden leg: cf. timber-toe n. at Compounds 2; hence transf. a leg. slang.
    1807 J. Ruickbie Way-side Cottager 9 in Eng. Dial. Dict.
    1821 J. Clare Village Minstrel I. 35 Boys, miss my pegs..and hit my legs, My timbers well can stand your gentle taps.
    1862 G. J. Whyte-Melville Inside Bar (ed. 12) I. 230 [The hounds] have a strong family likeness in the depth of their girth..and the quality of the timber on which they stand.
    6. A single beam or piece of wood forming or capable of forming part of any structure. Also collectively in pl.
    a. gen.
    a1575 N. Harpsfield Treat. Divorce Henry VIII (1878) (modernized text) 288 The treasure that was made of the timbers, bells, and leads, and the ornaments of the church.
    1623 W. Gouge Serm. Extent God’s Provid. §15 The massy timber [a summer] shivered in two, as suddenly as the other knapped asunder.
    1793 J. Smeaton Narr. Edystone Lighthouse (ed. 2) §85 To fasten the outside Timbers.
    1859 W. S. Coleman Our Woodlands 8 The original timbers, after this immense lapse of time, are still sound internally.
    1894 Labour Comm. in Parl. Papers XXXVIII. Pair of Timber, two timbers placed against the sides of the tunnels in a mine at acute angles with the bottom. They support not only these sides but also another timber, which upholds the roof.
    b. pl. spec. Naut. The pieces of wood composing the ribs, bends, or frames of a ship’s hull: see frame n. 5f.
    Often preceded by a qualifying word, as cant-, compass-, cross-, filling-, floor-, futtock-, head-, knee-, knuckle-, rising-, side-, square-, stern-, top-timbers: see these words.
    1748 B. Robins & R. Walter Voy. round World by Anson ii. iv. 158 Her spirkiting and timbers were very rotten.
    1782 W. Cowper Loss Royal George 29 Her timbers yet are sound.
    1809 A. Henry Trav. & Adventures Canada 185 We dragged our barges over the neck of land, but not without straining their timbers.
    1857 P. Colquhoun Compan. Oarsman’s Guide 29 All the ribs underneath these [floor-boards] are called floor timbers, the rest simply timbers.
    1885 Sir J. C. Mathew in Law Times Rep. 52 265/1 Her timbers, no doubt, held together, but she was no longer a ship.
    1751 T. Smollett Peregrine Pickle I. xxxvii. 279 My timbers are now a little crazy, d’ye see; and God knows if I shall keep afloat till such time as I see thee again.
    1850 B. Taylor Eldorado (1862) xiii. 132, I, whose timbers were somewhat strained, laboured after him.
    c. Naut. slang, in exclamations, as my timbers!, shiver my timbers! (see shiver v.1).
    1790 C. Dibdin Coll. Songs I. 153 My timbers, what lingo he’d coil and belay.
    7. fig. Bodily structure, frame, build. In later use, the ‘stuff’ of which a person is made; personal quality or character; preceded by a qualifying word: suitable quality or character for the specified office, etc. Cf. material adj. 3. Chiefly U.S.
    1612 G. Paule Life Whitgift §138. 93 For his small timber, he was of a good quicke strength, straight and well shaped.
    1613 F. Beaumont Knight of Burning Pestle ii. sig. D3v, The twelue Companies of London cannot match him, timber for timber.
    1670 Milton Hist. Brit. vi. 265 Canute..doubting to adventure his body of small Timber, against a man of Iron sides.
    1822 C. Lamb Some Old Actors in Elia 1st Ser., He was not altogether of that timber out of which cathedral seats and sounding-boards are hewed.
    1892 Chicago Tribune 4 Apr. 4/5 Senator Cullom of Illinois is better Presidential timber than was generally supposed.
    1906 Munsey’s Mag. Jan. 411 His wish to be courteous to men of Cardinal Rampolla’s timber.
    1914 Emporia (Kansas) Gaz. 13 Jan. 2/1 He is everlastingly..N.G. as gubernatorial timber.
    1954 Sat. Evening Post 6 Nov. 64/4 CIA recruits many employees from our colleges and universities through a process beginning even before individual students realize that they are being singled out as possible CIA timber.
    1967 R. S. Churchill Winston S. Churchill II. vi. 193 His parliamentary stature had grown and he had proved that he was of Cabinet timber.
    1975 Times Lit. Suppl. 13 June 661/2 My contention that he [sc. J. F. Kennedy] was potential Presidential timber.
    a. attrib. or adj. Made or consisting of wood; wooden.
    ?1530 J. Rastell Pastyme of People sig. *Fvi, The said duke protectour..toke the lorde Hastynges..and..caused his hede to be smytten of vpon a tymber log within the Towre.
    1535 Bible (Coverdale) Isa. xxii. B, Then was sene the sege of the tymbre house.
    1560 J. Daus tr. J. Sleidane Commentaries f. cccxxiiiv, The Spaniardes with theyr ordenaunce beate downe a timber walle.
    1565 T. Cooper Thesaurus at Cassandra, The treason of the tymber horse at the siege of Troye.
    1663 B. Gerbier Counsel to Builders 23 The making of Timber partitions.
    1700 R. Sinclair in Leisure Hour (1883) 205/2 Timber cups and dishes.
    1799 J. Robertson Gen. View Agric. Perth 92 A timber mallet wrought by the hand was all they break the clods.
    1890 J. Service Thir Notandums viii. 48 The leg will be stiff for mony a day to come, and like a timmer ane for vera thrawnness.
    b. Sc. dial. Unmusical; having no musical ear; dull, ‘wooden’; unimpressionable.
    1815 Scott Guy Mannering I. iii. 36 He was a good deal diverted with the harsh timber tones which issued from him.
    1874 G. Outram in D. H. Edwards Mod. Sc. Poets (1881) 2nd Ser. 218 The timmer limmer daurs the knife To settle her annuity.
    1875 J. Grant One of Six Hundred vi. 46, I regretted my own timbre tones. But I must confess to being enchanted while Louisa sang.
    1893 R. L. Stevenson Catriona vii. 75 You have the finest timber face.
    1901 Blackwood’s Edinb. Mag. July 58/1 If I were not, so far as music goes, as timber as the table there.

  31. J.W. Brewer says

    To loop back toward the original topic of the thread, Weinrich’s book renders Yiddish “gehilts” (apparently cognate to modern German “Gehölz”?) as “lumber” rather than “timber.” QED.

  32. Surely the reason for ‘lumber yard’ rather than ‘lumber store’ is that the lumber is mostly stored outside in the open air, i.e. in the yard. Although ‘store’ should be able to mean any place – open-air or enclosed – in which things are stored, it usually implies (in American English, at least) a roofed and lockable building with all the goods for sale safe from the weather inside. A place where the goods are kept out in the yard would be a lumber yard, or a car dealer, or . . . can’t think of a third example at the moment.

  33. P.S.
    A shipyard is another ‘yard’ that may be very well protected from thieves by razor wire and Dobermans, but doesn’t have a roof over its contents. Some ships are kept under roofs (rooves?) when not in use, e.g. the Athenian triremes at the Piraeus: in that case archaeologists refer to the ‘ship sheds’ of the Piraeus, though I imagine they may also refer to the whole place loosely as the shipyard(s). No time to check.

  34. “The people whose ancestors inhabited America before the Europeans came are similarly hard to refer to”: I don’t see why.
    dearieme, coming up with an accurate way of saying it is not what’s difficult; what is (sometimes) difficult is knowing what word will not cause offense.

  35. Dearieme: The name “Indigenous Americans” is new to me (as opposed to the mere description “indigenous Americans”, which presumably is uncontroversial, just as it is uncontroversial to refer to “the republic of Ireland” or “the Irish republic”, since it is the only republic on the island of Ireland). Looking in Google, I do see that it has some currency, which is probably a Good Thing: the more names, the better, says I.

  36. Although ‘store’ should be able to mean any place – open-air or enclosed – in which things are stored, it usually implies (in American English, at least)
    The noun “store” in American English is pretty much the exact counterpart of the British English “shop”. It has almost entirely lost its semantic connection with the verb “store”. A store is where they sell things, not where they keep things (although of course you can’t do the former without doing some of the latter).

  37. J. W. Brewer says

    “Junkyard” is another possibility. Graveyard, switching yard, and many others are perhaps less retail-oriented.

  38. J.W. Brewer says

    “Indigenous” seems a rather slippery word. On a long enough timescale, the standard account is that human beings are arguably not indigenous to North and South America at all, but descend from rather recent (all things considered) arrivals from elsewhere, whether across the Bering Straits X millenia back or across the Atlantic Y centuries back, or from some other direction by airplane just last year. More substantively, it seems very difficult to get any sort of settled scholarly consensus as to how long the particular Algonquian-speaking societies that were living in the 16th and 17th centuries along the bits of the east coast where I grew up and/or where I now live had been in those locations prior to the arrival of the first Europeans. Maybe as little as 500 years, maybe as much as 1500? Who was living here before the Algonquian-speakers made their way to the Atlantic coast, and were they assimilated or exterminated? It’s not clear to me that anyone knows. The urheimat of proto-Algonquian speakers is apparently contested but often theorized to have been quite a ways inland (somewhere around the Great Lakes), say 2500+ years before present (and thus 2000+ years before Verrazano/Hudson/etc.) If human beings of my own ethnicity have lived in what is now New York / New England / etc., for coming on four centuries now, how much longer before we are not only natives but indigenes?

  39. “Looking in Google, I do see that it has some currency”: what a pity, I had made it up myself and had hoped vaguely that it might be original.
    “”Indigenous” seems a rather slippery word.” Surely not for the one practical purpose we’re discussing here. There is, presumably, a vast gap of time between the entry of the ancestors of the Injuns into North America and the arrival of Spanish, French and English settlers. Or even the brief Viking settlement.
    It’s not as if we’re discussing NZ history where, on the time scale of North America, there was only the blink of an eye between the arrival of the Polynesians and of the Europeans.

  40. David Marjanović says

    “Ihm sei der Himmel beschert”

    Oh, awesome! That works very well!

  41. I have just read Cherie’s articles on Vasily II’s accession to his father’s throne and the civil wars in Muscovy in 1425-50. She makes a strong case against the idea that Vasily’s ascent signified the triumph of primogeniture over collateral succession. Unfortunately her “Poland and Lithuania before 1500 and the Origins of the Ashkenazi Jews” is nowhere to be found.

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