Popular Woodworking 2008-06 № 169, страница 66

Popular Woodworking 2008-06 № 169, страница 66

- Out of the Woodwork •—


Does Your Shop Speak English?

An ocean-wide gap in terminology can cause confusion.

I he first time I went to England, I soon learned to take the lift instead of the elevator. And to avoid getting run over by all those cars driving on the wrong side of the road, I usually took the tube instead of what we call the subway. When the power goes out we reach for a flashl ight, but they say electric torch. No matter which side of the pond you are on, the differences between modern American English and British English can be both charming and confusing, and those differences can also be found in the workshop.

We call basic tools by different names. What Americans call a wrench the Brits call a spanner. Apparently, we emphasize what the tool does - in this case to twist or force a bolt - and the English describe the fit or span of the tool to the size of the bolt. Similarly, what we call a ball-peen hammer they call a ball-pane hammer. The spelling probably mirrors the pronunciation in this case. Any end ofa hammer that is not the flat, pounding end is the peen. The claw on a hammer is, in fact, a peen, but most Americans make that distinction. For Americans, the claw hammer is the standard, but in England, the common woodworker's hammer has a spade-like peen and is called the "Warrington pattern cross pane."

We also see clamps differently. One of the most useful tools in my workshop is a C-clamp, so called because of its shape and function of gripping wood that is setting after gluing (or in England, "glueing"). They call this same tool a G-cramp. Notice that is "cramp," not "clamp." Whereas we see the tool in the form of a C, the Brits see a G- and ifyou have been cramped between passengers in the middle seat of an airplane, you can see that the word cramp makes perfectly good sense to describe the function of this tool.

When we want to put a smooth finish on our woodworking projects, we use various grades of sandpaper, but if you go to a woodworker-supply house in England, ask for glasspaper. Modern abrasives might be made from various substances, but both our American and British words reflect their silicon-based origins. It's the same product, just different words.

We Yanks call small nails brads and use them for picture-frame mouldings and other small work. The Brits use the term brad (or cut brad) only for a much larger nail resembling (though not as large as) a railroad spike. We also have various sizes of finishing nails -basically thin, headless nails that won't be seen in the finished product. The Brits call these panel pins. Our standard general-purpose American nail with a flat head is called a box nail. They come in various sizes to fit the need. But the English do not use the term box nail, preferring instead the term round wire nail (or French nail).

How many times have you joined perpen-licular boards by toenailing them, driv-ngnailsat an angle from opposite sides of a board? In England, our fellow woodworkers never use that term. They say dovetail nailing (or skew nailing) to describe the same function. We reserve dovetailing for joints, but, ifyou think about it, the dovetail shape also describes the angle of the nails that join those boards.

Speaking of boards, I think most of us American woodworkers do not draw a sharp distinction between a board and a plank. My dictionary defines a board as "a long, flat slab of sawed lumber; plank." Even here in America there might be regional differences, but in my part of the country we usually just say board for any dressed piece of wood. But the Brits precisely defi ne a board as a convened timber less than about 2" thick but more than 4" wide. They define a plank specifically as a piece of softwood two or more inches thick and 10 or more inches wide, of any length. We dress raw wood, but the Brits convert it.

Do you plow out a rabbet or do you plough out a rebate? The difference in plough and plow is simply spelling, but when rebate (to reduce) in England evolved into rabbet in America, that is what linguists call a variant. Time and geographical separation cause words to vary in spellingand pronunciation. Such variations occur in all languages.

Armed with this basic lesson in vocabulary, if some bloke comes to your shop and asks to borrow a Warrington pane, a handful of panel pins and some glasspaper to finish a project, you won't have to say, "Speak English!" PW

Philip is a Professor Emeritus of English; he retired from The Citadel in Charleston, S.C. in May 2007. He's also a hobbyist woodworker who specializes (specialises?) in making bookcases for himself and for friends.

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