The Craftsman’s Colloquialisms

I was talking with several fellows about the use of “old saws” (colloquialisms) by craftsmen, especially those sayings that are specific to the individual trades.  Some are very funny.  Others are very “colorful”.  Many are full of stinging sarcasm that is, usually, quite to a particular point.  And most bring with them an interesting history of how and where they developed.

I recall feeling as if I’d had “my britches switched” when my Grandfather would remind me that “it’s a poor workman what blames his tools”.  (Being “switched” should certainly reveal something of my age.)

When acting lazily, I would be asked if I had “lungpuckaroo“?  I, of course, would reply “what’s lungpuckaroo“?  As expected, I would be told that “lungpuckaroo was an imaginary disease that started in the head and ended up in the ass“.  Obviously I got the point, over and over and over.

While watching the “Cavan Cooper” episode of the Hands RTE series, I heard the cooper reminisce that when one of his fellow apprentices would appear not up to the task, the journeyman might say, “ah, he could’na make a nose bag for an ass“.  Meaning?  He couldn’t fabricate a simple feed bag that would be tied around the upper neck of a donkey.

Some were simply jobsite humor.  But even they could bring home some arcane message; “then there was the blind carpenter who picked up his hammer and SAW!

And part of the responsibility of the journeyman and the master was to encourage the young craftsman to be constantly striving to improve his skills.  So, on any given jobsite or in any given workshop, you might hear an old hand calling out an admonition like;

A dog that stays on the porch, finds no bones” or

If you hit a bullseye everytime, it’s time to move the target” (apparently both Wendell Castle favorites)

As you can see I’m fascinated by these old sayings.  They’re full of wisdom and humor.  And, because they are both terse and memorable they serve to remind the craftsman that he is a steward of the gifts that he has been given and has a responsibility to both protect and perfect them.

If you have any favorite colloquialisms that you’d like to share with your fellow craftspeople, please set them out as replies to this post.  I’m sure that the entire community will benefit from the wisdom, humor and wonderful memories these “old saws” will provide.


Explore posts in the same categories: historic woodworking, life in craft

One Comment on “The Craftsman’s Colloquialisms”

  1. Ron Dennis Says:

    Food for Thought is the name of a computer folder I’ve moved from every computer I’ve ever owned. It is full of the words of wisdom that I’ve encounted since my first IBM XT clone from the early ’80s.

    You & I truly have a common interst beyond woodworking.

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