Saturday, May 16, 2009


Norm from Cadillac asked about the word cant as it is used by the lumber industry. It turns out that a cant is a log that is squared on two or more sides and is intended to be sawed further.

The log is first debarked; then the rounded slab or outside portion of the log is cut off. The remaining square or rectangular portion of the log is called a cant. Planks and boards are then cut from the cant.

The word cant is also used in forestry. There, it is a portion, share, or parcel of a wooded area.

In the building trade, cant is used in combination with other words to signify beveled surfaces or corners that do not meet at a 90 degree angle. There is a cant floor, a cant frame, cant molding, cant railing, and a cant ceiling — the kind of sloped ceiling that you would find in an attic.

Cant is also applied to language, and it has gone through many permutations. It has meant an intonation or accent, the whining tone of a street beggar, technical jargon, provincial dialect, vulgar slang, a pet phrase, and affected language that implies piety that is not actually present.

SIDEBAR: The Wood Explorer glossary

Now available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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