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What's in a Word? Is it "plane" or "planer"? Common terminology gone horribly politically correct.

Sometimes, or most of the time I am encouraged or inspired to write these articles because something I saw, read, or heard either makes me gratified or pisses me off. Self-righteousness is one of those things that tends to piss me off, not that I consider myself self righteously perfect, as my wife reminds me constantly that I certainly have many faults,(according to her). But some folks believe that their perspective is not only correct but the only one, and if you fail to agree and immediately comply, you are an idiot and should be banned from social participation. (Hey, kinda like political discourse these days). Please allow me to expound with illustrative narrative.

So here's the background. A fellow from a faraway land where English isn't spoken on a regular basis, was sharing an interesting story, the subject of which is irrelevant. What is

relevant is that he referred to a word that we commonly know here in the USA as "plane" except called it a "planer". Now that's not something that tends to aggravate folks...much, but a couple of fellows following the group post apparently became just that and very politely, (because one said "please") asked the OP to "...stop saying 'planer'. Then, not so politely went on to describe how "ignorant eBay sellers call it a "planer" perpetuating the use of an improper term and it just kinda pissed him off since that was not the word he used.

Thus, I pondered the question: "Stop saying "planer"? What does that mean? Why is that ignorance, except perhaps on the part of the fellow making the deleterious statement. It reeks of arrogance in print. Criticism and self-righteous correction of another just because of a difference in understanding? My momma taught me (or maybe it was Thumper's mom) that if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all". Now, while I don't know if that's appropriate in every circumstance, I don't think that a facebook group about hand planes is one of those exceptions. Of course, that's just me.

I thought about how an appropriate response might be in line but then, why make a big deal out of such a little thing? Needless to say, poor judgement has gotten me into trouble in the past, so why not now? Tossing caution to the wind, I responded to the response by saying "hey, just because that's the way you say it or that it's the more common term in the USA doesn't make it universal. Commonality is determined by a common group with common interests, common history, common backgrounds and a common language. Change any one of those components and the dynamic changes. Doesn't mean that a different term meaning the same thing is ignorant, stupid or any of the other adjectives associated therewith.

Is it possible that where the original OP came from the tool is called a "planer"? Turns out it is. Planer is apparently a common term for the tool in European countries. Turns out too that there are many names for a tool designed to hold a sharpened edged knife at a specific

angle firmly enough to cut thin slices of wood from a workpiece in an attempt to level or smooth said workpiece. You say "plane", he says "planer". Who cares so long as we share a common understanding of what the person is talking about. The two posters were not only unconvinced and unimpressed, they continued the discourse ad infinitum and ad nauseum. (see how much more smarter I am than you?) It clearly became evident that further participation would do nothing but waste precious electrons and energy on finger movement on my part so I thanked them for their perspective.

Turns out this rudimentary concept pertains to components of the plane as well. The "knife" (common in early patent descriptions) is also called a "cutter" a "blade" or an "iron". The piece of shaped steel that screws onto the cutter to make it stiff is a "cap iron", or maybe you

use the term "chip breaker". The big thingy on the back of your planer that your hand wraps around? Well that's a "handle", or is it a "tote"?

Interesting too is how language differences between countries whose language is the same have significant differences in word meanings. In the UK a "lorry" and a "lift" are respectively called a "large truck" and an "elevator" in the USA. In the "Great White North" or "Canada" as some might say, a "toque" is a beanie, stocking cap or

a hat to keep your head warm when it's 40 below zero. Down here in the USA it's called, uh, well, a beanie, stocking cap or a hat designed to keep your head warm when it's 40 above zero. What we call beer here in the USA, in Canada is called "a Moulson" which is apparently the only beer they drink up there. Also in the USA we use the term "Football" to describe a game that's played on a "gridiron" with an oblong ball. To the rest of the world it's a game played on an more or less unmarked field with a round ball which is rarely touched by hands, (heads are ok). In the US that game is known as "soccer".

Still closer to home, depending on what part of the USA you live, "barbeque" has a different connotation 'cause we all know that BBQ in the Carolinas is waayyy different than BBQ in Texas or Oregon. But wait, that is the same word with different meaning(less) conceptions. Oh, well, same difference. Just depends on where you're coming from.

Forced recognition of cultural differences has become a pastime in the USA, some folks demanding everyone to be politically correct, inoffensive and silent if you disagree. This aint that. This is understanding that just because you say it, do it, or understand it differently than our friends that speak a different language, have different backgrounds and understandings or use a different word to describe the same thing, doesn't make it wrong or them ignorant. If you think that it does, my question to you is "When did you become president of the world?"

People like me, who have a particular affinity for collecting planes may sometimes think we know more than the common human person (gender neutral and politically correct) when it comes to our area of expertise. Some of those folks in the category unfortunately and misguidedly think that they are "more smarter" than the rest of us believing that a "plane" should never be called anything but a "plane"...unless of course you are a pilot and then it's sometimes called an "aeroplane" but never an "aeroplaner". (Wouldn't that be the person who drives the aeroplane?) In my view, them folks ain't smarter, just obnoxious and wear their ignorance on the words they write. Hmm. Maybe I should change the name of my web page to "The Planer Dealer".

I will leave you with two definitions found at two different sources describing the word. I choose two because it makes my argument just a tiny bit more credible, unless you want to argue with the definition publishers.

Oxford University Lexico:


Pronunciation /ˈplānər/ /ˈpleɪnər/


another term for plane, especially when power-operated "



planer (plural planers)

A woodworking tool which smooths a surface or makes one surface of a workpiece parallel to the tool's bed.

A large machine tool in which the workpiece is traversed linearly (by means of a reciprocating bed) beneath a single-point cutting tool. (Analogous to a shaper but larger and with the workpiece moving instead of the tool.) Planers can generate various shapes, but were most especially used to generate large, accurate flat surfaces. The planer is nowadays obsolescent, having been mostly superseded by large milling machines.

(archaic, printing) A wooden block used for forcing down the type in a form, and making the surface even "

Be nice and have a Good Day!

1 Comment

Greg Ricketts
Feb 01, 2020

Another well conceived and executed treatise on this hobby. I find that healthy discourse on most areas concerning these 100+ year old markers of the past are enjoyable and frequently yield greater clarification on the genesis of these tools. Whew! I am now all out of $3 words. I for one tote my planer planes by the handle anytime I take them inside to hone the iron cutting blades. Thanks for the insight, history lesson and most of all the chuckle to punctuate my day.

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