Woody Phrases and Expressions

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The woods and forests have long inspired man. Essential to our early survival and an inherent part of life on this planet, trees and wood are just as much a part of our language, literary heritage and psyche. Here are some examples of phrases often used which depict our close relationship with the woods and forests of the land:

Knock On Wood

This is a popular expression that is used to ward off bad luck. It is a superstition that when we knock on or touch wood, nothing bad will happen. An example being ‘I won’t be late today, touch wood’.

One theory is that it originated in the Middle Ages when it symbolised the pieces of the Holy Rood or the Cross where Jesus was crucified. Touching one of them was supposed to bring good luck, then people adapted it to mean touching any kind of wood would bring good luck.

Alternatively, some think it originates from the ancient Druids, who were tree worshippers, especially of the mighty Oak and would wear a necklace made of the wood around their necks to deter evil spirits.

Some others place the origin on a belief in wood sprites. During medieval times, many believed in naughty little creatures called sprites. Sprite is another word for a ghost or spirit with a reputation for making trouble and creating havoc for the living. Among the naughtiest of all spirits are the wood sprites. Should you speak of bsomething good, the wood sprite will try to damage it. The thought is that by knocking on wood when you say such things, any wood sprites will not be able to hear you because of the sound of the knock and therefore leave you alone.

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Barking up the wrong tree

This well-known expression means to look for something in the wrong place; to chase the wrong person or object. An example could be ‘If he thinks I can help, he’s barking up the wrong tree’. Don’t go barking up the wrong tree when it comes to maintaining the trees on your property. If in doubt, call in a Tree Surgeon Bournemouth like kieranboylandtreeservices.com

Cannot see the wood for the trees

This is a phrase used to describe a person who is unable to view a situation from a broader perspective, can’t see the whole situation or is unable to see the bigger picture. You might hear it in a conversation such as, ‘They don’t understand. They can’t see the wood for the trees’.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree

This is used to describe how a person can be very similar to their parents, in terms of behaviour and / or physical characteristics. When a child demonstrates a trait or facial expression that is a lot like a parent, people may use this phrase. For example, ‘She sounds just like her mum. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!’

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Out of the woods

This is an expression that means to be out of danger and in the clear or to get oneself out of a tricky situation. It could originate from a time when woods were places of unknown danger, such as wolves or hiding highwaymen! An example in conversation would be, ‘He was very ill, but thankfully he’s out of the woods now’.


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