You say “potato”

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It’s amazing how many different terms we use to describe something. But when you’re contracted to make something for a customer, you’d both better be talking about the same thing no matter what term you use.

Shakespeare noted that a rose would smell the same no matter what you called it. He was right, of course, but when you’re the one heading to the florist with a wad of your client’s cash, it’s probably best you ask for the right flower.

I recently edited an online home improvement article on tongue-and-groove boards as a wall treatment. In the article, intended for a very general audience, the writer consistently used the term “wall paneling” as he described how T&G boards are installed, but never once used the words “board” or “plank.” That’s probably no problem for you and me, but for the article’s intended audience, “wall paneling” is almost guaranteed to evoke images of 4x8 sheets. That, after all, is what a nonprofessional will expect to get if they walk into their local Big Box and ask for “wall paneling.” The bottom line was that the article would be at least somewhat confusing to probably 90 percent of the people reading it.

Now, convert this scenario to the real-world process of a contractor discussing a remodeling job with a customer not conversant in the myriad terms used to describe home improvement products. The customer says he wants wood paneling in his man cave or whatever and you, as the contractor, give him a bid. Trouble is, the customer was thinking of that thin stuff that comes in sheets, and you’re ready to start nailing up 3/4" T&G oak planks. Okay, so it probably wouldn’t actually go that far, but you get the idea.

I’m betting that as woodworking professionals you’ve encountered this on more than one occasion, and I’d be curious to hear what your most outrageous case was.

A.J.

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