Like a bump on a log

What is the meaning of the phrase ‘Like a bump on a log’?

Still, motionless, inactive.

What is the origin of the phrase ‘Like a bump on a log’?

Although it’s still the subject of much debate as to whether the phrase originated in the US or the UK, I can confirm that it was first seen in American English in the 1860s.

The phrase was and is typically used as an insult, to say that a person is useless, lazy or inactive, because, like a bump on a log they are motionless, and have no real use to anyone. They may as well be inanimate.

The phrase is most often used when people are busying themselves around others, who may be, for example, on the couch watching TV, or playing video games, not offering to help out.

The phrase is typically preceded by the person saying it by ‘You haven’t moved’ and/or followed by ‘Get up and help.’

What are some notable uses of the phrase ‘Like a bump on a log’?

Despite its widespread use, the phrase doesn’t come up as much in popular culture as often as you may expect. This may be due to there being lazier ways of calling someone lazy.

That said, however, the phrase ‘like a bump on a log’ does occasionally come up in the likes of American novels, children’s books, cartoons, political commentary, sports commentary, and on TV shows such as ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ and ‘The Simpsons’.

Cari Mayhew - Author at Phrase Finder

Cari Mayhew

Lifelong learner, phrase fanatic, and lover of literature across multiple genres. Cari Mayhew has a passion for expression, and a keen curiosity for how phrases begin and how their use transforms over time. She is often found looking for the ideal idiom to convey her thoughts and musings.