Like a bump on a log

The phrase like a bump on a log is an idiom that may not be as old as you think. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Common idioms are used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. The phrase like a bump on a log is also a simile. A simile is a comparison of two different things using the word like or the word as. We will examine the meaning of the phrase like a bump on a log, where this expression came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

The phrase like a bump on a log usually describes someone who is greatly inactive. This inactivity may be due to being shy, being lazy or being stupid. Phrases such as like a bump on a log are difficult to translate, and English-speakers for whom English is not their native language may have a hard time understanding idioms from literal translations of the vocabulary. The phrase like a bump on a log is not found in most dictionaries. Comparing someone to a bump on a log is an insult, as it implies that the person is dull or lazy. It also carries the connotation that the speaker has some type of authority over the person being compared to a bump on a log. Most often, the term is used in the negative to communicate an admonishment over a person’s behavior, as in don’t sit there like a bump on a log. The expression like a bump on a log is only found in spoken English or informal texts. Since the phrase begins with the preposition like, like a bump on a log is a prepositional phrase. A prepositional phrase functions in a sentence as an adjective or adverb. Synonyms of the phrase like a bump on a log that may be found in a thesaurus are: lazy, inert, not moving. The etymology or origin of the term is unclear, although it was first seen in American English in the 1860s. Usage most probably began in dialect form. The expressions like a lump on a log and like a knot on a log appear at about the same time. The plural form is like bumps on a log.


“In plain words, we have council people who sit there like a bump on a log and refuse to ask questions and go along with whatever is dictated to them.” (The Tribune-Review)

Keeping up conversation while driving was too distracting, she says, “and of course, I don’t want to just sit there like a bump on a log.” (The Columbia Business Times)

When a listener sits there, like a “bump on a log,” as we extroverts would put it, not responding, not feeding our energy back to us, we feel frustrated and assume you are rejecting our ideas and us. (The Globe and Mail)

“You can’t have two people sitting like a bump on a log — people are not going to tune in, so you better do a show that’s entertaining that people are going to watch,” he said. (The Huffington Post)


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