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Masonic terms that are now in everyday language

If you are a Freemason you will already recognise these Masonic terms that are now in everyday language, and have been appropriated into everyday life.  If you are considering joining, then maybe you don’t (and also tany of the lodges in our Portfolio would be pleased to speak with you)

Hoodwinked film - Masonic terms that are now in everyday language

What does being Hoodwinked mean?

 If you are looking for Masonic terms that are now in everyday language, being hoodwinked if one of the most common.  There are even a series of films called Hoodwinked! means to trick or deceive someone.

In a Masonic lodge, it’s a very old term used to describe a blindfold.It means “cover,” and means “closed eye.” While being led through portions of the three degrees of the Masonic lodge, the candidate is prevented from seeing certain features of the room until the proper time in the ceremony, to focus his attention on the words he is hearing, and to symbolize the search for or knowledge. 

The Third Degree – Masonic explanation

The 3rd is the highest degree or level of ceremony conferred in a Masonic lodge. It’s known as the Master Mason degree; the two that come before it are the Entered Apprentice and the Fellow Craft degrees. You may encounter other Masonic degrees that have higher numbers, bestowed by some other branches within Freemasonry, but they are not more important or of any higher rank than the Master Mason.

In everyday life it can also mean torture, Wikipedia has this as the main explanation, “inflicting of pain, physical or mental, to extract confessions or statements”with a small reference to the Masonic variation.  3rd degree burns are also the worst burns that you can get.

On the Level – Freemasonry explanation

OIn everyday life -Collins explains “on the level as” – “If you say that someone or something is on the level, you mean that they are sincere or honest, and are not attempting to deceive people”

For example – “There were probably moments when you wondered if anyone spoke the truth or was on the level”

To a Freemason, being on the Level means just that — all Freemasons are Brothers who meet on the same level, regardless of their social or economic status outside the lodge. Princes, presidents, and captains of business are no better or more important than bus drivers, plumbers, and paper boys when they sit in the lodge together. Masonry does not detract from a man’s accomplishments, nor does it exalt him above his Brothers because of his position outside the lodge. 

On the Square – Masonic explanation

A very common phrase in everyday life, and one with no other explanation than having come from our fraternity – Freedictionary says – To act and speak honestly, without hiding information. For example “My daughter’s fiance is a very respectable fellow, and his actions are always on the square”

What does One the Square mean to a Freemason? _ Very simply, if someone is said to be “On the Square” then they are a Freemason.  There is even a Freemasonry magazine called The Square

Masonic explanation – When a stonemason cuts a block to use in the construction of a building, it must be perfectly shaped so that it will support the other blocks that surround it. The block’s sides must all be perfectly straight with no faults, so that it will do its part as just one small piece of a much larger building. To check the reliability of his workmanship, the stonemason uses a tool called shaped like a right angle, to determine whether the sides and angles of the stone are perfect.

Freemasons use the term to describe their trust in each other. A man who is on the square is honest and reliable, and is a strong part of the whole community around him.

Less well known, is a different use of the term where it is also used to mean “just between you and me.” When one Mason tells another Mason something he’d like to be kept private, he’ll often say “This is on the square.”

What is a Worshipful Master?

In Freemasonry the first/main officer of the Masonic lodge is called the Worshipful Master. This does not mean that Freemasons “worship” him. The position is like that of a president in other organizations. The term comes from Old English and is used to mean “greatly honored.” Mayors of English and Canadian cities are still referred to as “Your Worship.” Because Masonry has its origins in England during the Middle Ages, the term has been passed down through the centuries and has been retained.

Who or What is a Cowan?

The Tyler’s job is to keep off all “cowans and eavesdroppers”. Merriam-Webster defines a Cowan as “one who would pretend to Freemasonry or intrude upon its secrets.” 

The term is unusual and its origin is probably from a very old Anglo-Saxon word meaning “dog.”  It came to be a Scottish word used as a putdown to describe stonemasons who did not join the Freemasons guild, while the English used it to describe Masons who built rough stone walls without mortar and did not know the true secrets of Freemasonry.

What is being Blackballed and what is the Freemasonry connection?

In the wider world, the term blackballed has come to mean anyone rejected from joining any organisation. For example country clubs, private members clubs or trade organisations. However the origin of the word relates to Freemasonry.

When Freemasons vote on a new member, they use a ballot box that contains white balls (for “yes”) and black balls (for “no”). The opening of the box is hidden from the view of the other members, and each Mason votes in secret. Voting against the election of a new member in a Masonic election has come to be called blackballing ,and its use has spread to the outside world as well. These days, to prevent confusion while groping around in a little wooden box, the black pieces are now often cube-shaped, to avoid voting incorrectly by mistake. Alternatively the box is tilted so that members are clear which colour bar they will be selecting.  A member being blackballed is a very rare occurrence, and usually discussed before the meeting to avoid embarrassment.

Masonic identification questions that are now well known

Some of the phrases used when two Masons meet and are trying to establish the others membership status have made their way to a greater or lesser degree into the modern lexicon and are good examples of Masonic terms that are now in everyday language

  • “Are You a Traveling Man?”
  • “Whence come you and whither are you traveling?”
  • “I see you’ve traveled some,”
  • “Hello, Hiram,”
  • “Are you a Widow’s Son?”
  • More obscure is “How old is your Mother?”, a question that refers to the number of your home lodge.