Arborist? Whats in a name?
Writing the text for this site has caused me to ponder, are we Arborists? Tree Surgeons? or perhaps Arboriculturalists? We are all of these things, and probably a few others as well; forester, wood cutter, lumberjack, the list goes on. In the internet age what we call ourselves is important since people will search the net for specific terms, and we don’t want to miss out by calling ourselves tree surgeons when our customers are searching for Arborists. Analysing popular search terms has raised more questions than answers.
Unlike other professions we don’t have a registered name, you can’t just call yourself a chartered surveyor without being a chartered member of RICS for example, but anyone can call themselves an arborist or tree surgeon so I suppose its down to us to choose the term that best fits what we are.
To me an Arboriculturalist isn’t someone who chops trees down, he’s more of a boffin, a scientist who takes an academic approach to tree work, surveying trees and writing reports, analysing samples and identifying tree diseases and Fungi. Its not a popular search term on the net so we perhaps don’t need to worry about this one.
I consider the Arborist as being perhaps one step down from the Arboriculturalist, academically speaking at least, he gets his hands dirty but he still knows his stuff, the O.E.D says “a scientific student or cultivator of trees” so not really the grubby chainsaw wielding type then. Although many now call themselves arborists in preference to tree surgeons, “tree surgeon” is still the most popular search on Google, with arborist coming a poor second, so while we may wish to associate ourselves with the more professional sounding “arborist” title our customers still see us primarily as tree surgeons. At least the term “wood cutter” is seldom found in the search box, although much more common in Scotland than in England and Wales apparently.
So whats wrong with being a tree surgeon? well there are a lot of less than professional types out there who use that term, so perhaps thats the reason we are seeing more and more arborists as companies wish to disassociate themselves from the guys who will tar your drive, fix your roof and of course cut your trees. I have always called myself a tree surgeon if anyone asks, I suspect if I said arborist I would get a lot of “so whats that then” questions, to which the reply would likely be “you know, a tree surgeon”, Perhaps “a tree surgeon with brains” would be better. Surgeons have brains, though, especially brain surgeons, who in conjunction with rocket scientists are the bench mark by which all other professions are judged. So whats wrong with being a tree surgeon? Are there really that many cowboys out there using the term? Its hard to tell.
Lumberjack is still quite a popular search term on the net, more popular than arborist in fact, to me this has always conjured up an image of a bearded man mountain in a red plaid shirt walking through groves of giant trees in the pacific north west, I’m surprised it scores so highly. Up till now I hadn’t mentioned it anywhere on the site at all. Might need to change that!
I have lost count of the times people have said “I thought there’d be three of you… you know tree fellers Geddit!” Thankfully its only a few comedians who look for the phrase, it hardly registers as a search term.
So what are we?
Our problem is some of what we do is boffinery, and some is brutish tree killing. We do carry out tree surveys and write reports, and three of our staff are degree educated, with qualifications in arboriculture, but they all climb trees and use chainsaws, some have been seen in red plaid shirts, two have beards, and one is a man mountain, none of then thankfully are cowboys. It just gets more confusing! Perhaps “Arborist” is the best catch all term for us although its clear that I will have to try and optimise the website for most of the terms mentioned above, and I’m not sure I want to tell people “I’m an arborist” I still feel like a tree surgeon. Still this article will have hopefully increased our internet search rankings for all the terms mentioned above so perhaps thats all that matters.