A term now mainly confined to Canada and Cajun Louisiana, brûlé— from the French brûler, to burn—means a burned-over area of forest or swamp. In the words of Canadian woodsman and mountaineer Curly Phillips, about a difficult moment in the mountains of British Columbia: “We lost the trail and had to cut through half a mile of brule.” The term was carried to Louisiana in the eighteenth century by French Canadian exiles from Acadia (their name for Nova Scotia and adjacent areas). English-speaking pioneers of the Canadian West customized bois brûlé, burnt woods, into the more user-friendly “bob ruly.” According to historian George R. Stewart, bois brûlé also meant the son of a French father and an Indian mother.

John Daniel