[Ads-l] "antedate" for _pothole_

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Nov 6 00:27:01 UTC 2014

On Nov 5, 2014, at 4:41 PM, Dan Goncharoff wrote:

> Isn't the term "pot hole", referring to a geological feature defined as a
> deep round hole, much older than 1889? If so, it seems to me to bring the
> Harte sourcing into question.

Yes, but that's a different OED entry--

A hole formed by the wearing away of rock by the rotation of stones in running water or by glacial erosion; (more generally) any cylindrical or deep bowl-shaped hole of natural origin. Also: an underground system of shafts, chambers, and passages formed by water erosion.

--with cites back to 1826:

1826   T. L. McKenney Sketches Tour to Lakes (1827) 54   The waters were once, in many places, some fifty feet above their present level; for their action upon the rocks is plainly seen in the pot holes, as the excavations are called, which are made by the action of pebbles upon the rocks.

Still a bit later than the action in "Pemberley", during the time when "Boney is threatening our shores", but that would have been a nearer thing than the Harte sense exemplified by the pothole-riddled road.


> DanG
> On Wed, Nov 5, 2014 at 4:30 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>
> wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>> Subject:      "antedate" for _pothole_
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> The OED attributes the first cite in the modern sense ('a depression or =
>> hollow forming a defect in the surface of a road, track, etc.') to Bret =
>> Harte, 1889.  But in "Death Comes to Pemberley", the BBC adaptation of =
>> the P. D. James novel (which came up on the list in an Anachronism Watch =
>> posting a couple of years ago for its "antedates" of _police_, _in =
>> touch_, and the especially egregious _lifestyle_), a visitor to =
>> Pemberley in what is plausibly 1803, give or take a year, complains =
>> after her carriage ride that "the road is riddled with potholes".  Take =
>> that, Harte!
>> LH=
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>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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