Washboard road

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Thu Apr 22 11:56:33 UTC 2004

In a message dated  Wed, 21 Apr 2004 04:28:13 -0400,  Bapopik at AOL.COM says

>     My tour guide (a native of South Africa but now a citizen of Namibia)
> says that they have "corrugated roads" here in Namibia, and that these
> be called "corduroy roads" in Canada and "washboard roads" in the United
> States.
>     I don't have the time to look into this right now, but someone else can.

Your tour guide does not know the correct North American terminology.

A "corduroy road" is (OED2)  "a road or causeway constructed of trunks of
trees laid together transversely across a swamp or miry ground".  This was a
popular technique in the 19th century.  First citation is 1822 (US) and 1836

A "washboard road" is an effect sometimes seen in dirt or gravel roads, in
which the surface of the road consists of small ridges and valleys
("corrugated").  I once read, in a letter to columnist Tom McCahill of Mechanix Illustrated
magazine, ca. 1960, from a catskinner, that the washboard effect is caused by
a road-grader operator who sets the blade of his machine incorrectly so that
it bounces over the surface of the road, causing corrugations.  OED2 gives a
first citation of 1949.

Hence a "corduroy road" and a "washboard road" are quite different puppies,
and I can't recall ever having seen the two terms conflated.

I doubt that Namibia has enough trees to spare to pave roads with, so
corduroy roads are unlikely, and washboarding, like potholes, is an undesired result
of damage to roads, not the result of original construction.

          - Jim Landau

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