Washboard road

Wilson Gray hwgray at EARTHLINK.NET
Thu Apr 22 19:20:52 UTC 2004


?"Catskinner" = operator of a Caterpillar or similar brand of
roadgrader, e.g. Kotatsu, based on traditional "muleskinner" = driver
of a multiple-mule team, once used for a more-or-less similar purpose
in road construction?

New to me. Never heard it before, never read it before, in nearly 65
years of native competence in American English of Texas, Louisiana,
Alabama, Missouri, Illinois, California, Massachusetts, and
Pennsylvania. Jeez, Jim! How'd you let that one slip out of you
unannotated?;-) I'm a cat-fancier and you can imagine the picture that
entered my mind when I saw this word.

-Wilson Gray

On Apr 22, 2004, at 7:56 AM, James A. Landau wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "James A. Landau" <JJJRLandau at AOL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Washboard road
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
> 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
> would
>> 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
> (Canada).
> 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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list