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chug hole

Posted: Mon Mar 27, 2006 9:56 pm
by incarnatus est
I'm reading "The Disinherited" by Jack Conroy, originally published in 1933. Circa 1900 he is a boy and, referring to the poor condition of country roads, says the drivers of wagons had to be wary of "chug holes."
Anyone familiar with this term? Speficifically: why "chug" holes?

chug hole

Posted: Mon Mar 27, 2006 11:51 pm
by gdwdwrkr
Here in PA we have "chuck holes", "potholes" in dirt roads.
Could be onomatopoeic or reference to woodchuck holes.

chug hole

Posted: Tue Mar 28, 2006 10:15 pm
by Ken Greenwald
Hugh, I’m not familiar with CHUG HOLE / CHUGHOLE / CHUG-HOLE. For me, as with James in his neck of the woods in Pennsylvania, it has always been CHUCK HOLE / CHUCKHOLE / CHUCK-HOLE. But since they sound so much alike, it is possible that I have heard it before but confused the two. A Google search produced about 30,000 hits for the ‘chuck’ camp and about 1500 hits for the ‘chugers.’

According to the dictionaries CHUCKHOLE (1836) and CHUGHOLE (1905) are synonyms with ‘chuckhole’ being the older term. The origin of the ‘chuck’ in 'chuckhole' is unknown but ‘woodchuck’ sounds to me as good an explanation as any. But it is an open question, as far as I can see, whether CHUGHOLE was a variation or mishearing of CHUCKHOLE or whether it developed independently. But the anecdotal tale told in the 1948 newspaper article below would have it that the CHUG developed on its own.

CHUCKHOLE noun [the sense of ‘chuck’ here is uncertain]: A depression, hole, pit, or pothole in the street or road. [Alteration ‘chughole’ chiefly used in South Midland states, especially Kentucky but also Tennessee, Southern Indiana, Texas, and Oklahoma]
<1836 “25 June, The abundance of traveling . . .wears the road into deep holes; these we call CHUCK-HOLES.”—‘Journey New Jersey to Ohio’ (1929) by E. L. Wilson>

<1860 “Broke right hind wheel . . . in sand CHUCK HOLE.”—‘Diary Pike’s Peak’ (1937) by Lewis. 14.209>

<1868 “[under] ‘Purity and Propriety.’ [[avoid such] ] barbarisms [[as]] behest, irk, obligate, and CHUCKHOLE.”—’Advanced Course of Composition and Rhetoric’ by Quackenbos>

<1869 “The jolting of the rocks and the ‘CHUCK HOLES’ of the road . . . kept us in a somewhat perpetual . . . motion.”—‘Our New West. Records of Travel Between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean’ by S. Bowles, xiv. page 276>

<1887 “‘CHUCK-HOLES’ is the expressive Western name for the short, sharp depressions which use makes in unworked country roads.”—‘Zury’ by J. Kirkland, page 2>

<1905 “CHUG-HOLE . . . Mud-hole. ‘This road’s full of CHUG-HOLES.’ Common in northwest Arkansas.”—‘Dialect Notes,’ Vol.3, page 74>

<1923 “CHUG Hole . . . An abrupt depression in a road or highway. Also CHUCK HOLE.” southwest Missouri”—‘Dialect Notes,’ Vol. 5, page 203>

<1930 “Poor going . . . due to rocky CHUCK-HOLES, and deep ruts.”—‘Staying with Relations’ by R. Macaulay, xix. page 272>

<1951 “Speaking of Mud.—Reports about bad roads in rural Oregon brings forth some slight cases of exaggeration. . . From Lowell way comes Ed Lollar’s story. Last year, so he says, he was passing through a deep CHUCKHOLE in front of his store and another car traveling faster ran right over the top of his car.”—‘Western Folklore,’ Vol. 10, No. 3 July, page 255>

<1953 “Roads buckle and heave. Runways are soon pockmarked with dangerous chuckholes.
For scientists, the biggest trouble is that the arctic is a poor laboratory.”— ‘Time Magazine, 16 March>

<1959 “I shall never forget the early thirties. I was working my routes from early to late, over roads that were full of CHUG HOLES you could bury a dog in.” southwest Arkansas. —‘Echoes’ by Sanders, page 50>
[Note the 1951 quote above for what can happen when you have a really nasty CHUCK/CHUG HOLE.]

The following is a colorful anecdotal tale from a 1948 Kentucky newspaper describing the origin of the CHUG in CHUGHOLE:

The Courier–Journal(Louisville, Kentucky), February 7, 1948:

“My husband . . . stopped for road directions one night . . . An old man told him: ‘Go to the next CHUG in the road and turn right . . .’ CHUGS are holes that used to scar old-time roads like poxmarks. They were called CHUG-HOLES, or CHUGS, from the noise made when a wagon hit one. The driver went ‘Ug!’ and the seasoned hickory of his front axle let out a low groan of twisted agony. The two sounds always blended into something like ‘CHUG!’ A small sinkhole was the beginning of many a CHUG. But most of them were caused by somebody digging out a stump, then neglecting to fill up the hole. There was a difference between CHUGHOLES and mudholes. Mudholes were bothersome only in rainy weather, or after a hard freeze. But CHUG-HOLES broke as many axles in dry weather as in wet. They were a nuisance the year round."

(Dictionary of American Regional English, Oxford English Dictionary)

Ken G – March 28, 2006

chug hole

Posted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 2:38 pm
by hsargent
So now I don't know what I have called them. Potholes, yes but I haven't listened to myself well enough to know whether I call it chughole or chuckhole. I've never seen it in print. I believe chuckhole is not used in Texas.

Similar terms issue is Easedrop and Eavesdrop. Once I was aware to the slight differences, I have heard both which are both bizarre terms!

chug hole

Posted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 2:51 pm
by Bobinwales
Harry, if you are outside a house, and you stand very near a window so that you can hear what is being said inside, water from the EAVES may DROP onto your head!

chug hole

Posted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 2:57 pm
by gdwdwrkr
But also, if you are hanging on a rickety trellis or downspout, you might EASily DROP onto your head!

chug hole

Posted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 3:31 pm
by Spearmint
I've always heard "chughole."

chug hole

Posted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 3:37 pm
by russcable
I say chuckhole in Texas.

chug hole

Posted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 4:30 pm
by kagriffy
In Illinois, we usually call them "potholes," but I have heard them called "chuckholes." Of course, after a heavy rain, we just call them "lakes."

chug hole

Posted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 4:43 pm
by Shelley
I hear and use only "potholes" (New York). My midwestern roots recall only "potholes". Guess I haven't been paying attention . . . Speaking of: a "sinkhole" swallowed an SUV the other day in one of the boroughs. True story.

chug hole

Posted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 11:31 pm
by Wizard of Oz
.. in Aus we have potholes and in some places they just combine to be called the road ..

WoZ of Aus 30/03/06

chug hole

Posted: Thu Mar 30, 2006 7:24 pm
by incarnatus est
Very interesting responses and I thank you all. I'm also from Pennsylvania and usually say 'pothole,s' but have heard them called chuckholes.
Question: Is is possible that the hub of a wheel on a wagon was ever called the 'chuck'? I know the center of a drill, the part that holds the bit (equivalent to an axle?) is called the 'chuck.'
Then, if so, maybe the wagon wheel falling into the hole 'up to the chuck,' later corrupted to 'chug.'???

chug hole

Posted: Thu Mar 30, 2006 7:27 pm
by incarnatus est
One further piece of info here: Jack Conroy the author I referred to in the initial post of this thread, grew up in Moberly, Missouri. Born in 1899.

chug hole

Posted: Thu Jun 08, 2006 2:56 pm
by Shelley
On a video featuring a British guy, Ian Wright, travelling in South Dakota and environs, he refers to exploring a cave as pothole-ing! I would have called what he and his guide were doing "spelunking", but he called it "pothole-ing" a few times. Any of you guys from that side of the herring pond know what he's talking about?

chug hole

Posted: Thu Jun 08, 2006 3:54 pm
by Bobinwales
Glad to help Shelley,

Although my profile shows that I live in Swansea, I actually live near Swansea, not far from this place:

This site tells you what a pothole is (a vertical shaft), but being a portly middle-aged gentleman myself, you can guess why I never go near holes in the ground.

I understand from a niece and a newly acquired nephew-in-law that the whole business is quite exhilarating. I am happy to take their word for it.

On the subject of words, I have not met "spelunking" before, nor has the Compact Oxford.