Hen’s nests and potholes
One French expression that came up last night was nid-de-poule (hen’s nest), which sounds much more interesting than it’s English equivalent, pothole.
The English word pothole can refer to a number of things, including:
- a hole formed in rock by stones in water or glacial erosion;
- underground passages, shafts and chambers formed by water erosion;
- a pond formed by water collecting in a natural hollow (mainly in North American English)
- a shallow hole dug in the ground while prospecting (mainly in Australia)
- a depression or hollow in a road or track
Another French word for the kind of pothole that occurs in road is fondrière, from fondre (to melt), while the kind of pothole found underground is a caverne, grotte or gouffre. The French equivalent of potholing is spéléologie and a spéléleogue / spéléo (potholer) is said to faire de la spéléologie (to go potholing), an activity known as spelunking or caving in American English. The word speleology is also used to some extent in English and comes, via the French spéléleogue and Latin spēlæum, from the Greek σπήλαιον (spí̱laion – cave) plus λογία (logia). The adjective spelaean means ‘cave-dwelling’.
The word potholing apparently originated in the north of England and refers to the act of exploring potholes, which in this case refers to vertical caves.
Do any of you go caving / potholing / spelunking? If you do, what do you call it?
Are there interesting words for potholes (in roads) in other languages?