Chuckhole vs. pothole: A Hoosier debate that runs deep

Posted at 6:25 AM, Mar 01, 2018
and last updated 2022-02-24 12:53:40-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- Whether you call them potholes, chuckholes or as the late Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut put it in 1979, "blankety blank chuckholes," they've been haunting Hoosier drivers for decades.

While the word chuckhole is commonly used in the Hoosier state, the word pothole is more widely used throughout the country. The term pothole began to creep into the Hoosier lexicon in the mid '90s.

A brief search of the WRTV archive shows the words pothole and chuckhole were frequently used interchangeably during that time.

But in 1996, tensions reached a breaking point.

Former GOP state chairman Gordon Durnil faxed WRTV in that year to voice his frustration with the use of the word pothole.

He told WRTV, "All of a sudden this year everyone in the media, including the newspaper seemed to be using the word pothole instead of chuckhole, so I wonder why that is. Are we going to start saying Car-mel instead of Carmel or Ver-sigh instead of Versailles? What's wrong with Hoosier words and pronunciations?"

While the name has evolved, the methods of attacking these costly craters hasn't. Hot patch is the preferred, longest lasting repair method. It involves an oil-based mix that can't be used when it's wet outside. Cold patch is more readily available, but it doesn't last as long.

In cases of deep potholes, the Indianapolis Department of Public Works even uses sandbags to lessen the blow to your vehicle.

While the name may change, the existence of potholes likely won’t. So if you want to embrace the Hoosier vernacular, chuckhole is the way to go. If you want people outside of the Midwest to know what you're talking about, pothole is probably your best bet.