from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A bank or ridge of snow which has been heaped up across a road by passing sleighs, leaving a corresponding depression behind; hence, a surface-undulation or ridge-like inequality which, with the corresponding depression, is known in the United States as a ‘thank-you-ma'am.’


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  • Overcome by drink, asleep in the snow, they silently, but vigorously seized hold of him with an iron grip; a cahot and physical pain having restored him to consciousness, he devoutly crossed himself, and, presto! was hurled into another snow-drift.

    Picturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present 1868

  • We are in a cahot and must get our cariole out of it as best we can!

    The Golden Dog William Kirby 1861


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  • A deep trench carved in the snow

    Some francophones call a cahot.

    Like a sastruga in Russia

    (But certainly slushier)

    It'll deal your sleigh quite a blow.

    I am glad to write a limerick for this recycled Word of the Day because it gives me another chance to say “sastruga,” but I have grave doubts about the authenticity of this definition. The French dictionaries I have consulted define “cahot” as a “jolt” or “bump” transmitted to a moving vehicle and its occupants by the surface of a bumpy road. The cahot is the object, so to speak, not the subject. There is no mention of snow or sleighs. The suggestion that "thank-you-ma'am" is an American equivalent is preposterous. This is a hoary bit of humor likely to be applied to any concussive experience to imply the rhyming "slam, bam" present when the full cliché is applied to an episode of hasty sex.

    I can imagine our intrepid word collector, Ernest Bafflewit, traveling one winter up near the Canadian border. Observing a ridge of snow that had built up at a turn in the road he asked a local informant, "What do you call that ridge of snow?" That worthy, puzzled at the assumption that they would call a ridge of snow anything but "a ridge of snow" replied, "Well, some folk in these parts might rightly call that a "cahot" because that's what them French voyajewers called it; but some that ain't so blessed lingo-like, why they might call it a "thank-you-ma'am."

    The two parted, each much pleased. Ernest was convinced he had obtained a new and exotic specimen for his collection. His informant was glad to have brightened a dark winter afternoon with a bit of fun at the stranger's expense and to have gained an amusing anecdote to share when next he addressed the local Philosophical Society.

    March 22, 2014