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You think you've got cobbles?

And the rock just rolls back down the hill again.

My suspicions are aroused every time a writer in search of local color refers to “cobblestoned streets,” because the writer seldom if ever understands what cobblestones are and how they differ from other paving stones. I took one such reference out tonight, with a certainty that it will not be the last.

Cobblestones are made from cobbles, stones naturally rounded by the action of water. If the paving stones in that quaint little street are flat, or merely irregular rather than rounded, they aren’t cobblestones. Over time, most cobblestones were replaced with other paving stones, because traveling over cobblestones is a little like driving on cannonballs.

At the risk of repeating myself — and that’s a risk you share in every time you visit this site — I refer you to the "Stones unturned" post from July 2007.

Put your shoulder to it, and we'll try to roll this one back up the hill again.



Posted by John McIntyre at 7:51 PM | | Comments (6)


I rode and walked on cobblestoned streets when I lived in Germany many years ago. Just walking on them is an exercise in auto-shiatsu-massage.

And "cobblestone" is so different from "whom" ?

For the next lesson, a discussion of the derivation of Cobleskill.

(I grew up near Cobleskill, N.Y.)

If cobbles are stones naturally rounded by water, then isn't "cobblestones" like saying "stone stones"?

Then, how did the phrase, cobbled together come about?

"Then, how did the phrase, cobbled together come about?"

Probably something to do with a Cobbler rather than a Stonemason.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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