Doesn’t this word look fancy, with its little ornamental roof on the â? And yet doesn’t it also look a bit, um, well, are you sure you want it?
Let’s start with how to say it. The chât is “shat” as in château – in fact, that’s why the circumflex, because that’s where it comes from, and while you could write it without it, chathole doesn’t suggest its origin and sense as clearly. And the hole is “hole” as in hole – or, to be specifically frank and frankly specific, as in shithole. You know, that colloquialism meaning ‘highly undesirable place’.
So yeah. This word is a blend of château and shithole. It has two available senses: it can be one of those ghastly monster McMansions, wretched hives of kitsch and fugxury; or it can be a luxury accommodation, such as a grand hotel or a castle or château, that has, hmmm, seen better days. You know, it looked great in the ads or on the website, but when you get there the paint is peeling, the stairways are dirty, the tub has stains, and everything looks kind of faded and dingy and sad.
Well, what do you expect from a château, really. They’re all old, and that takes upkeep. And there are a lot of things that might have been functional once but are just decorative now. Just look at that cute roof, for instance: ˆ. Once upon a time, that cute roof on château was an s (as is usually the case for circumflexes in French spelling). But that’s not the only thing that changed with the fashion of the times. That water feature at the end – eau – was once a whole other ell of the edifice – in fact, an ellum, later reduced to an el. And that soft ch there, in the mists of ancient time, was a solid “k” – spelled c. Yes, this château is a faded, fashioned relic of chastel, which in turn is a modification of castellum. So this fancy-looking French château is a gussied-up old cold stone castle.
But we can agree, or at least most of us can, that the word château has been well maintained and is presentable. It is a lamentable fact that the same is not true for all actual châteaux. And it is also a shame to say that many a similarly grand and palatial accommodation – hotel or residence or whatnot – is not what it used to be: it started out inviting but has ended up as a hole – not just a shadow of its former self but a châthole of it.
But at least it once was something good. Which is more than can be said about many of the suburban disasters that have been turded onto the landscape in recent times…