Q: "gallows" also including a platform?

Charles C Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Mon Jan 7 15:03:08 UTC 2013

The locution "mount the gallows" gets some half a million raw Google hits.

From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Amy West [medievalist at W-STS.COM]
Sent: Monday, January 07, 2013 9:04 AM

On 1/7/13 12:00 AM, Automatic digest processor wrote:
> Date:    Sun, 6 Jan 2013 21:07:37 -0500
> From:    "Joel S. Berson"<Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject: Q:  "gallows" also including a platform?
> If someone was to be punished by being "set upon the gallows with a
> rope around their neck" (as in colonial laws and verdicts), doesn't
> that mean that there are usages of "gallows" that necessarily include
> a platform?  The OED merely says the "apparatus" "usually consist[s]
> of two uprights and a cross-piece".  I know there were hangings where
> the executioner simply pulled up on a rope, but there were also
> executions where a "platform" (such as a trap door) was lowered.
> Joel
I'm not an expert, but I've heard talks on medieval and Renaissance
executions, and the period illustrations showed a variety of gallows
forms: there's the raising, there's standing on something kicked out
underneath, and then there's the trapdoor. *That* last one  is much
later, I believe, when they started using the hangman's slipknot in the
19th? century. Earlier hangings were death by strangulation, not death
by snapping the neck.  The OED def, like a good def., is just
delineating the minimum, allowing for additional elements, because the
structure does vary by time and place.

---Amy West

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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