Q: "gallows" also including a platform?

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Wed Jan 9 00:31:44 UTC 2013

In early 19th C NYC, at least, hangings were accomplished by running the
rope from the honore's neck over the crosstree to a heavy weight, leaving
some slack..  The weight was supported by another rope.  When the sheriff
had heard enough penitent harangue,  he cut the rope supporting the weight,
the weight fell, and jerked the condemned upwards.

As in the expression "jerked to Jesus", from much later in the century.


On Mon, Jan 7, 2013 at 9:04 AM, Amy West <medievalist at w-sts.com> wrote:

> 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

George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much since then.

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

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