|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Oil derricks, it turns out, are named (indirectly) after someone named Derrick—not an oil man, though, but a hangman: According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word (which originally referred to hangmen and gallows) comes from

Derrick, the surname of a noted hangman at Tyburn c1600. 

I did not know that.

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  1. Thank you, Johnny.

  2. Next we’ll learn that construction cranes are not named after the awkward skinny-legged birds.

    1. And who would name their boy after his anatomy! >:(

      1. Peter? Dick? Rod? Lance? And bringing up the rear, with only one example (AFAIK): Shaft.

        Years ago, I had a (male!!!) client whose parents named him Lesbia. So, from that point forward, no name shocks me.

        1. I knew a woman who’s parents apparently liked the sound of the word “Placenta” when they heard it in the hospital.

          1. s/who’s/whose

        2. Seems as good a time as any to point out that Thomas Crapper invented the floating ballcock.

      2. Parents of Testicles, brother to Pericles, Sophocles, and Damocles.

  3. In recent decades the name is more often spelled Derek. It’s essentially the same derivation, deriving from old Germanic names Theodoric or Diederic, depending on what particular country it might have been in. “Derrick” is probably the traditional English form; Derek might have a hint of Dutch. Parents, if you want your child to grow up and be tough and scary, name for the hangman. Otherwise, the connotations of Derek might be better.

  4. Thomas Derrick, a convicted rapist who was pardoned on condition of taking on that job. Killed more than 3000 people during his career (it is alleged) including Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, who had originally pardoned him, ending the “Essex rebellion” of 1601 against Elizabeth I of England

  5. Could have been worse. He could have been named Richard. Is there any doubt what oil riggers would be calling them in that case?

  6. Less well known was his little brother, Pumpjack.

  7. I’m actually more interested, Professor Volokh, in what led you to this discovery in the first place.

  8. Shrapnel: Major General Henry Shrapnel, 1784.

  9. Was he the one who “hanged” Cromwell after the Restoration?

  10. Odd though that the lynching you might use your Derrick for is named after Charles Lynch, a Virginia revolutionary whose makeshift court imprisoned loyalists but didn’t actually execute anybody.

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