|An oil well and derrick|
Noun. Early 17th century.
[Derrick, the surname of a noted London hangman floruit 1600.]
1 obsolete. Capitalised as Derrick. A hangman; hanging; the gallows. E17-L18
2 A contrivance for hoisting or moving heavy weights. M18-M19
2(a) NAUTICAL. A tackle used at the outer quarter of the mizzen-mast. M-L18
2(b) A spar or boom set up obliquely, with its head steadied by guys,
and fitted with tackle, originally used on board ship. M18
2(c) A kind of crane with a jib or adjustable arm pivoted to the foot of the central post, deck, or floor. M19
3 A framework erected over an oil-well or similar boring, to support the drilling apparatus. M19
|A derrick crane|
The Wonder Book of Engineering Wonders (1931)
So, firstly, let's get what a derrick isn't out of the way: it's not one of those odd, slightly creepy bowing constructions that you see tirelessly pumping away in deserts. Those are oil pumps, and they're variously called pumpjacks, sucker rod pumps, grasshopper pumps, Big Texans, thirsty birds, horsehead pumps and nodding donkeys. They are not, however, called derricks, even though many of you (including me) thought they were.
So what's a derrick? Broadly speaking, it's one of two things: a type of crane, or the framework that supports a drilling operation. Conveniently, both types are almost as recognisable as the nodding donkeys we thought were called derricks, and so from this day forth there need no longer be any confusion.
|This is not a derrick|
(photo from Geograph.co.uk)
As for the modern name Derek, this is a variant of Derrick, and can also be spelled Derreck, Derick, Derrok and (for the especially pretentious) Deryck; its origin is the German name Theodoric, meaning 'ruler of the people'. Despite this regal origin, however, it has come to be universally regarded as a very silly name, rhyming as it does with such unsavoury words as sick, tick, hick and ick (as well as a few others that shall not be printed here). Quite possibly, it was Thomas Derrick's silly name that compelled him to be such as ardent executioner, as no one had ever taken him seriously in his life before.
|Self-portrait of some bloke called 'Derek'|
Did you ever confuse a nodding donkey with a derrick?
Do you know a Derek that's a bit of a donkey?
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