Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for Whirlygig


Miss Eleanor Moody's crime was to be "a Nuisance to the Publick". How, we may speculate. In 1757 she was charged and sentenced to an hour in the whirlygig where she was to remain for an hour "to be properly punished" and from there to be "sent out of this island". Presumably back home to Ireland.

The whirlygig was a primitive instrument of torture. One would be whirled in a cage until one vomited. I've seen these types of apparatus at Disneyesque fairs, where one pays for the privilege of being nauseated and actually begs them to take one's money for more.

Here is the Dictionary of Newfoundland English definition:

whirlygig n OED whirligig sb 2 (a) 'instrument of torture' (1477-1623). Revolving cage in which offenders are placed for punishment.
1757 PANL GN/3B 1 Oct ... cause the Constable to apprehend the said Eleanor Moody, & to put her in Prison 'till 4 o'clock in the afternoon, at which time to cause her to be put in the Whirlygig, where she is to remain One Hour, & to be properly punished, & to be sent out of this Island the first Opportunity, being a Nuisance to the Publick.

And here is the very slender Wikipedia entry. I note they used it to torture women in Tangiers.

And for any movie buffs out there, wasn't "whirly-gig" in old movies the original name for helicopters?

Today's post brought to you by the letter W from The Dictionary of Newfoundland English in partnership with the rest of the alphabet beginning here.

22 comments:

  1. I'd never heard of that form of punishment. It must have been a horrible experience. Yes, I wonder how she was "a nuisance to the public"? Insisting her neighbours were all witches and should be burnt at the stake, maybe?

    You're right, whirlygig is an old word for helicopters. Also for those flying roundabouts at fairs.

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  2. I'm glad I live now in more 'reasonable' times. At least I'm not in danger of that punishment. I wonder what she did to deserve it, if anyone ever did.

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  3. In Massachusetts at the time, they used the dunking stool for women or men who spoke out of turn, or committed other so-called infractions of the strict social code of the ruling theocracy.
    The stool was situated at the end of a long pole centered on a trestle. The woman (or man) would be tied to the stool, which extended over a river or pond, and dunked a prescribed number of times, rather like the current water-boarding form of torture.

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  4. Nick:
    Nuisance was frequently a term used for "begging". In Ireland back in the day many were sentenced
    to exile in Australia for such audacity.
    XO
    WWW

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  5. Irene:
    I wouldn't be so complacent now that they are sentencing sick women in the USA to jail terms for not paying small medical bills.
    Debtors prisons are alive and well. And I for one never say "it could never happen here".
    XO
    WWW

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  6. Marc:
    I've seen such atrocities in Mass. when I was there. And as you say, waterboarding lives on. And on.
    We are barbaric.
    XO
    WWW

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  7. That's something new to me - what a nasty instrument of torture!

    My only memory of the word Whirlygig from the UK - (and I'm copying from a website)
    "One of the first exponents of variety on children's television was Whirligig, a fortnightly Saturday afternoon treat, which began in November 1950, devised by Michael Westmore and which was the very first children's programme to be broadcast live from the BBC studios in Lime Grove."

    I wonder if the creators of the show realised what they were naming it after!

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  8. I too was under the impression that it meant a helicopter. But to pay for the privilege of puking? Must be masochistic.

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  9. As punishments go that's a fairly mild one methinks.

    I wonder if the term "gig" is derived from whirlygig. I know that way way back in the day some of the gigs I was at left my head whirly whirly

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  10. Oh that's funny T, I think the term whirligig was also attached to those sticks with the windmill attached, can't remember the name we called them.
    XO
    WWW

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  11. Ramana, you need to get out more to the funfairs! Little cages whirling about and children throwing up?
    then again, why would you want to see it? :)
    XO
    WWW

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  12. GFB:
    Wouldn't surprise me one bit.

    Whirly whirly was the condition I was in for most of the sixties...:)

    XO
    WWW

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  13. Oh my goodness, please don't punish me that way. :)

    Stopping by to say Hi.

    Teresa

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  14. Hm! Who would've known this was considered a torture. The whirligig reminds me of the Alice in Wonderland ride where a cup whirls in one direction and a base twirls in the other. I haven't seen my girls smile so big since they got into that ride once a day for the whole week we spent on Disneyland. I have to admit I had my share of laughs, too.

    Nice post.
    From Diary of a Writer in Progress

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  15. Not sure I'd want to be the fella spinning the cage if one of the objectives was to make the person inside upchuck! :-)

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  16. A whirligig was a helicopter to me and Jack often referred to the modern rotating cloths lines as whirligigs.

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  17. Well, I guess it's better than having your tongue split and your ears sliced off like they did here.

    When I was a kid whirlygigs were colorful plastic wheels on a stick that whirled around when you held them up in the wind.

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  18. Thanks for stopping by, Theresa!
    XO
    WWW

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  19. Welcome Gina:
    I am sure the whirligig was never as "comfortable" as the cup and saucer!
    the thought of either of them makes me sick!
    XO
    WWW

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  20. Veep:
    Head to toe plastic would be in order.
    Or at least a sou'wester!
    XO
    WWW

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  21. GM:
    I prefer the other definitions for sure!
    XO
    WWW

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  22. KV:
    Oh parts removed or split not allowed!
    I think we called such toys windmills but I can't be sure.
    XO
    WWW

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