Rigger - rigour

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Rigger and rigour form one of the sets of homophones listed by the then Poet Laureate Robert Bridges.
(For more, see Bridges homophones). AWE has a category listing our articles on each of these.. Rigger and rigour are in his List VI - “Words excluded from the main list for various reasons, their homophony being rightly questioned by many speakers.”

  • Rigger means simply 'one who rigs (or sets up) [equipment, etc]'.
    • In its original sense, more common in Bridges' day than now, it means 'one who sets up the rigging of a [sailing] ship', 'a [land-based] specialist in masts and standing rigging'.
      • The skills of sailors in the era before steamships led to the definition of rigger (industry) in wikipedia: "a person who specializes in the lifting and moving of extremely large or heavy objects, often with the assistance of a crane or derrick". This is more common in American English.
    • In the early twentieth century, by a natural progression, a rigger was 'one who set up or adjusted the wired cabling of a biplane or airship'; as biplanes became obsolete, such workers attended to the airframes of aircraft.
      • A parachute rigger is a specialist in repairing and maintaining parachutes, beyond the basic skill of packing them.
    • Other forms of specialist setting up or erection as in aerial riggers, who put television aerials up; scaffolding riggers; and riggers in the logging industry who put up cordage for the safety of the workers, and to control heavy timber safely to the ground.
    • Workers on oil or gas rigs are also called riggers, though in the early days 'riggers' were those who erected the rigs.
  • There are some senses of rigger which denote physical objects:
    • Rigger may also, with a qualifying prenominal word, be used as a label for types of sailing vessel, such as square-rigger, sloop-rigger and schooner-rigger.
    • Rigger to an artist denoted a particularly fine sable paint-brush. It is so-called from its use to paint the very fine lines representing ropes on a ship in a marine picture.
    • In sports rowing, a rigger is a strut attached to the side of a 'racing shell' (the narrow boats used for racing) on which the rowlock, or fulcrum of the oar, is mounted. This allows greater leverage to the oarsman and increases the force that can be directed through the oar. (This word is shortened from outrigger, which also, and originally, denotes the different structure whereby a float is positioned some way to the side of a craft to increase its stability.) It has also been used to denote "Any of various supports or structures extending out from the main body of a vehicle, piece of machinery, etc." OED, 2004).
  • Rigour has the general sense of inflexibility. (It shares the etymology of rigid.)
    • In academic contexts, it may mean strict and precise application of strict rules; in less academic contexts, it may mean strictness, verging on severity. The phrase the rigour of the law, now used mostly to mean the strict application of the letter of the law, used to be used mostly to mean the harshness of the law, and particularly the application of capital (or corporal) punishment without mercy.