I chuckled a bit, went back to sleep.
This is an image of the winch used on purse seine fishing vessels. It is both a capstan and a bollard. It was commonly called a niggerhead in Alaska when I fished full time in the mid-70s to early 80s. Today is the first time I have thought about the term and its use in a long time.
Sure enough, Andrew Sullivan has a short piece today on uses of the term around various parts of the country, and the article includes a note from an Alaskan:
I have been a commercial fisherman in Alaska since 1975. My first year I worked on two boats, purse seining for salmon in Southeast Alaska. The winch that the purse line was tightened up with was called the "niggerhead". Everyone used the term to reference the seine winch. This link is to a picture of the winch on the Kolstrand Marine Equipment website. The term "niggerhead" specifically referred to the two black spools on either side of the stand.Some of my skippers used the term. Others called it "the winch." My second boat, the 30-foot FV Swanee, was a combination purse seine-gillnet boat, and had a small version of the winch shown above. The year I owned it - 1974 - there was no purse seine season, as Prince William Sound was still recovering from the effects of the Good Friday Earthquake on Pink salmon spawning grounds. So I never got to have to decide whether to yell at the crew "wrap the line around the niggerherad," or "wrap the line around the winch."
Does anyone know if the term "niggerhead" is still in common use for these winches? Or for other logging, mining or construction equipment?