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HIJACK

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HIJACK

Postby Slava » Sat Oct 12, 2013 8:46 am

Today's Good Word:
Dr. Goodword wrote:

• hijack •


Pronunciation: hai-jæk • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive or intransitive

Meaning: 1. To rob in transit, to commit highway robbery on land, on the sea, or in the air. 2. To illegally take control of a transport vessel or vehicle and divert it to a different destination.

Notes: It might seem that this good word is a journalistic spelling of highjack; The Oxford English Dictionary suggests as much. However, the earliest examples it gives of this word are spelled as it is above. The activity is hijacking and a person involved in it is a hijacker.

In Play: The meaning of today's word has been changing recently, from stealing the contents of some form of transport to stealing the carrier itself, "The robber then hijacked a car from a passing motorist to make his escape." However, it also applies to a wide assortment of metaphors, "The conversation was pleasantly random until Stu deBaker and Ford Parker came in and hijacked it; after that, the only topic discussed was cars."

Word History: The origin of this word is a complete mystery. We can only speculate that it derives from one of the meanings of the verb to jack referring to nefarious activities, such as poaching. In current US slang, to jack a car means to steal it but no one seems to know if this sense predates the 1920s, when hijack began appearing in print. So, jack could be derived from hijack. It does seem to be the case that the term originally applied to ships, so it may have originally referred to jacking by filibusters on the high seas. That, however, is pure speculation. (Patricia Castellanos of Montevideo, Uruguay wondered, as we all do, how this word came to be.)
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Re: HIJACK

Postby MTC » Sat Oct 12, 2013 9:06 am

Etymologists abhor a vacuum it seems, especially one created by the OED which states " 'hijack' originated as a slang term in the United States in the early 20th century, then passed into general use. Apart from that,..., the ancestry of 'hijac' is unknown."

According to etymologist Gerald L. Cohen, however, “hijack” originated in the late 19th century as a mining term in Missouri, where zinc ore was referred to as “jack.”

“The miners in the booming Webb City area of Missouri (SW) would often slip some ‘high jack’ (high grade zinc) into their boots or pockets before leaving work,” he writes. “They were referred to as ‘high jackers.’ “

Peter Bowen, (London S12) writing to The Guardian takes another tack:

THE word 'hijack' has its origins in pre-revolutionary France. Impoverished peasants attacked and robbed aristocrats travelling in coaches through the countryside. The word they employed for this practice was 'échaquer,' which, sharing a common root with 'éjecter' in the Latin word 'eiacere,' meant primarily the physical removal of the aristocrat from his carriage and of his possessions from his person, but also, through its onomatopoeic second syllable, contained elements of the peasants' anger, expressed in the guttural spitting sound used to pronounce the word and also possibly the sound of a knife entering and twisting up through the aristocrat's intestines. (Ugh! A little too visceral.)

Then, of course, we have Doc's views.

Think I'll have a G&T, and mull it over.
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Re: HIJACK

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sat Oct 12, 2013 11:00 am

A decade or so past, when airplanes were being
hijacked all over the place, I remember the term: "skyjack".
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Re: HIJACK

Postby Slava » Sat Oct 12, 2013 4:21 pm

MTC - It'll take quite a few G&Ts to make that first "etymology" seem even vaguely legit. They both show just how far some people are willing to let their imaginations fly when dreaming up folk etymologies. :roll:

Juke - I was reminded of skyjack, too, so I looked it up. You need to add a few more to your decade. It first appeared in 1961. :!:
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Re: HIJACK

Postby MTC » Sat Oct 12, 2013 5:54 pm

[quote="Slava"]MTC - It'll take quite a few G&Ts to make that first "etymology" seem even vaguely legit. They both show just how far some people are willing to let their imaginations fly when dreaming up folk etymologies. :roll:

Donning my tinfoil hat, and leaping cautiously (Don't try this at home.) to Mr. Cohen's defense, he is the editor of Comments on Etymology, an on-paper newsletter, and I gather something of an expert on the origins of American expressions:
"Allan Metcalf mentions Comments on Etymology, an on-paper newsletter edited by Gerald Cohen. Allan says, “for anyone seriously interested in the origins of American expressions, especially slang ones, CoE is indispensable."

http://www.americandialect.org/comments_on_etymology

As for Allan Metcalf's credentials, see http://allanmetcalf.com/

The individual who wrote The Guardian probably did wear a tinfoil hat.
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Re: HIJACK

Postby Slava » Sat Oct 12, 2013 6:41 pm

Apologies to Mr. Cohen, but I can't find it in me to accept his explanation. I need more details on how this phrase, which our Dr. says sprang full-fledged as "hijack" not "highjack," coming from a mining town, spread to become accepted as a phrase for stealing moving things such as vehicles.

Also, if the thieves were called "high jackers," when did the shortening of high and its joining up with jacker occur?

Not a major quibble, but one I'll toss out there: why weren't the thieves called "high jack jackers?"

Plus, if I understand correctly, impurities in the sphalerite in zinc are what make it Black or Ruby Jack. This seems to call into question the "high" value Mr. Cohen attributes to it.

I'm probably FOS, but that's my take on the matter.
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Re: HIJACK

Postby MTC » Sat Oct 12, 2013 8:37 pm

Not at all "FOS," Slava. Authorities once thought the world was flat, and the object of democratic government was to act in the peoples' best interests. Those were the days!

I will email Mr. Cohen, inviting his comment. Maybe he will grace us with a reply.

It recently occurred to me that words may have alternate, independent origins. Probably this ground has been tread before here or elsewhere. I'll check it out.
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Re: HIJACK

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sat Oct 12, 2013 10:39 pm

Slava wrote:MTC - It'll take quite a few G&Ts to make that first "etymology" seem even vaguely legit. They both show just how far some people are willing to let their imaginations fly when dreaming up folk etymologies. :roll:

Juke - I was reminded of skyjack, too, so I looked it up. You need to add a few more to your decade. It first appeared in 1961. :!:



Wow: I know I am getting old, but that is ridiculous! :o
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Re: HIJACK

Postby MTC » Sat Oct 12, 2013 11:21 pm

Wonders never cease! Dr. Cohen has replied to my email fast enough to make eyes water. See exchange printed below:

Dear Dr. Cohen:

A minor dust-up about the etymology of "hijack" has arisen among amateur etymologists on the Alphadictionary site. See link below. I cited you as an authority, and quoted some of your comments. Likely you are a very busy man, but if you would care to comment about the issues raised, I and the other posters would be in your debt.

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=6618

Sincerely,

M... T... C... ("MTC")


Mr. C...,

I had a bit of difficulty registering, and so I 'm sending you the item below my signoff. Please feel free to forward it to Alphadictionary.

With best wishes.

Gerald Cohen

[for Alphadictionary]:


Hi all,

MTC asked me to comment on "hijack," and I'm happy to. The main article I wrote on this term is:
"The Missouri and Hobo Origin of 'Hijack'," in: _Studies in Slang_, Part II (= Forum Anglicum, vol. 16, Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang), 1989, pp. 85-90. I edited and wrote for the Studies in Slang series, where I am listed as Gerald Leonard Cohen.

In this 1989 article (which first appeared five years earlier in the series of working papers I edit, Comments on Etymology) I drew attention to Norval Matthews' 1974 suggestion that "hijack" arose in a mining context towards the end of the 19th century. The miners in the booming Webb City area of Missouri (SW) would often slip some
"high jack" (high grade zinc) into their boots or pockets before leaving work.

They were referred to as "high jackers" by their supervisors, who winked at the pilfering because there was so much zinc in the mines.

"High jack" later turned up in the hobo jungles with the meaning "rob a fellow hobo while he is asleep" -- a major offense among the hoboes. By 1916 "high jack" made its way to the oil fields, where it meant "a bandit or stick-up man (and they were plentiful) in the oil fields." And by 1923 it came into widespread use as "steal bootlegged liquor." Now, of course, it refers it refers to commandeering a plane, bus, etc.

The very interesting account of Norval M. Mathews appears in his book "The Promise Land [sic: no -d in "Promise"]: A Story About the Ozark Mountains and the Early Settlers of Southwest Missouri. (Point Lookout, MO: School of the Ozarks Press), 1974, pp. 140-141.

Gerald Cohen
Professor of German and Russian
(research specialty: Etymology)
Missouri University of Science & Technology
Rolla, MO 65409

Because Dr. Cohen had a problem accessing the thread on "hijack," he did not expressly address Slava's comments, but still his reply is certainly noteworthy enough to post. I will thank him on our behalf in a separate email.
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Re: HIJACK

Postby Slava » Sun Oct 13, 2013 9:55 am

Interesting enough, but I'm not satisfied. Not to beat a dead horse, but why haven't any other professionals taken this as a source? :?:

I've heard the phrase "preaching to the choir." Perhaps this is a case of preaching to the unconvertible.
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