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Posted: Fri Aug 21, 2020 7:08 pm
by Dr. Goodword

• kidnap •

Pronunciation: kid-næp • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: This verb could refer to a short sleep by a child, but it actually means to forcibly capture a person (child or adult) and hold them for ransom. We hijack vehicles but kidnap people.

Notes: This is a verb that doubles up on its final consonants before most suffixes: kidnaps but kidnapped, kidnapping, and kidnapper. In our eternal quest for more specificity, we have expanded kidnap into dognap, catnap (despite the resulting ambiguities), and various other types of napping.

In Play: The basic use of this Good Word is obvious: "The kidnappers were dismayed to discover that they had kidnapped the wrong person." However, we have to use our imaginations to find metaphorical applications: "Be careful talking around Owen Cash; he kidnaps the ideas of others and passes them on as his own."

Word History: Today's word is very straightforward: it comes from the phrase "to nap (or nab) a kid". It may surprise you to know that it was first used in the 17th century. At that time, it meant to shanghai (another interesting word) a child from the slums of England for work on plantations in the Americas. Nab became nap by simply dropping the voicing (vibration of the vocal cords).

Re: Kidnap

Posted: Sat Aug 22, 2020 7:55 am
by David Myer
But catnap is not stealing or nabbing a cat! How did we get from kidnap to catnap?

Re: Kidnap

Posted: Sat Aug 22, 2020 2:19 pm
by damoge
Three more questions...
When did "kid" start to be used for children?
Where did "kid" come from at all?
Is/was the "kid" in "kidnap" related to children?

Re: Kidnap

Posted: Sat Aug 22, 2020 8:29 pm
by bnjtokyo
While "catnap" usually refers to a short period of sleeping in a manner similar to that of cats, it can refer to the purloining of a cat by persons unknown. If the cat is an expensive purebred champion of the catwalk and is held for ransom, I am sure the popular press would refer to it as a "catnapping." As the Good Doctor said, there are "resulting ambiguities."

And as for the etymology of "kid," the Online Etymology Dictionary has
kid (n.)
c. 1200, "the young of a goat," from a Scandinavian source such as Old Norse kið "young goat," from Proto-Germanic *kidjom (source also of Old High German kizzi, German kitze, Danish and Swedish kid), of uncertain origin.
Extended meaning "child" is first recorded as slang 1590s, established in informal usage by 1840s. Applied to skillful young thieves and pugilists at least since 1812. Kid stuff "something easy" is from 1913 (the phrase was in use about that time in reference to vaudeville acts or advertisements featuring children, and to child-oriented features in newspapers).
In clothing, "made of soft leather," as though from the skin of a kid, but commercially often of other skins. Hence kid glove "a glove made of kidskin leather" is from 1680s; sense of "characterized by wearing kid gloves," therefore "dainty, delicate" is from 1856.

Re: Kidnap

Posted: Sun Aug 23, 2020 12:45 pm
by damoge
BJN, Thank you very much for all that!
I'm still wondering if the "kid" in "kidnap" had anything to do with stealing children.
I know that many of the people "shanghaied" were young. The stories were often of getting sailors drunk and then having them awake on board at sea, but there were also stories of children taken as cabin boys.
Again it leaves the question, were there so many of them taken young as to lead to the this term?

Re: Kidnap

Posted: Tue Aug 25, 2020 8:29 am
by Dr. Goodword
This discussion has convinced me that I need to do more work on this word--some of which has already been accomplished.

Also, the Word Detective has written a much more detailed description of this word. According to him, "Interestingly, when “kidnap” first appeared in England in the late 1600s, it not only meant “to steal and carry off children,” but very specifically to snatch children and other young people in order to ship them off to the colonies in North America or the Caribbean to serve as servants or laborers (“Mr. John Wilmore haveing kidnapped a boy of 13 years of age to Jamaica, a writt … was delivered to the sheriffs of London against him,” 1683). The word “kidnap” itself is thought to be a grisly souvenir of this practice, invented by the criminals who actually stole children from the slums of England to sell into servitude half a world away."

Re: Kidnap

Posted: Tue Aug 25, 2020 2:02 pm
by damoge
Thank you so very much!