origin (?) of "hijack"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Dec 6 21:37:52 UTC 2006

About fifty years ago, I read somewhere that the origin is the
high-jacker's stereotypical command to "raise / lift / put / etc. 'em
up high, Jack."


On 12/6/06, Stephen Goranson <goranson at duke.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Stephen Goranson <goranson at DUKE.EDU>
> Subject:      origin (?) of "hijack"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> OED hijack, v. (1923f) "orig. U.S. slang (now passing into general
> use"; "Origin
> unknown." The OED definition concentrates on taking of goods and vehicles,
> though its quotations (e.g., 1936 E. AMBLER Dark Frontier xi. 178, I still
> don't see how we're going to high-jack Groom's men.) point to the taking of
> people as well. Note the spelling "high-jack"; it is perhaps easier for
> highjack to give rise to hijack than the reverse.
> HDAS has many quotes (1912f), though it's debatable which is the earliest
> relevant one; "orig. uncert.; perh. fr. Hi, Jack! as addressed to an
> unsuspecting victim, as in 1925 quote; perh. high (with uncertain meaning) +
> jack "to hunt'...cf 1912 quote.
> Here's the potential source: a story "He Also Serves" by O. Henry (W.S. Porter
> 1862-1910) published in the collection Options (1909), and perhaps
> earlier. The
> story is available online at several sites. The narrator relates a
> story told to
> him in New York about an adventure with High Jack Snakefeeder. The latter was
> smitten with one Florence Blue Feather, who "suddenly disappeared from
> her home
> and envirionments"; "vanished." Then follows much drinking and a visit
> to ruins
> in Mexico where they see the possible reincarnation of this lady. Though the
> mechanism of this person-abducting or shanghaing isn't clear, here's the O.
> Henry-type ending:
> "Say," said Hunky, with a grin, "that little lady that stole High Jack
> certainly did give me a jar when I first took a look at her, but it
> was only for a minute. You remember I told you High Jack said that
> Miss Florence Blue Feather disappeared from home about a year ago?
> Well, where she landed four days later was in as neat a five-room flat
> on East Twenty-third Street as you ever walked sideways through--and
> she's been Mrs. Magee ever since."
> Mr. Magee was the New York storyteller.
> Perhaps the robbing of High Jack's lady in this 1909 story gave rise to
> "high-jack" and "hijack" in years soon after.
> Stephen Goranson
> http://www.duke.edu/~goranson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Sam Clemens

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list