High-Jack, zinc and H.J. Snakefeeder

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Fri Dec 8 11:25:08 UTC 2006

Thanks, Prof. Cohen, for the two articles, which I've now read. On the
one hand,
I agree with many of your observations, e.g., that Hello Jack and Stick 'em up
high Jack have little to commend them as plausible origins. I agree that
high-jack likely preceeded hijack. On the other hand,
your case would be stronger if you could "show me" an early Missouri or
context quotation with high-jack. And I agree that the transition from
zinc context to hobo use is a current gap.

Though I'm no expert on zinc, I am an expert on the slightly more limited
subject of the history of scholarship on the (false) archaeological claim that
an ancient zinc coffin was discovered in the cemetery at Khirbet Qumran, the
Dead Sea Scroll settlement. So I read on zinc archaeology. (Aside: I found
online a mention of a long New Yorker article on zinc. I thought "great." Then
I found it was merely an imaginary example of the type article only the most
arcane nerd would be interested in.) Anyway, zinc is hard to refine (so rare in
the ancient world), so I wonder if stealing ore in pockets was really such a

I still think High Jack Snakefeeder is a possible origin. The O. Henry 1909
story may have been better known just before the term appeared than zinc mining
lore. Admittedly, though having his ladyfriend taken away was something done to
High Jack, rather than something High Jack did, that needn't have detered a
word-coiner, need it have done?

These days we often think of hijacking of vehicles. Of course stuff was also
hijacked. Early on, people were also high-jacked. E.g., possibly: 1923 Lit.
Digest 4 Aug. 51/3 ?I would have had $50,000,? said Jimmy, ?if I hadn't
been hijacked.? [This OED quotation has a slight typo: 51/3 should read

Stephen Goranson

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

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