Where did the word “hijack” come from?

Nowadays, this word is usually associated with airplanes. When you hijack a plane what you are doing is taking control of it and forcing it to go to a destination of your choice. In the process you make the passengers aboard the aircraft your hostage. It is not only planes that you can hijack, but also other vehicles — cars, trucks, boats and ships. “Hijack” has another meaning as well. It also means to steal goods from vehicles, especially from trucks. Did you know that the original hijacker was someone who stole from other criminals? He specialised in robbing bootleggers — people who sold illicit liquor. According to some scholars, the “hijacker” got his name from the command he gave the people he was about to rob. Apparently, he used to point his gun at his victim and say, “Stick them up high, Jack.” In other words, he wanted his victim to raise his hands above his head. Since “Jack” is a very common name in the U.S., he called all his victims “Jack”. From “high” and “Jack” we get “hijack”.

S. UPENDRAN, The Hindu- ‘Know Your English’ Series, May 02, 2005


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