Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: shanghai, v.t.

shanghai, v.t. As a verb, “shanghai” means (1) to drug or otherwise make insensible and then abduct for service on a ship needing crew members; or (2) to influence by fraud or compulsion. The inflected forms are “shanghaied” and “shanghaiing.” “Shanghai” has its origin in the slang of 19th-century San Francisco. When gold was discovered in California, many sailors deserted their ships in the San Francisco Bay to seek their fortunes in the goldfields. So ship captains constantly needed new crewmen, willing or not. More than a few men in San Francisco passed out from drugs or alcohol and woke up to find themselves on extended voyages, especially to Shanghai, a major Chinese seaport and trading center. Hence, to be “shanghaied” soon meant to be kidnapped and impressed. Sense 2 became common by the end of World War I. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “Dialects are not deviations from an accepted modern standard, but all have a history stretching right back through the centuries.” Stanley Rundle, “Language and Dialect,” in A Linguistics Reader 86, 87 (Graham Wilson ed., 1967).
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