Sunday, September 25, 2011


Shanghai \SHANG-hahy\ or \shang-HAHY\ , verb;
1. To enroll or obtain (a sailor) for the crew of a ship by unscrupulous means, as by force or the use of liquor or drugs

I watched a cable show yesterday about the history of opiates in America. It wasn't very good, but I noticed that they explained that the definition of the word shanghaied originated from people being robbed while high and passed out in opium dens. The Chinese city Shanghai lent its name to this practice because opium dens were mainly Chinatown businesses. I was under the impression that being shanghaied meant something else entirely. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, I was right.

The only definitions the trusty, rusty OED offers have to do with kidnapping. Now, opium dens were probably great places to rob AND shanghai people, but the two crimes are not one in the same. This US nautical slang word was first attested in 1871.

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