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Apr 12, 2010
This week's theme
Toponyms

This week's words
shanghai
munich
bayonet
babylon
maffick

Shanghai
Shanghai today

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

No matter where we stand on earth, we can all enjoy an equally wondrous view of the stars. Yet the age-old wisdom tells us there are three important things to look for when the aim is to call a few yards of this land ours: location, location, location. And location is what we want to pay attention to when it comes to this week's words, for they all came from the names of locations. They're known as toponyms, words derived from places.

Whether it's when we drink champagne (from Champagne, France), commit a solecism (after Soloi, an Athenian colony in Cilicia), or when we meet our Waterloo (Waterloo, Belgium), we are (perhaps unknowingly) alluding to a distant land and its history. This week's words take us on a tour of cities and towns in China, Germany, France, Iraq, and South Africa.

shanghai

PRONUNCIATION:
(SHANG-hy)

MEANING:
verb tr.: To recruit someone forcibly or by fraud into doing something.

ETYMOLOGY:
After Shanghai, a major seaport in east China. The term derives from the former practice (mid-1800s to early 1900) of luring men, by the use of drugs, liquor, or violence into serving on US ships destined for East Asia. People who recruited sailors in this manner were called crimps. The practice ended with The Seamen's Act of 1915 that made crimping a federal crime.

USAGE:
"I know that no one shanghais people into joining the police or becoming a medic, but it does us no harm to remind ourselves from time to time how off-the-scale gnarly these jobs are."
Caitlin Moran; Buttocks on the Skirting Board?; The Times (London, UK); Jan 25, 2010.

See more usage examples of shanghai in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
No sooner is the rage of hunger appeased than it becomes difficult to comprehend the meaning of starvation. It is only when you suffer that you really understand. -Jules Verne, science fiction author (1828-1905)

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