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verb [transitive]

to steal a car which has been temporarily left with the engine running so that it warms up in very cold weather

frostjacking also frostjack

noun [countable/uncountable]


noun [countable]

'Paul Scholes is the victim of a new type of crime. The Manchester United veteran was frostjacked leaving him short of one multi-purpose car.'

NESN 29th January 2013

'Known as frost-jacking this type of theft rises during any cold period, as thieves look out for anyone who has left their car running while it warms up.'

Staffordshire Sentinel 8th February 2013

'Manchester United's Paul Scholes left red faced as frostjackers steal his car … – as he left it defrosting on his driveway with the engine running …'

Manchester Evening News 29th January 2013

As the temperatures plummet through the winter months, there's a new kind of crime that appears, by contrast, to be on the up.

The scenario will be familiar to many of us – it's a dark and gloomy weekday morning and we've left it until the last minute to get up for work, reluctant to leave a warm and cosy bed. As we finally scramble out of the door we suddenly see that, blast it, the car windows have iced over again because of the freezing temperatures, so we hastily start the engine running and whack on the blowers to clear the windscreen. But rather than freezing our socks off at the wheel of the car, we decide it'll be much more comfortable to pop back indoors for a couple of minutes. And these few moments are, unfortunately, all the time it takes to be frostjacked.

victims of frostjacking are not always so high-profile … with thieves simply targeting popular makes and models as soon as the temperatures go down

The new verb frostjack describes the activity of stealing an unattended car which has been left with the engine running because the owner needs to defrost the windows before departure on a cold day. Largely, though not exclusively, confined to British English, the word garnered attention in early 2013 when Manchester United footballer Paul Scholes had a £30,000 car stolen from his own driveway. Victims of frostjacking are not always so high-profile however, with thieves simply targeting popular makes and models as soon as the temperatures go down. According to vehicle recovery experts, the in-built security of modern cars makes them more difficult to steal without the key, so that in recent years thieves have taken to exploiting cold snaps and concentrated their efforts on car owners who take a risk on frosty mornings.

If you're unlucky enough to be a victim of frostjacking, you may need to prepare yourself for further bad news. It seems that this kind of vehicle theft may not be covered by car insurance, because leaving a running vehicle unattended can invalidate the policy. On with the gloves and into the freezing car it is for me, then …

Background – frostjack

Frostjack is of course a blend of the words frost and hijack in its sense of 'illegally taking control of a vehicle'. Following the pattern of hijack, there's also evidence for nouns frostjacking and frostjack, both of which can occur in both uncountable and countable forms as a reference to the activity or an instance of it. The countable noun frostjacker is used to refer to perpetrators. Like hijack, the verb frostjack often occurs in the passive as in be/get frostjacked.

The verb hijack is a relative newcomer to the English language, first appearing in American English in the early 1920s as a blend of highway ('public road') and jacker ('someone who steals'). In its earliest sense it referred to robbing someone in transit, the specific sense relating to vehicles not emerging until the 1960s. Initially this was used in reference to aircraft only, but had extended to any form of public transport by the 1970s. Hijack forms the basis of two other related blends – skyjack, which appeared in 1961 as a lexical variant with the specific reference of 'seizing an aircraft whilst in flight' and carjack, coined in 1991 to describe the action of attacking or robbing a car driver and/or stealing his/her vehicle.

Departing from the vehicle theme and moving into the online universe, the expression clickjacking was coined in 2008, and refers to the malicious activity of 'taking control' of Internet users' actions by tricking them into clicking on hidden links.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

Last week …

Read last week's BuzzWord. Brexit/Brixit.

This article was first published on 18th February 2013.

Open Dictionary

Dunning-Kruger effect

the phenomenon by which an incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence

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