Slang City Mail

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April 7, 2005

Slang of the Week: necklace (verb)
to kill someone by burning a tire filled with gasoline around their neck

Ted refused to testify against the mobster after the other witness was necklaced.

Celebrity quote:
“No one's face gets fried on a hot stove and no one gets “necklaced” as they did two years ago in the incendiary second-season premiere of "The Shield" on FX. Thanks to scenes such as those, "The Shield" was once one of the most uncomfortable shows on TV to watch. And I loved it.”
-Adam Buckman in the New York Post

The kind of television violence Buckman describes on The Shield may make some people wish for the good old days when movie gangsters simply shot their victims and dumped them in the river to “sleep with the fishes.”

But necklacing did not originate with American gangsters. It started as a punishment for police informers in apartheid South Africa in the 1980s. In 1986, while political leader Nelson Mandela was still in prison, his then wife Winnie famously said, “Together, hand in hand, with that stick of matches, with our necklace, we shall liberate this country.”

However, one of the most famous uses of this word in recent years was metaphorical. “And in some ways the fear is that you will be necklaced here, you will have a flaming tire of lack of patriotism put around your neck,” complained news anchor Dan Rather had in 2002 about the pressure American journalists are under to avoid asking politicians tough questions.