“Kidnap” (noun) and ACBL

I’ve written several times, I believe most recently here, about the phenomenon I call American Characters, British Lingo. It’s where a British novelist creates an American character and (unintentionally) has him or her use Britishisms. I am going to give it the acronym ACBL and plan to tag all relevant posts, starting with this one.

The current case is a fairly minor one. I’m a fan of the British mystery novelist Anthony Horowitz and just finished his latest, The Twist of a Knife. It takes place in London theatrical circles, and one of the characters is an American actor named Jordan Williams. At one point he says he and his wife “had a stupid row.” If that were the only ACBL in the book, I wouldn’t have bothered writing about it, because it is believable. Williams’s wife is English, he has lived in the country for a number of years, and furthermore, “row” is a useful word, with a slightly different nuance than “argument” or “fight.”

But I believe the second one is a slip on Horowitz’s part. Williams is talking about his background. He is Native American, and when he was three years old, social workers removed him and his three sisters from their home because their parents were deemed “unsuitable guardians.” He says, “You or I would call it kidnap, but they believed they were saving us.”

I can’t recall ever encountering “kidnap” used as a noun in this way. I (and I believe Americans in general) would say “kidnapping.” Is it a Britishism? The OED has an entry for “kidnap” as a noun meaning “the act of kidnapping,” but in three of the four citations, it’s used as an attributive noun, familiar to me from headlines referring to “A Kidnap Plot” or “Kidnap Verdict.” And the fourth (from a 1970s British novel) is “There was no money in killing you, but maybe a lot in a kidnap.” That sounds borderline okay to me.

I got a bit more confirmation from two other British dictionaries. Collins has a definition of “kidnap” as “the crime of taking someone away by force” and gives as an example “Stewart denies attempted murder and kidnap.” Macmillan has something similar and has the example “the kidnap of a local businessman.” I would absolutely say “kidnapping” in both those cases.

The American Merriam-Webster, meanwhile, doesn’t recognize “kidnap” as a noun.

I’d be interested in you all’s sense of whether this “kidnap” is a Britishism, and very much not an Americanism.