Daily Archives: February 24, 2010

It’s near the 1st of the month, mail is due…

After reading the title of this entry,  you may be scratching your head and wondering what in the world I am talking about. (or maybe not)

What I am talking about today is blackmail, where does the word come from and where would soap opera plots go without it?

This is the important part — Its origin had nothing to do with the post office, but it does have to do with rent…

Mail in this sense was an old Anglo-Norse term for rent or tribute. During the time of border warfare between England and Scotland, freebooters extorted payment from farmers of the area in exchange for protection and immunity from plunder. As the inhabitants were generally very poor, the tribute was paid in “black mail,” that is, grain, meat, or the lowest coinage (copper), as opposed to “white mail,” which was silver. In time the word took on the meaning of any payment extorted by threat of exposure of an incriminating secret.

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