The story behind ‘Black Mail’

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We use the word ‘Black Mail’ very often for both serious and silly situations. But do you know how did the word started being used? There is an interesting yet not so pleasant etymology behind the emergence of the word.

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This all started back in 16th century in the counties around the borders between England and Scotland. That was the time where the Scottish Thieves and Bandits were horrifying the local residents and landholders. The chieftains finally has made as deal with the landlords to pay them in order to avoid being pillaged by the thieves. And that amount is not legal but the locals had no other option. That process of paying them money in exchange for protection used to be called as Black Mail.

There is an old Scandinavian word ‘Mal/ Male’ which means financial agreement or deal. Slowly that has been turned out to be ‘Mail’ which mostly meant to be money transaction. Since the currency then was silver coins, the legal payments were called as ‘White mails’ and ultimately the money they were giving the chieftains was called as ‘Black Mail’. Slowly by time, the word was being used for every payment and transaction people do in exchange for avoiding any sort of damage and threatening.

Later in the end of 18th century the governments of England and Ireland has noticed the unwarranted demands and has named them as offences and created sections against them. It’s called Section 21. Though the government has made laws at odds with ‘BlackMail’, it has never stopped over the society throughout the world. The reasons are different but for good and bad both reasons, blackmails are always making things easy for people.

There are silly class room hacks and there are huge political scandals that has involved Blackmailing as the weapon. What to do? Big bad world!

 

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