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Why is it that we say Blackmail, Black Friday and Black Death?

By Betty Njeru | August 17th 2020 at 11:00:00 GMT +0300

Ever wondered where Blackmail, Black Friday originated from?

Blackmail

The globally accepted description of blackmail is an act of coercion using the threat of revealing or spreading either significantly true or false information about a person or people unless certain demands are met.

Often, this is damaging information and may be revealed to family members or associates. It may also involve using physical, mental or emotional threats against the victim or someone close to the victim, and is normally carried out for personal gain.

Origin of Blackmail

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According to www.history.com, the origin of the word is linked to the chiefs in the border region between England and Scotland in the 16th and 17th centuries.

During that period, the chiefs ordered landholders to pay them to avoid being sacked. The “mail” in the word meant “tribute, rent” and was derived from an old Scandinavian word, “mal,” meaning “agreement.”

This tribute was paid in goods or labour ("nigri"), hence reditus nigri, or "blackmail".

The “black” in blackmail is thought to be a play on “white money,” the term for the silver coins with which tenant farmers traditionally paid their legitimate rent.

Another version asserts that it may be derived from two Scottish Gaelic words blathaich - meaning to protect; and mal- meaning tribute or payment.

Black Friday

On the first mention of the word black Friday and you instantly think shopping. Not entirely wrong but the history of black Friday is darker than you would anticipate.

Black Friday is used to referring to the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, which is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. The day after Thanksgiving has been regarded as the beginning of the United States Christmas shopping season since 1952, although the term "Black Friday" did not become widely used until recent decades.

The earliest evidence of the phrase Black Friday applied to the day after Thanksgiving in a shopping context. 

Initially, it was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian traffic that would occur on the day after Thanksgiving. Research shows that this usage dates to at least 1961. More than twenty years later, as the phrase became more widespread, a popular explanation became that this day represented the point in the year when retailers begin to turn a profit, thus going from being "in the red" to being "in the black.

News reports have painted Black Friday as the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States since 2005.

History.com, however, varies in the opinion of the origin of Black Friday. Back in the 1950s, police in the city of Philadelphia used the term to describe the chaos that ensued on the day after Thanksgiving, when crowds of suburban shoppers and tourists flooded into the city in advance of the big Army-Navy football game held on that Saturday every year. 

Not only would the cops not be able to take the day off, but they would have to work extremely long shifts dealing with the additional crowds and traffic. Shoplifters would also take advantage of the chaos in stores to make off with merchandise, adding to the law enforcement headache.

It continues that in the late 1980s, however, retailers found a way to reinvent Black Friday and turn it into something that reflected positively on them and their customers. The result was the “red to black” concept of the holiday and the notion that the day after Thanksgiving marked the occasion when stores in the U.S finally turned in a profit.

Black death

Perhaps the greatest catastrophe ever, the black death is said to have killed over 75 million people in the 14th century.

Also known as the Pestilence, the Great Mortality, or the Plague, it was the deadliest pandemic recorded in human history. It killed millions of people in Eurasia and North Africa, peaking in Europe in the mid-1300s.

Research reveals that it was an epidemic of bubonic plague, a disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis that circulates among wild rodents where they live in great numbers. Such an area is called a ‘plague focus’ or a ‘plague reservoir’. A plague comes about when rodents in human habitation, normally black rats, become infected.

The plague arrived in Europe in October 1347, when 12 ships from the Black Sea docked at the Sicilian port of Messina. People gathered on the docks were met with a horrifying revelation when they saw that most sailors aboard the ships were dead, and those still alive were gravely ill and covered in black boils that oozed blood and pus. 

Sicilian authorities hastily ordered the fleet of “death ships” out of the harbour, but it was too late: Over the next five years, the Black Death would kill more than 20 million people in Europe—almost one-third of the continent’s population. ?


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