Where did the word “blackmail” come from?

Where did the word “blackmail” come from?

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The definition of blackmail—the act of demanding that a person pay money or do something in order to avoid having damaging information about him or her exposed—has evolved over time. The word’s origins are linked to the chieftains in the border region between England and Scotland in the 16th century and part of the 17th century. During that period, the chieftains ordered landholders to pay them in order to avoid being pillaged. The “mail” in the word meant “tribute, rent” and was derived from an old Scandinavian word, “mal,” meaning “agreement.” 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.

One of America’s earliest political sex scandals involved blackmail. In 1791, Alexander Hamilton, then America’s first treasury secretary as well as a married man, became romantically involved with Maria Reynolds, a young woman who claimed she needed money because her husband had abandoned her. When Reynold’s husband, James, reappeared on the scene, he forced Hamilton to pay him in order to keep quiet about the affair. After James Reynolds later got caught in a plot to defraud the federal government, he attempted to implicate Hamilton in the scheme. Confronted by James Monroe and several of his congressional colleagues, Hamilton denied any involvement in the scheme but admitted to his liaison with Maria Reynolds. He gave the congressmen letters from both of the Reynolds that indicated his involvement with James had been about the affair not a financial scheme. Convinced that Hamilton wasn’t involved in government corruption, the congressmen agreed to drop the matter. However, partisan political writer James Callender subsequently got his hands on the letters and in 1797 published the story of Hamilton’s secret affair, while also charging that his payments to James Reynolds were part of a plot to swindle the government. Hamilton, in turn, published a detailed response in which he admitted to marital infidelity but denied the financial corruption charges. The former treasury secretary, who’d left his post in 1795 to return to practicing law, survived the scandal (and even made it onto the face of the $10 bill) but died in 1804 after being mortally wounded by Aaron Burr in America’s most famous duel.


Hysteria is a pejorative term used colloquially to mean ungovernable emotional excess and can refer to a temporary state of mind or emotion. [1] In the 19th century, hysteria was considered a diagnosable physical illness in females. It is assumed that the basis for diagnosis operated under the belief that women are predisposed to mental and behavioral conditions a misinterpretation of gender-related differences in stress responses. [2] In the 20th century, it shifted to being considered a mental illness. [3] Many influential persons such as Sigmund Freud and Jean-Martin Charcot dedicated research to hysteria patients. [4] Currently, most doctors practicing Western medicine do not accept hysteria as a medical diagnosis. [5] The blanket diagnosis of hysteria has been fragmented into myriad medical categories such as epilepsy, histrionic personality disorder, conversion disorders, dissociative disorders, or other medical conditions. [5] [6] Furthermore, lifestyle choices, such as deciding not to wed, are no longer considered symptoms of psychological disorders such as hysteria. [5]

Blackmail (n.)

1550s, "tribute paid to men allied with criminals as protection against pillage, etc.," from black (adj.) + Middle English male "rent, tribute," from Old English mal "lawsuit, terms, bargaining, agreement," from Old Norse mal "speech, agreement" related to Old English mæðel "meeting, council," mæl "speech," Gothic maþl "meeting place," from Proto-Germanic *mathla- , from PIE *mod- "to meet, assemble" (see meet (v.)).

The word comes from the freebooting clan chieftains who ran protection rackets against farmers in Scotland and northern England. The custom persisted until mid-18c. Black from the evil of the practice. The sense expanded by 1826 to mean any extortion by means of intimidation, especially by threat of exposure or scandal. Compare silver mail "rent paid in money" (1590s) buttock-mail (Scottish, 1530s) "fine imposed for fornication."

"to extort money or goods from by intimidation or threat," especially of exposure of some wrong-doing, 1852, from blackmail (n.). Related: Blackmailed blackmailing .

Blackmail is often used to refer to a crime, especially one targeting politicians or celebrities. But it can be used in less serious contexts as well.

How the hell is this dude still in office after all the kidnapping and blackmail charges?

&mdash Calvin (@calvinstowell) April 17, 2018

Sorry to say that my twitter , insta and FB accounts and my emails have been hacked into and the hacker is now trying to blackmail me .I’m so sorry if you got any strange private messages but they weren’t from me. We know who this person is and on it ! My twitter is now secured

&mdash Lizzie Cundy (@lizziecundy) January 13, 2020

Fezzik has figured out that when he whines we all go into high alert mode in case it’s another scare with his heart and has been using that to emotionally blackmail me into giving him constant belly rubs. I haven’t gotten a thing done all day. My left hand is a part of him now.

&mdash Sarah McGonagall (@sarahmcgphoto) December 18, 2019


Dominatrix is the feminine form of the Latin dominator, a ruler or lord, and was originally used in a non-sexual sense. Its use in English dates back to at least 1561. Its earliest recorded use in the prevalent modern sense, as a female dominant in S&M, dates to 1961. [2] It was initially coined to describe a woman who provides punishment-for-pay as one of the case studies within Bruce Roger's pulp paperback The Bizarre Lovemakers. [3] The term was taken up shortly after by the Myron Kosloff title Dominatrix (with art by Eric Stanton) in 1968, and entered more popular mainstream knowledge following the 1976 film Dominatrix Without Mercy. [4]

Although the term dominatrix was not used, the classic example in literature of the female dominant-male submissive relationship is portrayed in the 1870 novella Venus in Furs by Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. The term masochism was later derived from the author's name by Richard von Krafft-Ebing in the latter's 1886 forensic study Psychopathia Sexualis.

The history of the dominatrix is argued to date back to rituals of the Goddess Inanna (or Ishtar as she was known in Akkadian), in ancient Mesopotamia. Ancient cuneiform texts consisting of "Hymns to Inanna" have been cited as examples of the archetype of powerful, sexual female displaying dominating behaviors and forcing Gods and men into submission to her. [5] Archaeologist and historian Anne O. Nomis notes that Inanna's rituals included cross-dressing of cult personnel, and rituals "imbued with pain and ecstasy, bringing about initiation and journeys of altered consciousness punishment, moaning, ecstasy, lament and song, participants exhausting themselves with weeping and grief." [6]

The tale of Phyllis and Aristotle, which became popular and gained numerous versions from the 12th century onwards, tells the story of a dominant woman who seduced and dominated the male intellect of the greatest philosopher. In the story, Phyllis forces Aristotle to kneel on the ground so that she rides on his back while whipping and verbally humiliating him. [7] [8]

The profession appears to have originated as a specialization within brothels, before becoming its own unique craft. As far back as the 1590s, flagellation within an erotic setting is recorded. [9] The profession features in erotic prints of the era, such as the British Museum mezzotint "The Cully Flaug'd" (c. 1674–1702), and in accounts of forbidden books which record the flogging schools and the activities practised. [10]

Within the 18th century, female "Birch Disciplinarians" advertised their services in a book masked as a collection of lectures or theatrical plays, entitled "Fashionable Lectures" (c. 1761). [11] This included the names of 57 women, some actresses and courtesans, who catered to birch discipline fantasies, keeping a room with rods and cat o' nine tails, and charging their clients a Guinea for a "lecture". [11]

The 19th century is characterised by what historian Anne O. Nomis characterises as the "Golden Age of the Governess". No fewer than twenty establishments were documented as having existed by the 1840s, supported entirely by flagellation practices and known as "Houses of Discipline" distinct from brothels. [12] Amongst the well-known "dominatrix governesses" were Mrs Chalmers, Mrs Noyeau, the late Mrs Jones of Hertford Street and London Street, the late Mrs Theresa Berkley, Bessy Burgess of York Square and Mrs Pyree of Burton Cres. [12] The most famous of these Governess "female flagellants" was Theresa Berkley, who operated her establishment on Charlotte Street in the central London district of Marylebone. [13] She is recorded to have used implements such as whips, canes and birches, to chastise and punish her male clients, as well as the Berkley Horse, a specially designed flogging machine, and a pulley suspension system for lifting them off the floor. [14] Such historical use of corporal punishment and suspension, in a setting of domination roleplay, connects very closely to the practices of modern-day professional dominatrices.

The "bizarre style" (as it came to be called) of leather catsuits, claws, tail whips, and latex rubber only came about in the 20th century, initially within commercial fetish photography, and taken up by dominatrices. [15] Within the mid-20th century, dominatrices operated in a very discreet and underground manner, which has made them difficult to trace within the historical record. A few photographs still exist of the women who ran their domination businesses in London, New York, The Hague and Hamburg's Herbertstraße, predominantly in sepia and black-and-white photographs, and scans from magazine articles, copied and re-copied. Amongst these were Miss Doreen of London who was acquainted with John Sutcliffe of AtomAge fame, whose clients reportedly included Britain's top politicians and businessmen. [16] In New York, the dominatrix Anne Laurence was known within the underground circle of acquaintances during the 1950s, with Monique Von Cleef arriving in the early 1960s, and hitting national headlines when her home was raided by police detectives on 22 December 1965. [17] Von Cleef went on to set up her "House of Pain" in The Hague in the 1970s, which became one of the world capitals for dominatrices, reportedly with visiting lawyers, ambassadors, diplomats and politicians. [18] Domenica Niehoff worked as a dominatrix in Hamburg and appeared on talk shows on German television from the 1970s onwards, campaigning for sex workers' rights. [19] Mistress Raven, founder and manager of Pandora's Box, one of New York's best known BDSM studios, [20] was featured in Nick Broomfield's 1996 documentary film Fetishes. [21]

The term dominatrix is mostly used to describe a female professional dominant (or "pro-domme") who is paid to engage in BDSM play with a submissive. Professional dominatrices are not prostitutes, despite the sensual and erotic interactions she has. [22] An appointment or roleplay is referred to as a "session", and is often conducted in a dedicated professional play space which has been set up with specialist equipment, known as a "dungeon". Sessions may also be conducted remotely by letter or telephone, or in the contemporary era of technological connectivity by email, online chat or platforms such as OnlyFans. Most, but not all, clients of female professional dominants are men. Male professional dominants also exist, catering predominantly to the gay male market.

Women who engage in female domination typically promote and title themselves under the terms "dominatrix", "mistress", "lady", "madame", "herrin" or "goddess". In a study of German dominatrices, Andrew Wilson said that the trend for dominatrices choosing names aimed at creating and maintaining an atmosphere in which class, femininity and mystery are key elements of their self-constructed identity. [23]

Some professional dominatrices set minimum age limits for their clients. Popular requests from clients are for dungeon play including bondage, spanking and cock and ball torture, or for medical play using hoods, gas masks and urethral sounding. [24] Verbal erotic humiliation, such as small penis humiliation, is also popular. [25] It is not unusual for a dominatrix to consider her profession different from that of an escort and not perform tie and tease or "happy endings". Typically professional dominatrices do not have sexual intercourse with their clients, do not become naked with their clients [24] and do not allow their clients to touch them. [26] The Canadian dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford, who was one of three women who initiated an application in the Ontario Superior Court seeking invalidation of Canada's laws regarding brothels, sought to differentiate for clarity her occupation as a dominatrix rather than a prostitute to the media, due to frequent misunderstanding and conflation by the public of the two terms. [27]

That being said, it is now generally accepted that a professional dominatrix is a sex worker, and many of the acts conducted during a session may be interpreted as equally sexual to the participants.

While dominatrices come from many different backgrounds, it has been shown that a considerable number are well-educated. Research into US dominatrices published in 2012 indicated that 39% of the sample studied had received some sort of graduate training. [28]

A 1985 study suggested that about 30 percent of participants in BDSM subculture were female. [29] A 1994 report indicated that around a quarter of the women who took part in BDSM subculture did so professionally. [30] In a 1995 study of Internet discussion group messages, the preference for the dominant-initiator role was expressed by 11% of messages by heterosexual women, compared to 71% of messages by heterosexual men. [31]

Professional dominatrices can be seen advertising their services online and in print publications which carry erotic services advertising, such as contact magazines and fetish magazines that specialise in female domination. [32] The precise number of women actively offering professional domination services is unknown. Most professional dominatrices practice in large metropolitan cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and London, with as many as 200 women working as dominatrices in Los Angeles. [33]

Professional dominatrices may take pride or differentiation in their psychological insight into their clients' fetishes and desires, as well as their technical ability to perform complex BDSM practices, such as Japanese shibari, head-scissoring, [34] and other forms of bondage, suspension, torture roleplay, and corporal punishment, and other such practices which require a high degree of knowledge and competency to safely oversee. From a sociological point of view, Danielle Lindemann has stated the "embattled purity regime" in which many pro-dommes emphasise their specialist knowledge and professional skills, while distancing themselves from economic criteria for success, in a way which is comparable to avant-garde artists. [35]

Some dominatrices practice financial domination, or findom, a fetish in which a submissive is aroused by sending money or gifts to a dominatrix at her instruction. In some cases the dominatrix is given control of the submissive's finances or a "blackmail" scenario is acted out. In the majority of cases the dominatrix and the submissive do not physically meet. The interactions are typically performed using the Internet, which is also where such services are advertised. Findom was originally a niche service that a traditional dominatrix would offer, but it has become popular with less-experienced online practitioners. [36]

To differentiate women who identify as a dominatrix but do not offer paid services, non-professional dominants are occasionally referred to as a "lifestyle" dominatrix or Mistress. The term "lifestyle" to signify BDSM is occasionally a contention topic in the BDSM community and that some dominatrices may dislike the term. Some professional dominatrices are also "lifestyle" dominatrices - i.e., in addition to paid sessions with submissive clients they engage in unpaid recreational sessions or may incorporate power exchange within their own private lives and relationships. [37] However, the term has fallen out of general usage with respect to women who are dominant in their private relationships, and has taken on more and more, the connotation of "professional."

Catherine Robbe-Grillet is a lifestyle dominatrix. Born in Paris on September 24, 1930, she then became France's most famous lifestyle dominatrix. She is also a writer and actress, the widow of nouveau roman pioneer and sadist Alain Robbe-Grillet. [38] She currently lives with Beverly Charpentier, a 51-year-old South African woman who is her submissive companion. Although being such a famous dominatrix, she has never accepted payment for her "ceremonies". She's quoted as saying "If someone pays, then they are in charge. I need to remain free. It is important that everyone involved knows that I do it solely for my pleasure." [39] "Catherine is my secret garden,” Charpentier says. "I have given myself to her, body and soul. She does whatever she wants, whenever she wants, with either or both, according to her pleasure—and her pleasure is also my pleasure." [39] Catherine has always been heavily censored in her novels for writing about S/M stories. She identifies as a “pro-sex feminist” and “the kind of feminist who supports the right of any man or women to work as a prostitute, if it is their free choice.” [38]

The Countess Diamond is a british professional Dominatrix, UK Fetish awards award winner . [40] and prolific writer. Conversely to Catherine Robbe-Grillet The Countess Diamond is a professional Dominatrix who believes that "tributing for my time doesn’t negate the intensity or intimacy of our relationship. It just underscores the basis of it. It shows total respect for my profession, which I work so hard at." The Countess Diamond describes her work as a professional Dominatrix as exploring effortless eroticism, love, desire, need and submission through cerebral, playful Domination. She describes her profession as having an "unwritten Duty of Care we have to keep in mind, that’s what you are really paying for. That while you think we are lost in that moment with you, we aren’t. We’re watching the rise and fall of your chest, moving our hands to feel that tightness of your collar. We are “ON” all the time, but the skill comes in appearing “OFF”.

The dominatrix is a female archetype which operates on a symbolic mode of representation, associated with particular attire and props that are drawn on within popular culture to signify her role—as a strong, dominant, sexualised woman—linked to but distinct from images of sexual fetish. [41] During the twentieth century, the imagery associated with dominatrices was developed by the work of a number of artists including the costume designer and photographer Charles Guyette, the publisher and film director Irving Klaw, and the illustrators Eric Stanton and Gene Bilbrew who drew for the fetish magazine Exotique.

One of the garments commonly associated with the dominatrix is the catsuit. Historically, the black leather female catsuit entered dominant fetish culture in the 1950s with the AtomAge magazine and its connections to fetish fashion designer John Sutcliffe. The spill-over into mainstream culture, occurred with catsuits being worn by strong female protagonists in popular 1960s TV programs like The Avengers, and in the comic super-heroines such as Catwoman, in which the catsuit represented the independent woman capable of "kick-ass" moves and antics, enabling complete freedom of movement. On another level, the one-piece catsuit accentuated and exaggerated the sexualized female form, providing visual access to a woman's body, while simultaneously obstructing physical penetrative access. "You can look but you can't touch" is the mechanism of this operation, which plays upon the BDSM practice known as "tease and denial". [42]

Other common signifying footwear of the dominatrix are thigh-high boots in leather or shiny PVC, which have long held a fetishistic status and are sometimes called kinky boots, along with the very high stiletto heel. Fishnet stockings, seamed hosiery, and stockings and garter belts (suspenders) are also popular accents in the representation and attire of dominatrices, to emphasize the form and length of their legs, with erotic connotation.

Tight, leather corsets are another staple garment of the dominatrix signification. Gloves, whether long opera gloves or fingerless gloves, are often a further accessory to emphasize the feminine role. Neck corsets may also be worn.

Dominatrices often wear clothing made from fetish fashion materials. Examples include PVC clothing, latex clothing and garments drawn from the leather subculture. In some cases elements of dominatrix attire, such as leather boots and peaked cap, are drawn from Nazi chic, particularly the black SS officer's uniform which has been widely adopted and fetishized by underground gay and BDSM lifestyle groups to satisfy a uniform fetish.

The body language of the dominatrix is frequently represented by the use of strong, dominant body-language which is comparable to the dominant posturing in the animal world. The props she may brandish will strongly signify her role as dominatrix, such as bearing a flogger, whip or riding crop as illustrated in the artwork of Bruno Zach in the early 20th century, [43] [44] in conventional representation.

Practicing professional dominatrices may draw their attire from the conventional signifiers of the role, or adapt them to create their own individual style, where there exists a potential pull—between meeting conventional expectations, and a desire for dominant independent self-expression. Some contemporary dominatrices draw upon an eclectic range of strong female archetypes, including the goddess, the female superheroine, the femme fatale, the priestess, the empress, the queen, the governess, the KGB secret agent, to their own ends. [45]

Themes associated with the dominatrix character have appeared in literature since the 10th century. Canoness Hroswitha, in her manuscript Maria, uses the word Dominatrix for the main character. [46] She is portrayed as an unattainable woman who is too good for any of the men who are in love with her. The theme of "the unattainable woman" has been used thoroughly in medieval literature as well, although it differs from a dominatrix. Medieval themes surrounding the unattainable woman concerned issues of social classes and structure, with chivalry being a prime part of a relationship between a man and woman. There are some exceptions to this trend during medieval times. In Cervantes’ Don Quixote (1605), Celadon is imprisoned by Galatea. Celadon complains that his “mistress . . . Galatea keeps me on such a short leash”. Robert Herrick published in 1648, Hesperides. [46] In it there were three revealing poems An Hymne to Love, The Dream, and To Love which showcase masculine longing for domination, restraint, discipline. In Ulysses by James Joyce, the character Bloom has many fantasies of submission to a lady and to receive whippings by her. [46]

Weird (adj.)

c. 1400, "having power to control fate," from wierd (n.), from Old English wyrd "fate, chance, fortune destiny the Fates," literally "that which comes," from Proto-Germanic *wurthiz (source also of Old Saxon wurd , Old High German wurt "fate," Old Norse urðr "fate, one of the three Norns"), from PIE *wert- "to turn, to wind," (source also of German werden , Old English weorðan "to become"), from root *wer- (2) "to turn, bend." For sense development from "turning" to "becoming," compare phrase turn into "become."

The sense "uncanny, supernatural" developed from Middle English use of weird sisters for the three fates or Norns (in Germanic mythology), the goddesses who controlled human destiny. They were portrayed as odd or frightening in appearance, as in "Macbeth" (and especially in 18th and 19th century productions of it), which led to the adjectival meaning "odd-looking, uncanny" (1815) "odd, strange, disturbingly different" (1820). Related: Weirdly weirdness .

Etymology of Blackmail

Claim: The word “blackmail” came about because it referenced letters of extortion sent via mail.

Origins: “Blackmail,” a word for the extortion of money or other considerations to forestall the making public of injurious revelations or accusations, derives not from the intuitively obvious source of relating to letters dispatched by those looking to make a buck off their knowledge of the missteps of others. The “mail” in “blackmail” has nothing to do with missives delivered by the postal service (nor does it have anything to do, as claimed in one outlandish theory, with freelance knights gone brigand whose chain mail turned to black in concert with their dark deeds).

Blackmail instead began its linguistic career as a descriptor for the process of paying off those who would otherwise inflict physical harm (i.e., protection money). It

entered our language in 1530, when it characterized the practice among English farmers living along the border to fork over monies or goods to plundering Scottish chiefs to exempt themselves and their property from pillage. Its “mail” portion derives from the word “mal,” meaning “agreement,” which subsequently expanded in Old and Middle English to encompass payments made pursuant to bargains struck between two or more parties and then to payments in general. “Black” came from the general association between that color and dark or underhanded doings (e.g., black market, black-hearted, blacklist, black arts, black magic), thus “blackmail” was a pact between an assailant and a victim in which the one being threatened paid the aggressor to leave him and his belongings unmolested.

The word did not shift to its current meaning of a bribe tendered in exchange for silence about embarrassing personal matters until around 1774. Prior to that time, what was being safeguarded were tangible items (houses, cattle, one’s physical person) rather than intangible (one’s reputation and secrets).

Blackmail need not always be about the extortion of hush money, as demonstrated by a common urban legend about a child’s threat to reveal something Mommy would rather not have made public knowledge.

The origin of the word ‘faggot’

I was always taught if you are going to use words then you should research them and know there meaning.

The word Faggot as been long disputed.
The correct historic origins for the use on Wikipedia caused the page to be deleted because of the issues behind peoples understanding of it.

There are two main origins both in their own ways are associated with the same usage. One going back much further to times when witches would be burnt on the stake or later in history and certain areas of Europe, hung to death and then their bodies burnt.

Bear also in mind at this time anything that was not thought of as pure in regards of sexuality was often associated with witchcraft and the devil. Often used against your enemies. This would include the act of buggery and even adultery. There are many cases documented that men committing. Certain homosexual acts being accused of being a part of devil worship. This is because of the lack of understanding at this point in history, something today we should be better informed.

The term faggots most certainly came from a term given for a bundle of sticks and may or may not be used in an abusive term back then towards homosexuality. The word homosexuality didn’t exist till the latter end of the 19th century. The fact is in Tudor times it was a common misconception that men are attracted to women and likewise and nothing in between.

The term was used also to described old women that most probably have been widowed and would make a living in collecting firewood and would come from the phase ‘faggot-gatherer’ being shortened. A natural process would shorten it to faggot and fag. Association and belief that homosexuals were all effeminate and no understanding of homosexuality would lead to the usage that spread across America in the19th/20th century.

I think all of us have heard it used as an insult towards another peer regardless of their sexuality, the user may or may not think how much harm it might cause. Somebody who is questioning their sexuality may be damaged by such terms.

Here’s the clincher according to Alfred Kinsey 45% of males may have had experienced sexual feelings towards other men. If you believe his research or not Stonewall UK believe that over 7% of men are openly homosexual. That amounts to over two and a half a million males in the uk alone.

On a side note : In the UK census of 2011 the question of sexuality was asked and only 1.5% marked down they belonged to the LGBT family. It is thought this figure is low due to admittance to family members and other factors.

Many are not open with their sexuality at this moment in time some may not feel its ok to be gay right now. Imagine not being able to be who you truly are and the effects that may have on yourself.

When you find yourself questioning your sexuality it’s a long tough journey, maybe its time you should think about making it easier on others that are around you.

The great news is that many of us come to terms with our sexuality and embrace it. We don’t have to fear being hanged as that method of repression died out in 1861, in the UK at least. Sure enough it was replaced with amendments that led to blackmail but after 1967 that stopped too, although it didn’t solve issues of inequality. As recent as 2003 laws have become much better, making life easier.

Yet many seem to think it is ok to ridicule someone for their sexuality or gender. There is nothing to be ashamed of being gay. In fact admitting to yourself that you are and living the life you wish to gives you the greatest power in the world.

Its not called Gay Pride for no reason.

Some LGBT persons are even reclaiming words that have been used derogative in the past. That’s their choice of how they define themselves and not a choice someone should use against them.

So when you call me a faggot, ask yourself why are using such a term and what does it say about you? Uneducated? Bully? Ignorant? Or any other term you wish to use, the choice is yours, but be aware of your words as you don’t know who you may be hurting.

Your best friend maybe or relative could be struggling right now, because they have heard you use such a term on themselves or others around you both.

Drug (n.)

late 14c., drogge (early 14c. in Anglo-French), "any substance used in the composition or preparation of medicines," from Old French droge "supply, stock, provision" (14c.), which is of unknown origin. Perhaps it is from Middle Dutch or Middle Low German droge-vate "dry barrels," or droge waere , literally "dry wares" (but specifically drugs and spices), with first element mistaken as indicating the contents, or because medicines mostly consisted of dried herbs.

Compare dry goods (1708), so called because they were measured out in dry (not liquid) measure, and Latin species , in Late Latin "wares," then specialized to "spices" (French épice , English spice). The same source produced Italian and Spanish droga , Swedish drog .

Specific application to "narcotics and opiates" is by late 19c., though the association of the word with "poisons" is from 1500s. Druggie "drug addict" is recorded by 1968. Phrase a drug on (or in) the market "thing which has lost its value and is no longer wanted" (mid-17c.) is of doubtful connection and may be a different word, perhaps a play on drag, which was sometimes written drug c. 1240-1800.

c. 1600, "to mix (a drink, etc.) with drugs, make narcotic or poisonous," from drug (n.). Meaning "dose (a person or animal) to excess with drugs or medications" is from 1730. Related: drugged drugging .


The word is from Old English godsibb, from god and sibb, the term for the godparents of one's child or the parents of one's godchild, generally very close friends. In the 16th century, the word assumed the meaning of a person, mostly a woman, one who delights in idle talk, a newsmonger, a tattler. [5] In the early 19th century, the term was extended from the talker to the conversation of such persons. The verb to gossip, meaning "to be a gossip", first appears in Shakespeare.

The term originates from the bedroom at the time of childbirth. Giving birth used to be a social event exclusively attended by women. The pregnant woman's female relatives and neighbours would congregate and idly converse. Over time, gossip came to mean talk of others. [6]

  • reinforce – or punish the lack of – morality and accountability
  • reveal passive aggression, isolating and harming others
  • serve as a process of social grooming
  • build and maintain a sense of community with shared interests, information, and values [7]
  • begin a courtship that helps one find their desired mate, by counseling others
  • provide a peer-to-peer mechanism for disseminating information

Mary Gormandy White, a human resource expert, gives the following "signs" for identifying workplace gossip:

  • Animated people become silent ("Conversations stop when you enter the room")
  • People begin staring at someone
  • Workers indulge in inappropriate topics of conversation. [8]

White suggests "five tips . [to] handle the situation with aplomb:

  1. Rise above the gossip
  2. Understand what causes or fuels the gossip
  3. Do not participate in workplace gossip.
  4. Allow for the gossip to go away on its own
  5. If it persists, "gather facts and seek help." [8]

Peter Vajda identifies gossip as a form of workplace violence, noting that it is "essentially a form of attack." Gossip is thought by many to "empower one person while disempowering another" (Hafen). Accordingly, many companies have formal policies in their employee handbooks against gossip. [9] Sometimes there is room for disagreement on exactly what constitutes unacceptable gossip, since workplace gossip may take the form of offhand remarks about someone's tendencies such as "He always takes a long lunch," or "Don’t worry, that’s just how she is." [10]

TLK Healthcare cites as examples of gossip, "tattletaling to the boss without intention of furthering a solution or speaking to co-workers about something someone else has done to upset us." Corporate email can be a particularly dangerous method of gossip delivery, as the medium is semi-permanent and messages are easily forwarded to unintended recipients accordingly, a Mass High Tech article advised employers to instruct employees against using company email networks for gossip. [11] Low self-esteem and a desire to "fit in" are frequently cited as motivations for workplace gossip. There are five essential functions that gossip has in the workplace (according to DiFonzo & Bordia):

  • Helps individuals learn social information about other individuals in the organization (often without even having to meet the other individual)
  • Builds social networks of individuals by bonding co-workers together and affiliating people with each other.
  • Breaks existing bonds by ostracizing individuals within an organization.
  • Enhances one's social status/power/prestige within the organization.
  • Inform individuals as to what is considered socially acceptable behavior within the organization.

According to Kurkland and Pelled, workplace gossip can be very serious depending upon the amount of power that the gossiper has over the recipient, which will in turn affect how the gossip is interpreted. There are four types of power that are influenced by gossip:

  • Coercive: when a gossiper tells negative information about a person, their recipient might believe that the gossiper will also spread negative information about them. This causes the gossiper's coercive power to increase.
  • Reward: when a gossiper tells positive information about a person, their recipient might believe that the gossiper will also spread positive information about them. This causes the gossiper's reward power to increase.
  • Expert: when a gossiper seems to have very detailed knowledge of either the organization's values or about others in the work environment, their expert power becomes enhanced.
  • Referent: this power can either be reduced OR enhanced to a point. When people view gossiping as a petty activity done to waste time, a gossiper's referent power can decrease along with their reputation. When a recipient is thought of as being invited into a social circle by being a recipient, the gossiper's referent power can increase, but only to a high point where then the recipient begins to resent the gossiper (Kurland & Pelled).

Some negative consequences of workplace gossip may include: [12]

  • Lost productivity and wasted time,
  • Erosion of trust and morale,
  • Increased anxiety among employees as rumors circulate without any clear information as to what is fact and what isn’t,
  • Growing divisiveness among employees as people “take sides,"
  • Hurt feelings and reputations,
  • Jeopardized chances for the gossipers' advancement as they are perceived as unprofessional, and
  • Attrition as good employees leave the company due to the unhealthy work atmosphere.

Turner and Weed theorize that among the three main types of responders to workplace conflict are attackers who cannot keep their feelings to themselves and express their feelings by attacking whatever they can. Attackers are further divided into up-front attackers and behind-the-back attackers. Turner and Weed note that the latter "are difficult to handle because the target person is not sure of the source of any criticism, nor even always sure that there is criticism." [13]

It is possible however, that there may be illegal, unethical, or disobedient behavior happening at the workplace and this may be a case where reporting the behavior may be viewed as gossip. It is then left up to the authority in charge to fully investigate the matter and not simply look past the report and assume it to be workplace gossip.

Informal networks through which communication occurs in an organization are sometimes called the grapevine. In a study done by Harcourt, Richerson, and Wattier, it was found that middle managers in several different organizations believed that gathering information from the grapevine was a much better way of learning information than through formal communication with their subordinates (Harcourt, Richerson & Wattier).

Some see gossip as trivial, hurtful and socially and/or intellectually unproductive. Some people view gossip as a lighthearted way of spreading information. A feminist definition of gossip presents it as "a way of talking between women, intimate in style, personal and domestic in scope and setting, a female cultural event which springs from and perpetuates the restrictions of the female role, but also gives the comfort of validation." (Jones, 1990:243)

In early modern England Edit

In Early Modern England the word "gossip" referred to companions in childbirth, not limited to the midwife. It also became a term for women-friends generally, with no necessary derogatory connotations. (OED n. definition 2. a. "A familiar acquaintance, friend, chum", supported by references from 1361 to 1873). It commonly referred to an informal local sorority or social group, who could enforce socially acceptable behaviour through private censure or through public rituals, such as "rough music", the cucking stool and the skimmington ride.

In Thomas Harman’s Caveat for Common Cursitors 1566 a ‘walking mort’ relates how she was forced to agree to meet a man in his barn, but informed his wife. The wife arrived with her “five furious, sturdy, muffled gossips” who catch the errant husband with “his hosen [trousers] about his legs” and give him a sound beating. The story clearly functions as a morality tale in which the gossips uphold the social order. [14]

In Sir Herbert Maxwell Bart's The Chevalier of the Splendid Crest [1900] at the end of chapter three the king is noted as referring to his loyal knight "Sir Thomas de Roos" in kindly terms as "my old gossip". Whilst a historical novel of that time the reference implies a continued use of the term "Gossip" as childhood friend as late as 1900.

In Judaism Edit

Judaism considers gossip spoken without a constructive purpose (known in Hebrew as an evil tongue, lashon hara) as a sin. Speaking negatively about people, even if retelling true facts, counts as sinful, as it demeans the dignity of man — both the speaker and the subject of the gossip. According to Proverbs 18:8: "The words of a gossip are like choice morsels: they go down to a man's innermost parts."

In Christianity Edit

The Christian perspective on gossip is typically based on modern cultural assumptions of the phenomenon, especially the assumption that generally speaking, gossip is negative speech. [15] [16] [17] However, due to the complexity of the phenomenon, biblical scholars have more precisely identified the form and function of gossip, even identifying a socially positive role for the social process as it is described in the New Testament. [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] Of course, this does not mean that there are not numerous texts in the New Testament that see gossip as dangerous negative speech.

Thus, for example, the Epistle to the Romans associates gossips ("backbiters") with a list of sins including sexual immorality and with murder:

According to Matthew 18, Jesus also taught that conflict resolution among church members ought to begin with the aggrieved party attempting to resolve their dispute with the offending party alone. Only if this did not work would the process escalate to the next step, in which another church member would become involved. After that if the person at fault still would not "hear", the matter was to be fully investigated by the church elders, and if not resolved to be then exposed publicly.

Based on texts like these portraying gossip negatively, many Christian authors generalize on the phenomenon. So, in order to gossip, writes Phil Fox Rose, we "must harden our heart towards the 'out' person. We draw a line between ourselves and them define them as being outside the rules of Christian charity. We create a gap between ourselves and God's Love." As we harden our heart towards more people and groups, he continues, "this negativity and feeling of separateness will grow and permeate our world, and we'll find it more difficult to access God’s love in any aspect of our lives." [26]

The New Testament is also in favor of group accountability (Ephesians 5:11 1st Tim 5:20 James 5:16 Gal 6:1-2 1 Cor 12:26), which may be associated with gossip.

In Islam Edit

Islam considers backbiting the equivalent of eating the flesh of one's dead brother. According to Muslims, backbiting harms its victims without offering them any chance of defense, just as dead people cannot defend against their flesh being eaten. Muslims are expected to treat others like brothers (regardless of their beliefs, skin color, gender, or ethnic origin), deriving from Islam's concept of brotherhood amongst its believers.

In Bahai Faith Edit

Bahais consider backbiting to be the "worst human quality and the most great sin. " [27] Therefore, even murder would be considered less reprobate than backbiting. Baha'u'llah stated, "Backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul." When someone kills another, it only affects their physical condition. However, when someone gossips, it affects one in a different manner.

Evolutionary view Edit

From Robin Dunbar's evolutionary theories, gossip originated to help bond the groups that were constantly growing in size. To survive, individuals need alliances but as these alliances grew larger, it was difficult if not impossible to physically connect with everyone. Conversation and language were able to bridge this gap. Gossip became a social interaction that helped the group gain information about other individuals without personally speaking to them.

It enabled people to keep up with what was going on in their social network. It also creates a bond between the teller and the hearer, as they share information of mutual interest and spend time together. It also helps the hearer learn about another individual’s behavior and helps them have a more effective approach to their relationship. Dunbar (2004) found that 65% of conversations consist of social topics. [28]

Dunbar (1994) argues that gossip is the equivalent of social grooming often observed in other primate species. [29] Anthropological investigations indicate that gossip is a cross-cultural phenomenon, providing evidence for evolutionary accounts of gossip. [30] [31] [32]

There is very little evidence to suggest meaningful sex differences in the proportion of conversational time spent gossiping, and when there is a difference, women are only very slightly more likely to gossip compared with men. [29] [32] [33] Further support for the evolutionary significance of gossip comes from a recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal, Science Anderson and colleagues (2011) found that faces paired with negative social information dominate visual consciousness to a greater extent than positive and neutral social information during a binocular rivalry task.

Binocular rivalry occurs when two different stimuli are presented to each eye simultaneously and the two percepts compete for dominance in visual consciousness. While this occurs, an individual will consciously perceive one of the percepts while the other is suppressed. After a time, the other percept will become dominant and an individual will become aware of the second percept. Finally, the two percepts will alternate back and forth in terms of visual awareness.

The study by Anderson and colleagues (2011) indicates that higher order cognitive processes, like evaluative information processing, can influence early visual processing. That only negative social information differentially affected the dominance of the faces during the task alludes to the unique importance of knowing information about an individual that should be avoided. Since the positive social information did not produce greater perceptual dominance of the matched face indicates that negative information about an individual may be more salient to our behavior than positive. [34]

Gossip also gives information about social norms and guidelines for behavior. Gossip usually comments on how appropriate a behavior was, and the mere act of repeating it signifies its importance. In this sense, gossip is effective regardless of whether it is positive or negative [35] Some theorists have proposed that gossip is actually a pro-social behavior intended to allow an individual to correct their socially prohibitive behavior without direct confrontation of the individual. By gossiping about an individual’s acts, other individuals can subtly indicate that said acts are inappropriate and allow the individual to correct their behavior (Schoeman 1994).

Perception of those who gossip Edit

Individuals who are perceived to engage in gossiping regularly are seen as having less social power and being less liked. [ citation needed ] The type of gossip being exchanged also affects likeability, whereby those who engage in negative gossip are less liked than those who engage in positive gossip. [36] In a study done by Turner and colleagues (2003), having a prior relationship with a gossiper was not found to protect the gossiper from less favorable personality-ratings after gossip was exchanged. In the study, pairs of individuals were brought into a research lab to participate. Either the two individuals were friends prior to the study or they were strangers scheduled to participate at the same time. One of the individuals was a confederate of the study, and they engaged in gossiping about the research assistant after she left the room. The gossip exchanged was either positive or negative. Regardless of gossip type (positive versus negative) or relationship type (friend versus stranger) the gossipers were rated as less trustworthy after sharing the gossip. [37]

Walter Block has suggested that while gossip and blackmail both involve the disclosure of unflattering information, the blackmailer is arguably ethically superior to the gossip. [38] Block writes: "In a sense, the gossip is much worse than the blackmailer, for the blackmailer has given the blackmailed a chance to silence him. The gossip exposes the secret without warning." The victim of a blackmailer is thus offered choices denied to the subject of gossip, such as deciding if the exposure of his or her secret is worth the cost the blackmailer demands. Moreover, in refusing a blackmailer's offer one is in no worse a position than with the gossip. Adds Block, "It is indeed difficult, then, to account for the vilification suffered by the blackmailer, at least compared to the gossip, who is usually dismissed with slight contempt and smugness."

Contemporary critiques of gossip may concentrate on or become subsumed in the discussion of social media such as Facebook. [39]

Black (adj.)

Old English blæc "absolutely dark, absorbing all light, the color of soot or coal," from Proto-Germanic *blakaz "burned" (source also of Old Norse blakkr "dark," Old High German blah "black," Swedish bläck "ink," Dutch blaken "to burn"), from PIE *bhleg- "to burn, gleam, shine, flash" (source also of Greek phlegein "to burn, scorch," Latin flagrare "to blaze, glow, burn"), from root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn."

The same root produced Old English blac "bright, shining, glittering, pale" the connecting notions being, perhaps, "fire" (bright) and "burned" (dark), or perhaps "absence of color." "There is nothing more variable than the signification of words designating colour" [Hensleigh Wedgwood, "A Dictionary of English Etymology," 1859].

The usual Old English word for "black" was sweart (see swart). According to OED: "In ME. it is often doubtful whether blac , blak , blake , means ɻlack, dark,' or 'pale, colourless, wan, livid.' " Used of dark-skinned people in Old English.

Of coffee with nothing added, attested by 1796. Black drop (1823) was a liquid preparation of opium, used medicinally. Black-fly (c. 1600) was used of various insects, especially an annoying pest of the northern American woods. Black Prince as a nickname of the eldest son of Edward III is attested by 1560s the exact signification is uncertain.

Meaning "fierce, terrible, wicked" is from late 14c. Figurative senses often come from the notion of "without light," moral or spiritual. Latin niger had many of the same figurative senses ("gloomy unlucky bad, wicked, malicious"). The metaphoric use of the Greek word, melas , however, tended to reflect the notion of "shrouded in darkness, overcast." In English it has been the color of sin and sorrow at least since c. 1300 the sense of "with dark purposes, malignant" emerged 1580s (in black art "necromancy" it is also the sense in black magic ). Black flag , flown (especially by pirates) as a signal of "no mercy," is from 1590s. Black dog "melancholy" attested from 1826.

Black belt is from 1870 in reference to district extending across the U.S. South with heaviest African population (also sometimes in reference to the fertility of the soil) it is attested from 1913 in the judo sense, worn by one who has attained a certain high degree of proficiency. Black power is from 1966, associated with Stokely Carmichael. Black English "English as spoken by African-Americans," is by 1969. The Black Panther (1965) movement was an outgrowth of Student Nonviolent Co-ordinating Committee. Black studies is attested from 1968.

c. 1200, intrans., "to become black" early 14c., trans., "to make black, darken, put a black color on" from black (adj.). Especially "to clean and polish (boots, shoes, etc.) by blacking and brushing them" (1550s). Related: Blacked blacking.

Old English blæc "the color black," also "ink," from noun use of black (adj.). From late 14c. as "dark spot in the pupil of the eye." The meaning "dark-skinned person, African" is from 1620s (perhaps late 13c., and blackamoor is from 1540s). Meaning "black clothing" (especially when worn in mourning) is from c. 1400.

To be in black-and-white , meaning in writing or in print, is from 1650s ( white-and-black is from 1590s) the notion is of black characters on white paper. In the visual arts, "with no colors but black and white," it is by 1870 of sketches, 1883 of photographs. To be in the black (1922) is from the accounting practice of recording credits and balances in black ink.

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