The word blackmail is variously derived from the word for tribute (in modern terms, protection racket) paid by English and Scottish border dwellers to Border Reivers in return for immunity from raids and other harassment. The “mail” part of blackmail derives from Middle English male, “rent, tribute”. This tribute was paid in goods or labour (reditus nigri, or “blackmail”); the opposite is blanche firmes or reditus albi, or “white rent” (denoting payment by silver). An alternative version is that rents in the Scottish Borders were often paid in produce of the land, called “greenmail” (‘green rent’), suggesting “blackmail” as a counterpart paid perforce to the reivers. Alternatively, Mackay derives it from two Scottish Gaelic words blathaich pronounced (the th silent) bla-ich (to protect) and mal (tribute, payment), cf. buttock mail. He notes that the practice was common in the Scottish Highlands as well as the Borders. In the Irish language, the term cíos dubh, meaning “black-rent”, has also been employed.

OK. Confession.

I had NO IDEA that this one word would lead me to the cut and paste above!

I’ve been revisiting Aleksandr, my Kievan ‘Rus in Ravens of Dinefwr.

WikiWonka : Kievan ‘Rus

Aleksandr travels from Georgia to Norway and becomes Magnus Barelegs’ (King of Norway) closest friend and advisor.

Alek then travels via Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man to Wales where he meets the younger sister of one of the RAVENS and falls in love with her.

What drives him so far from home?


Aleksandr carries a life-threatening secret which he MUST keep safe. If he EVER speaks it, his life is forfeit.

If he stays quiet, he will have access to private family funds.

Extortion. Demanding with menaces. Blackmail.

These are all the same. A secret known to just one other than oneself is a weapon of control.

NOT ALL blackmail is for money…though most is, sadly.

I have a Very heavy feeling that someone’s silence is being controlled : Here & Now!


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