The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue was first published at the end of the eighteenth century, and given that the Coronavirus crisis is giving too much time to read books, I thought I’d pick a daily word from it until I got bored…..
The dictionary defines this as “he is down in the black book, ie, has a stain in his character. A black book is kept in most regiments, wherein the names of all persons sentenced to punishment are recorded”. It seems that this was also true on a wider scale, court books and punishment books in academia were also often black.
Today, the phrase seems to have shifted somewhat, normally being used to refer to a list of secret contacts, rather than a list of people who should be punished. I prefer the old meaning, there’s something more sinister about having a book full of people who have committed misdemeanours. Perhaps Hike Norfolk should have one….