Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue – Day Thirty

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…..

Black Book

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….