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In the past, squatters and other plunderers would hassle farmers for profit. They would steal cows and other valuable resources. If the farmers wanted their goods back, they were going to have to pay; some sources say they also had to pay handling charges [source]. Mail comes from the Scottish word for something in the realm of tax. It's not clear why the word black is used but it is known that if the ransom was paid in silver it was refered to as whitemail[source].
Another story suggests that the word blackmail came instead from Medieval European knights. Black, mail armor covered the body almost completely from head to toe. Blackmail itself refers to an option given by a knight when he has his sword pointed into the face hole of an opponent [source].


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