Wordnik: Extortion vs. Blackmail

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Over the next week Erin McKean, co-founder of and former editor of the Oxford American Dictionary, will discuss the buzz-worthy words you hear in the news and on the street.

Today: The difference between blackmail and extortion and where the two words come from.


Erin McKean
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Comments [5]

Sue Warnasch from Lebanon Township NJ

Could she discuss the etymology and usage of "zero sum game." I just don't really get it or how to use it.

Oct. 15 2009 12:16 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Ms. McKean said extortion involved use of force, but I'd say it's more the *threat* of force, as in her example of "nice sheep--shame if anything happened to it." And I'd also say the threat has to be future rather than immediate use of force, or robbery at gun- or knifepoint would also qualify. Too straightforward to be "twisted," maybe.

"Wordnik" is a great name--how come I haven't heard of it before? I'll have to check out the site when I have more time!

Oct. 15 2009 12:11 PM
Cheryl from nyc

How did "sanction" meaning explicit approval become "sanction" being a means of negative enforcement or punishment?

Oct. 15 2009 12:07 PM
hjs from 11211

to me extortion is more exotic and important sounding. anyone can blackmail with the smallest scandal but extortion is for the powerful people

Oct. 15 2009 10:33 AM
Lance from Miami

How about, Why isn't "threshold" spelled "threshhold"?

Oct. 15 2009 09:57 AM

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