"Black Man", 1849

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sat May 1 18:37:28 UTC 2010

"Black Man" also appears in Hawthorne's "Main Street":  "Most of them
have one huge chimney in the centre, with flues so vast that it must
have been easy for the witches to fly out of them, as they were wont
to do, when bound on an aerial visit to the Black Man in the forest."

This 1849 instance antedates the OED2's earliest citation of 1851 for
singular "black man",   "2. An evil spirit; also, the evil one, the
devil; also, a spirit or bogey invoked in order to terrify children".
Its only two earlier citations are:
      [1591 in Pitcairn Crim. Trials Scotl. (1833) I. 246 {Th}e
Dewill start vp in {th}e pulpett, lyke ane mekill blak man, with ane
blak baird stikand out lyke ane gettis baird.] 1658 tr. Bergerac's
Satyr. Char. xii. 48, I send the Goblins..the nightbats,..the black men.
      The plural 1658 citation presumably does not refer to Satan,
but to evil spirits.  In the [1591] citation the Dewill is merely
"_lyke_ a mekill [presumably "large, big, great"] blak man".


At 5/1/2010 02:07 PM, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>At 5/1/2010 11:02 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>>How commonly, BTW, is/was the devil really referred to as the "Black Man"?
>>I get the feeling that it was rather rare and is more familiar today to
>>academics than to anyone else.
>I admit to being (or aspiring to be, or mistaken to be)
>academic.  But I think it was pretty common.  My encounter was in
>Hawthorne, "Feathertop: A Moralized Legend", and more notably in "The
>Scarlet Letter" (chapter 4).  Commentary on Hawthorne's use says it
>was common among the Puritans.  Wikipedia (s.v. "Men in Black") says
>"Even so, the term "the black man" was used for centuries in
>reference to the Devil,[citation needed]."  And Google Books for
>"black man" + devil + -Hawthorne -- In the first 10 hits, "The
>popular image of the black man in English drama, 1550-1688",
>"Painting the dark side: art and the Gothic imagination in ... ", and
>Howell's "Complete collection of state trials" all discuss the equation.
>The OED (1989) has eight citations, from [1591] and 1658, then 1851
>through 1886, and 1969.
>BTW, if I'd seen the name "Clarence Dupnik", I would have known it
>was not he I was trying to recall. :-)
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list