LONDON-L ArchivesArchiver > LONDON > 2005-11 > 1131575434
From: "Caroline Bradford" <>
Subject: RE: [Lon] Re: How bad is it to 'Blot one's Copybook"
Date: Wed, 9 Nov 2005 22:30:34 -0000
The phrase comes from the days when schoolchildren used "copybooks" for
their basic education. These consisted of lines of text or sums with space
underneath for the pupil to laboriously copy them out, using scratchy old
nibs. Splodging the ink and blotting your copy book caused the work, and,
more importantly, the book to be spoiled and would have been a major crime
in the schoolroom, probably leading to a public physical chastisement.
Metaphorically, the phrase was extended to refer to any mistake which led to
public disgrace. In the context where you have encountered it, it seems to
have been used about an ancestor who "let the side down" privately or
professionally and permanently sullied his reputation. Whatever it was that
he did was obviously deemed to have brought shame on the family and was
therefore spoken of euphemistically as "blotting his copybook". Poor soul
probably had some kind of breakdown, perhaps related to some military
experience, which either led to or was exacerbated by his alcoholism. These
days it would probably be diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder, but
the 19th century was a less forgiving age. Hospital records (if they
survive) may provide more clues
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Margaret Cambridge [mailto:]
> Sent: 09 November 2005 20:30
> Subject: [Lon] Re: How bad is it to 'Blot one's Copybook"
> I believe to "Blot one's Copybook" is a British phrase so hopefully
> can give me some idea as to how serious it could be. On google I have
> that it is likely to be a permanent record.
> I have someone who, according to stories passed down thru' the family,
> 'Blotted his Copybook".
> In the 1881 census he is found as a patient in a Military Hospital in
> Damerel, Devon then I find him on an Index of Assisted Immigrants
> in Sydney, Australia in 1883. He married in Australia and returned to
> Devonport just before 1891. He became a physiotherapist and was also
> to be an alcoholic.
> Would this most likely have been a personal error or could it have been
> Any thoughts?
> >From the Beautiful British Columbia Cariboo Region, Canada
> Jumpstart your genealogy with OneWorldTree. Search not only for
> ancestors, but entire generations. Learn more:
|RE: [Lon] Re: How bad is it to 'Blot one's Copybook" by "Caroline Bradford" <>|