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Reasons to be cheerful – Giving back ‘black’

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    There are more than ample examples over the centuries of the negative meanings attached to the word ‘black’  for us now to return ‘black’ to its intended use and consign it to history as a term for describing people.

    Negative metaphors abound:-

    • The “Black Death” – the bubonic plague of 1347
    • The “Black Hole of Calcutta” 1756
    • “No blacks, no Irish, no dogs” – signs displayed on rental accommodation across the UK in the 1950s and 60s
    • “black wog”, “black jack”, “black as the ace of spades”, “black bastard”
    • The “Black and White minstrel show”
    • Black mood
    • Blacklist
    • Blacklisted
    • Black magic
    • Black arts (to mean wicked tactics. Derives from the Latin nicromancia, which in turn derives from necromancia, meaning necromancy)
    • Blackmail
    • Black widow – a deadly spider found in many regions of the world. A term also applied metaphorically and pejoratively to women who use sexual allure to ensnare and murder, rob or otherwise harm men – the so-called femme fatale or ‘honeytrap’ woman.
    • Black book
    • Black cat
    • Black mark
    • Black market
    • Black day
    • Black Friday – the Friday before Christmas week when there is the highest number of fatalities from drink-driving
    • Black humour (otherwise known as ‘gallows humour’)
    • Black comedy
    • Black ball – rejection of a political candidate
    • Accident blackspot
    • Black hole
    • Black hole in finances
    • Black heart
    • Blackleg
    • Black legend
    • Black look
    • Black eye
    • ‘Black sheep’ of the family
    • Blackout
    • Blackguard (foul-mouthed or scurrilous person)
    • Black Maria
    • “Black man’s pinch”
    • CIA ‘black’ sites
    • CIA ‘black’ operations
    • Bête noire
    • Un roman noir (“A black novel”) – French for a crime novel/a gritty/gruesome crime novel

    And after all that, one specific section of the human population is given the epithet “black people” to pass onto successive generations!

    Dubious metaphors:-

    The origins of ‘black’ for the “black Prince” are uncertain, but are thought to refer to the black outfit he wore.

    The epithet “the black boy” for King Charles II in his childhood in the 1640s referred to his Mediterranean complexion.

    Yes indeed, the English  language is a descriptive language, but the negative use of ‘black’ far outweighs the positive (“in the black” financially being the only example we can find).

    Thus the stretching of the meaning of  the word ‘black’ to refer to people, beyond the specific political meaning and purpose it had in the 1960s and 70s is no longer a badge of honour but self-deprecation. The metaphor of “Black Power” and “Black Panthers” of the America of these times has given way to the base and meaningless terms ‘black’, ‘blacks’  now used interchangeably and collectively to describe  only those humans of African descent, along with dogs, cats, other animals, and inanimate objects.

    So we say, “Thanks for the memories”, ‘black’ no longer applies to us.

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