Dot Wordsworth

The problem with ‘black market’


The term black market should be replaced with illegal market because it could suggest racial bias or discrimination, according to UK Finance, a trade body for British banking and financial services.

I suppose it is asking for the black never to be used with negative connotations. That will be a black day for the language. Who ever thought that black market had anything to do with black people? It’s not as if black people are stereotyped as illicit money-changers.

It cannot be long before Penzance changes the name of its principal street, Market Jew Street. The name has nothing to do with Jews but derives from the Cornish Marghas Yow, meaning Thursday Market.

By contrast, Black Friday has been promoted in Britain to chivvy people into buying goods as they do in America. It falls on the day after Thanksgiving, but most British people do not know on what day Thanksgiving falls.

An utterly baseless nugget of disinformation has been floating around the internet claiming that on Black Friday ‘slave traders would sell slaves for a discount to assist plantation owners’ who needed extra help to prepare for winter. No source has been found for the claim, and Black Friday came into use at least 95 years after the abolition of slavery.

There is an isolated reference from 1951 to Black Friday as a day of high absenteeism. Some attribute the phrase Black Friday to frustrated Philadelphia policemen in the 1960s dealing with traffic jams on the busy shopping day. It wasn’t until 1994 that someone thought to attribute the name to retailers’ accounts going back from red into the black on that day. That sounds to me like a post-factum explanation.

To be safe, all you need to do is remember never to use terms like accident black spots, black ice, black arts, the black bottom, black cabbage and black cabs, black coffee and black dog, the Black Country and the Black Death, black dwarfs and black holes, blackjacks and blacklegs, black magic and black Masses, black sheep and black swans.

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