Why is everything black bad?

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Anonymous #1
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Report Thread starter 8 months ago
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It seems in the English language the adjective black is always used pejoratively. Just look at: black-hearted, black sheep, blackguard, blackball, black mark, black book, blacklist, blackmail, blackwash and
Michael Jackson sang "it was Sunday but a black day."

Do African or Indian languages use black in this way? Considering their skin is darker naturally, maybe they don't use dark/black to mean something bad? It's telling that European languages use "black" in this way.
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harrysbar
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(Original post by Anonymous)
It seems in the English language the adjective black is always used pejoratively. Just look at: black-hearted, black sheep, blackguard, blackball, black mark, black book, blacklist, blackmail, blackwash and
Michael Jackson sang "it was Sunday but a black day."

Do African or Indian languages use black in this way? Considering their skin is darker naturally, maybe they don't use dark/black to mean something bad? It's telling that European languages use "black" in this way.
England used to be a lot more racist than it is today and I agree that racism is behind lots of the negative connotations behind the word "black". This was pointed out to me about 30 years ago and after that I stopped using phrases like "black economy" and changed it to "illegal" or "informal". However, there is no sensible alternative to some words such as blackmail so they remain in currant usage. I don't think people commonly use some of the words you have listed like "blackguard" and "blackwash" anymore in England today, so hopefully they will eventually disappear. Actually, I had not heard of "blackwash" before.

So there is historic racism behind the way these words evolved, but that doesn't mean that many English people are racist today. I would say they are very much in a minority.
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Anonymous #1
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(Original post by harrysbar)
England used to be a lot more racist than it is today and I agree that racism is behind lots of the negative connotations behind the word "black". This was pointed out to me about 30 years ago and after that I stopped using phrases like "black economy" and changed it to "illegal" or "informal". However, there is no sensible alternative to some words such as blackmail so they remain in currant usage. I don't think people commonly use some of the words you have listed like "blackguard" and "blackwash" anymore in England today, so hopefully they will eventually disappear. Actually, I had not heard of "blackwash" before.

So there is historic racism behind the way these words evolved, but that doesn't mean that many English people are racist today. I would say they are very much in a minority.
thank you for the informative answer.
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mnot
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(Original post by Anonymous)
It seems in the English language the adjective black is always used pejoratively. Just look at: black-hearted, black sheep, blackguard, blackball, black mark, black book, blacklist, blackmail, blackwash and
Michael Jackson sang "it was Sunday but a black day."

Do African or Indian languages use black in this way? Considering their skin is darker naturally, maybe they don't use dark/black to mean something bad? It's telling that European languages use "black" in this way.
I know its only one example but financially being in the black is good.

Also I don't consider black sheep to be negative, it just means the odd one out, and this is because there are far more white sheep...hence is a reasonable analogy.

I googled the term blacklist to try and find the origin of use and in that case a blacklist was the list of people responsible for the execution of James 1st (drawn up by his son James 2nd).

Also looked up blackmail: this started in the 16/17th century and was to do with legitimate money being called white for the silver coins used at the time, and hence if someone had acquired the black money it was tainted and black is seen as the opposite of white...

So I suspect the terminology in general largely spawned from middle english in the 15th, 16th & 17th Centuries and we haven't changed the terms out of convenience mostly.
Last edited by mnot; 8 months ago
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Anonymous #1
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(Original post by mnot)
I know its only one example but financially being in the black is good.

Also I don't consider black sheep to be negative, it just means the odd one out, and this is because there are far more white sheep...hence is a reasonable analogy.

I googled the term blacklist to try and find the origin of use and in that case a blacklist was the list of people responsible for the execution of James 1st (drawn up by his son James 2nd).

Also looked up blackmail: this started in the 16/17th century and was to do with legitimate money being called white for the silver coins used at the time, and hence if someone had acquired the black money it was tainted and black is seen as the opposite of white...

So I suspect the terminology in general largely spawned from middle english in the 15th, 16th & 17th Centuries and we haven't changed the terms out of convenience mostly.
Very interesting stuff!
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