Black Friday: The Friday immediately following Thanksgiving Day that is considered by retailers to mark the beginning of the holiday shopping season. – Merriam Webster Dictionary
For the younger set, “black Friday” is the day to fight off serious indigestion from overeating on Thanksgiving and wade into favorite stores armed with courage and credit
For older folks, “black Friday” means something far different. They learned in school that black Friday was the day the gold market collapsed during the presidency of U.S. Grant, ruining an untold numbers of investors.
Today’s term is much more positive and aligns with the business definition of “black” versus “red,” as in ink on the ledger sheet.
Retailers, in an ongoing effort to keep customers from shopping on the Internet, have promoted “black Friday” since the 1990s. They need to stay in the “black” to survive, and the “black Friday” event underscores how important the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas continues to be for storeowners. Some businesses may see more than half of their annual sales occur during that time frame.
This changing of word meanings is a natural part of our language but it also can be confusing if a word or phrase that describes something in a clear and concise way morphs into something different or even the opposite.
Consider those color coded political maps that dominated the TV screens on election night.
Blue states represented those voting Democratic, and red states were identified as Republican.
This is contrary to how political parties were color coded in an earlier time. For years, the color red represented the left of center on the political spectrum. That’s why socialists and those on the far left were labeled “red” or “pink.” There was “Red China,” for example, and the “better dead than red” saying of the Cold War era, when red represented communism not only of China, but the Soviet Union, as well. The Red Army of Russia was a term that lives on even today.
It all changed – at least the U.S political maps – in fall of 2000 when TV journalist Tim Russert used the terms “red states” for Republicans and “blue states” for Democrats during his coverage of the presidential election. He didn’t explain why, but the descriptions took root, in part because Russert commanded bi-partisan respect and the media was ready for standardization.
But back to “black Friday,” which we know and love today.
It has a positive connotation in spite of the outbreaks of shopper violence that occasionally occur at Wal-Mart and other stores.
Be careful out there.
Nov. 23, 2016