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Black Friday

Today, families across the United States gather around the dinner table to celebrate Thanksgiving. The smell of roast turkey and pumpkin pie fill the air, declarations of gratitude ring out, laughter and time spent with loved ones warm the heart. Come Friday, however, all of that is left behind – except for enough leftovers to make turkey sandwiches for days on end, of course. The holiday gives way to something much less wholesome, something much darker: Black Friday.

By now it seems like almost everyone knows about Black Friday. While Thanksgiving has not yet been exported to the extent of some other US holidays, the rest of the world has gone and gobbled up the notion of Black Friday and its amazing bargains. But does anybody know why Black Friday has this name? If you do a Google search on it, you’ll get a wide variety of answers:

  • In bookkeeping, losses were often marked in red ink whereas profits were marked in black ink. The Christmas shopping season, which begins just after Thanksgiving, brought many shops out of red numbers and into black numbers.
  • Historically, on the Friday after Thanksgiving in the US, African slaves would be sold at a discounted price and plantation owners could get a bargain on their purchase.
  • As Thanksgiving falls on a Thursday, people would call in sick on Friday and thereby enjoy a four-day weekend. It was as if the Black Plague wiped out a large part of the working population on the same day every single year.
  • In 1961, Philadelphia police complained bitterly about the masses who, enjoying their day off, swarmed the streets and hit the shops. The traffic was a nightmare and the overwhelmed cops began referring to it as Black Friday.

If some of these explanations seem a bit far-fetched to you, that’s because they just might be complete fabrications! One must always be on the lookout for false etymologies. They stick around like urban legends. In this case, it’s hard to know the true reason behind Black Friday’s name with so many stories circulating about it. If you happen to find another plausible explanation, let us know!

Interested in learning about languages and translation? Check out our playlist called Curiosities on our YouTube channel for more!

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