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Black Friday
Posted: 24 November 2011 07:28 AM   [ Ignore ]
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In Australia this term refers to Friday the 13th but I now know that in the USA it means the day after Thanksgiving. Roughly how old is this usage?

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Posted: 24 November 2011 08:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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From the Big List

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Posted: 24 November 2011 08:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thanks to Steely Dan, I guess, I’ve always associated Black Friday with the 1929 stock market crash.

When Black Friday comes
I’ll stand down by the door
And catch the grey men when they
Dive from the fourteenth floor.

When Black Friday comes
I’ll collect everything I’m owed
And before my friends find out
I’ll be on the road.

When Black Friday falls you know it’s got to be
Don’t let it fall on me
When Black Friday comes
I’ll fly down to Muswellbrook.

Not so, apparently: That was called Black Monday, Tuesday, or Thursday, according to WP. But what the heck is Muswellbrook?

Happy Thanksgiving Day.

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Posted: 24 November 2011 09:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Although the “black” days associated with the crash are usually “black Thursday” and “black Monday.”

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Posted: 24 November 2011 03:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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"From the Big List”

:blush:

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Posted: 24 November 2011 07:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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"But what the heck is Muswellbrook?”

I expect that OPT will enlighten you (without blushing!). Until then see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muswellbrook,_New_South_Wales

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Posted: 25 November 2011 04:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Can I assume, then, that Black Friday = Friday the 13th has no currency at all in the USA?

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Posted: 25 November 2011 05:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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OP Tipping - 25 November 2011 04:38 AM

Can I assume, then, that Black Friday = Friday the 13th has no currency at all in the USA?

I’ve never heard it used that way and I’ve been around.

Ben Zimmer seems to have claimed it dates to the 1960s.

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Posted: 25 November 2011 05:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I’m not surprised that Ben has found a slightly earlier citation. It still originated with Philadelphia police, apparently just a few years earlier than I had been able to find.

(I don’t know exactly what citation Ben has.)

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Posted: 25 November 2011 05:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Can I assume, then, that Black Friday = Friday the 13th has no currency at all in the USA?

As usual, absolutes like “at all” are probably inappropriate because undoubtedly you can find some examples of its use here in Leftpondia, but no, the “Friday the 13th” sense isn’t used much here.

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Posted: 25 November 2011 06:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Dave Wilton - 25 November 2011 05:30 AM

I’m not surprised that Ben has found a slightly earlier citation. It still originated with Philadelphia police, apparently just a few years earlier than I had been able to find.

(I don’t know exactly what citation Ben has.)

Ben explains it all here in his Word Routes blog.

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Posted: 25 November 2011 07:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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No, never heard Friday the 13th called Black Friday in the UK. We did have a Black Wednesday in 1992 (leaving the Exchange Rate Mechanism or some such nonsense).  Oh and Black Sunday (or La maschera del demonio), 1960, by the great Mario Bava, from a story by Gogol, is one of my favourite movies. Enough gloom though - hence, loath├Ęd Melancholy!

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Posted: 25 November 2011 08:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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The OED entry was updated back in September and includes the 1961 citation that Zimmer references. I’ve also updated the Big List entry.

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Posted: 25 November 2011 05:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I don’t find the explanation in the Big List, either old or new versions, entirely satisfactory. 

The phrase “Black Friday” has a long, much older history.  Putting it into genealogybank.com gives many hits going to at least the mid-19th century.  The Trenton Evening Times of June 6, 1960 has a question-and-answer column with the question “In U.S. history, what day was called Black Friday?” The answer provided is September 24, 1869, when Jay Gould and James Fisk cornered the gold market.  I have seen this event called “Black Friday” in 19th century papers as well.  For an older example, the Boston Courier of February 13, 1854, quoting the Augusta (Maine) Age’s report of a senatorial election that didn’t go as the Age wished, “The deed was perpetrated on Friday--an unlucky day, at best--which will hereafter be set down in the calendar of Maine politics as ‘Black Friday.’” Another example is a 1940 film named “Black Friday” starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi (and which, judging from the imdb entry, appears to be very bad).  One of my favorites is an article in the Trenton Evening Times of March 5, 1974 that notes that in Iowa the salaries of all state employees above a certain level are published every year on the Friday before Thanksgiving, and that this is “known affectionately by state employees as Black Friday.” There are examples of other days of the week, e.g. “Black Thursday” of the 1939 stock market crash, but these are far fewer. 

So whenever and however it was that the day after Thanksgiving came to be known as Black Friday, this was not a new coinage.  It was an adaptation of a stock phrase.  Any complete explanation must explain its earlier origin.

I am also not entirely convinced by the cites given.  The one Dave had up previously on the Big List was specific to Philadelphia and described Black Friday as the day between Thanksgiving and the Army/Navy game.  This game was a huge deal.  It is still a big deal, but nothing like it used to be.  It brought large numbers of visitors in from out of town for a festive, well-lubricated occasion.  This is just the sort of event which locals appreciate for the increased business, while dreading for the disruption.  So was this Black Friday because of the post-Thanksgiving Christmas shopping, or because of the football crowds?  The earlier cite now listed is also specific to Philadelphia.  It seems to me that this is a transitional phrase.  “Black Friday” as we know it today is purely about the shopping, and not about any narrowly local event.  A pristine example of this usage can be found in the Trenton Evening Times of November 27, 1976:  “The day after Thanksgiving--some merchants call it ‘Black Friday’--marks the start of the Christmas shopping rush.”

For whatever it is worth, when I was working for WalMart in the early 1990s we used the term regularly, but it had an air of being an insider’s joke.  I don’t recall hearing it is general use until later.

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Posted: 25 November 2011 05:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Oh sure, there are other “black” days associated with various historical dates. Not only Fridays. Just about every day of the week has been called “black” for some reason or another.

But the question is how did “black Friday” become associated with the day after Thanksgiving? That’s the question people were asking. The answer seems to point to the Philadelphia police who named the day after the unusually heavy crowds on that day. It wasn’t about the shopping; it was about the crowds (and which is why its still called “black"). From there it spread. Your example from Trenton is more evidence, as Trenton is just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. Even by 1976 it was still pretty much a local term.

There is some evidence that “black Friday” was associated with the day after Thanksgiving earlier and not with a Philadelphia connection. But that evidence is sketchy. Right now, the Philadelphia story is the best evidenced one.

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Posted: 26 November 2011 07:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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So whenever and however it was that the day after Thanksgiving came to be known as Black Friday, this was not a new coinage.  It was an adaptation of a stock phrase.  Any complete explanation must explain its earlier origin.

I disagree.  It is, in a sense, an inevitable phrase; any unfortunate thing that happens on a given day of the week could cause someone to mutter about “Black [X]day.” That general usage needs no explanation beyond the fact that “black” carries a negative connotation in English.  The question is “Why is Black Friday used for the day after Thanksgiving?” and I cannot see any sense in which earlier uses for unconnected phenomena are relevant.

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