Thursday, December 04, 2008

Even NYT Gets "Black Friday" Etymology Wrong

The venerable NYT committed this error:
Black Friday is named for the day when, historically, retailers moved into
the black, or became profitable for the year.

Although, I suppose, from the standpoint of a descriptive dictionary, this usage is steadily gaining ground versus the original usage (from Wikipedia):

The earliest uses of "Black Friday" come from or reference Philadelphia and refer to
the heavy traffic on that day, an implicit comparison to the extremely stressful
and chaotic experience of Black Tuesday (the 1929 stock-market crash). The earliest known reference to "Black Friday" (in this sense), found by Bonnie Taylor-Blake of the American Dialect Society, refers to Black Friday 1965 and makes the Philadelphia origin explicit:

JANUARY 1966 -- "Black Friday" is the name which the Philadelphia
Police Department has given to the Friday following Thanksgiving Day. It is not
a term of endearment to them. "Black Friday" officially opens the Christmas
shopping season in center city, and it usually brings massive traffic jams and
over-crowded sidewalks as the downtown stores are mobbed from opening to

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