phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Home | Search the website Search | Discussion Forum Home|

Ps - black mark

Posted by Jennie on October 21, 2002

In Reply to: Ps posted by Word Camel on October 20, 2002

: : : : : : : At A recent tutorial the speaker was chastised by a member of the study group for using the phrase"Black Mark" as it was thought that this phrase had racist conotations. Can any one tell me the history of this phrase ??

: : : : : : I don't think so. It was it the British radio programme 'Take It From Here' with Jimmy Edwards and June Whitfield. - "Black Mark, Bentley.' I doubt if it is meant to be racist.

: : : : : When you talk out of turn in class, the teacher puts a black mark (pencil lead is black or dark gray) beside your name in the grade book. That's all the history I know. I couldn't find the phrase in any of my references.

: : : : The color black had long been associated with darkness and evil--witches and their black cats, the bad guys' hats in cowboy movies, Darth Vader and the Dark Side of the Force etc.
: : : : Blackmail? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe someone knows the whole nine on blackmail.
: : : : But then again how about the phrase "in the black" which has positive aspects accounting-wise.
: : : : Go figure!

: : : Whereas racism is of course utterly contemptible, there's a growing trend on both sides of the Atlantic towards overly zealous political correctness in language - people are so desperate not to offend or be seen as prejudiced in any way that they're busily castrating the English language. When I was at school, and got bad grades on certain work, my teachers as standard used to mark them in black ink - and similarly good grades in red ink. There's no racial implication at all. I've heard similar fanaticism directed at blackmail, blackguard, nitty-gritty (see previous discussion in the archives) and most shocking of all was the instance of the American politician or lawyer - I forget which - who was forced into resigning for using the word "niggardly" to describe some budget proposal.

: : : Sometimes you just have to despair...

: :
: : Surely you aren't suggesting you ever got a bad grade?

: In the US, errors are marked in red. I had a teacher once who threatened to make our papers "bleed".

I think the phrase comes from the time of the plague in England. When the plague was identified in a house, a black mark was put on the side of the door so everyone would know that the house had plague and anyone entering would do so at their own risk.