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Beyond Black Friday: The 7 Black Days of the Week

We all know Black Friday, the discount-fueled shopping frenzy that follows Thanksgiving. But there are “Black” days for Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, too. You probably wouldn’t want to wake up early to wait in line for any of these.

1. Black Sunday

On Sunday, April 14, 1935, a massive dust storm swept through the Great Plains, the largest of the decade. The day came to be known as “Black Sunday” because the huge cloud of topsoil, over 300,000 tons of it, was coal-black.

Dirt from the storm reached all the way to Washington, D.C. Witnesses said “The impact [was] like a shovelful of fine sand flung against the face.” The so-called “black blizzard” even resulted in the press giving the area its famous nickname: The Dust Bowl.

Other Black Sundays: A large series of wildfires in Australia on Valentine’s Day, 1926 (and another in 1955); the disastrous opening day of Disneyland on July 17, 1955; and the death of Dale Earnhardt on February 18, 2001.

2. Black Monday

© JP Laffont/Sygma/Corbis

Monday, October 19, 1987, is known as Black Monday—the largest one-day percentage drop in stock market history. In a single day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost a quarter of its value. Overall, the market lost $1 trillion.

As for why it happened, it’s essentially the same explanation we have for our recent economic woes: A lot of complicated market-speak, finger-pointing, and no clear answers. CNBC has collected several theories here.

Other Black Mondays: A hail storm that killed 1,000 British troops during the Hundred Years’ War on Easter Monday in 1360; the closure of Youngstown Sheet and Tube in Youngstown, Ohio on September 19, 1977, which left thousands unemployed; and the assassination of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and his advisor, Harvey Milk, on November 27, 1978.

3. Black Tuesday

While Black Monday may be the largest stock market crash in history, Black Tuesday is the most famous. On October 29, 1929, after two prior days of instability (referred to as Black Thursday and Black Monday, naturally), the stock market crashed completely, kicking off the Great Depression, the worst economic climate in American history.

In a matter of hours, the Dow Jones lost 23% of its value (just short of the nearly 25% lost in 1987) and a whole year’s worth of gains. Savings were wiped out overnight and $100 billion completely disappeared from the nation’s economy, which took a decade to recover.

Other Black Tuesdays: The November 22, 2011, South African protests against the “Protection of Information Bill”; the September 21, 1931, Estevan Riot in Saskatchewan, where three strikers were killed by RCMP officers; and the death of Fred Evans on November 12, 1912, the first worker killed during a strike in New Zealand’s history.

4. Black Wednesday

Bar image via Shutterstock

The day after Thanksgiving isn’t the only “Black” day in that week. Wednesday is becoming notorious too, albeit for a much sadder reason. Before college and high school students spend Thanksgiving weekend with their families, many spend the night out drinking with friends.

It’s come to be known as Black Wednesday among law enforcement agencies, reportedly because of students drinking until they black out. It’s been called the biggest day of the year for underage drinking.

Other Black Wednesdays: This year’s SOPA internet blackouts on Wednesday, January 18; and one of the worst days in air traffic history, September 15, 1954, when over 45,000 planes were delayed due to bad weather and overloaded air traffic control systems.

5. Black Thursday

There were many dark days during World War II, but none was worse for the USAAF (the predecessor to the U.S. Air Force) than Thursday, October 14, 1943, now known as Black Thursday.

Allied forces had become aware that the German army had a bottleneck in its production of military hardware. Ball bearings were in short supply and a large percentage were manufactured by factories located in the city of Schweinfurt. The Allies enacted a plan to bomb the factories, something they’d done previously just a few months before.

Unfortunately, due to a combination of bad weather and strong German anti-air support, the USAAF lost sixty planes and 600 crewmembers that day. It wound up being their worst loss in the entire war.

Other Black Thursdays: The failure of Jay Cooke and Company on September 18, 1873, which was one of the initiating events of the Panic of 1873; and the Black World Wide Web protest of February 8, 1996, where major websites turned their backgrounds black to protest the Communications Decency Act.

6. Black Friday

© Bob Campbell/San Francisco Chronicle/Corbis

The House Subcommittee on Un-American Activities, Congressmen tasked with uncovering communist sympathizers both inside and outside of the U.S. government, was once one of the most feared groups in America. Even the mere accusation of communist tendencies led to the immediate end of many careers in Hollywood.

By 1960, however, the group’s power had faded and the public had begun to find their tactics distasteful. This set the stage for the May 13, 1960, protest in San Francisco that became known as “Black Friday.” Students protesting the Subcommittee’s hearings were met with fire hoses and clubs, and 64 were arrested. Some also credit the protest with kicking off the idea of student activism, which would become a major fixture of the rest of the decade.

Other Black Fridays: The arrest of seven Anglican bishops for “seditious libel” by King James II on June 8, 1688; a hurricane near Eyemouth, Scotland on October 14, 1881, which killed nearly 200 fishermen; and the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. And of course today the term is used for the day after Thanksgiving, which was coined in Philadelphia in the 1960s.

7. Black Saturday

At the height of the Cold War, everyone looked like an enemy to the United States, and none was more threatening than the one just off-shore. For thirteen days in October of 1962, America and Russia (by way of its ally, Cuba) both had their fingers on the triggers of their nuclear arsenals.

Finally, on Black Saturday, October 27, things came to a head. Soviet forces in Cuba shot down a U-2 spy plane, leading both armies to begin preparing for war. Tensions on both sides flared, but hours later, with things still looking very grim, President Kennedy, Fidel Castro, and Premier Nikita Khrushchev finally reached a diplomatic agreement to stop further escalations.

Other Black Saturdays: A very bad thunderstorm that coincided with the passing of the Articles of Perth in Scotland on August 4, 1621, which some at the time felt was very ominous; and the day of the worst fires in Yellowstone National Park history on August 20, 1988.

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How Do You Stress the Word: THANKSgiving or ThanksGIVing?
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Here’s something else to stress about for Thanksgiving: where to put the stress in the word Thanksgiving.

If you’re from California, Iowa, or Delaware, you probably say ThanksGIVing, with the primary stress on the second syllable. If you’re from Georgia, Tennessee, or the Texas Panhandle, you probably say THANKSgiving, with the primary stress on the first syllable.

This north-south divide on syllable stress is found for other words like umbrella, guitar, insurance, and pecan. However, those words are borrowed from other languages (Italian, Spanish, French). Sometimes, in the borrowing process, competing stress patterns settle into regional differences. Just as some borrowed words get first syllable stress in the South and second syllable stress in the North, French words like garage and ballet get first syllable stress in the UK and second syllable stress in the U.S.

Thanksgiving, however, is an English word through and through. And if it behaved like a normal English word, it would have stress on the first syllable. Consider other words with the same noun-gerund structure just like it: SEAfaring, BAbysitting, HANDwriting, BULLfighting, BIRDwatching, HOMEcoming, ALMSgiving. The stress is always up front, on the noun. Why, in Thanksgiving alone, would stress shift to the GIVE?

The shift to the ThanksGIVing pronunciation is a bit of a mystery. Linguist John McWhorter has suggested that the loss of the stress on thanks has to do with a change in our concept of the holiday, that we “don’t truly think about Thanksgiving as being about thankfulness anymore.” This kind of thing can happen when a word takes on a new, more abstract sense. When we use outgoing for mail that is literally going out, we are likely to stress the OUT. When we use it as a description of someone’s personality ("She's so outgoing!"), the stress might show up on the GO. Stress can shift with meaning.

But the stress shift might not be solely connected to the entrenchment of our turkey-eating rituals. The thanksGIVing stress pattern seems to have pre-dated the institution of the American holiday, according to an analysis of the meter of English poems by Mark Liberman at Language Log. ThanksGIVing has been around at least since the 17th century. However you say it, there is precedent to back you up. And room enough to focus on both the thanks and the giving.

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Watch Boris Karloff's 1966 Coffee Commercial
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TAKWest, Youtube

Horror legend Boris Karloff is famous for playing mummies, mad scientists, and of course, Frankenstein’s creation. In 1930, Karloff cemented the modern image of the monster—with its rectangular forehead, bolted neck, and enormous boots (allegedly weighing in at 11 pounds each)—in the minds of audiences.

But the horror icon, who was born 130 years ago today, also had a sense of humor. The actor appeared in numerous comedies, and even famously played a Boris Karloff look-alike (who’s offended when he’s mistaken for Karloff) in the original Broadway production of Arsenic and Old Lace

In the ’60s, Karloff also put his comedic chops to work in a commercial for Butter-Nut Coffee. The strange commercial, set in a spooky mansion, plays out like a movie scene, in which Karloff and the viewer are co-stars. Subtitles on the bottom of the screen feed the viewer lines, and Karloff responds accordingly. 

Watch the commercial below to see the British star selling coffee—and read your lines aloud to feel like you’re “acting” alongside Karloff. 

[h/t: Retroist]

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