Listening to two men talking today and one says to the other "ah sure it was black in there" meaning crowded, just in case you don't know.
Normally I wouldn't have even gave it a second thought but the man listening was a black man and I wondered if it could be considered offensive.
I wondered to myself is there any racial connotation to this phrase?? I'm thinking probably not.
But more interestingly for me I wondered where did we get this phrase from???
I can't tell you the origins, but it's not a usage that is particularly confined to the English language. Irish has dubh le daoine, while French gives us noir du monde.
No racial connotations in Irish anyway.
As said Irish has "dubh le daoine" but dubh is not used in any racial way.
It's highly unlikely to have any racial connotations.
'A black man' is 'an fear gorm' in Irish.
My guess is that it is simply a poetic way of describing the density of people in a confined space - the more people, the less light.
I am a black man and I've heard that expression hundreds of times over the years that I've lived in Ireland. I don't find it offensive and regard it as just a peculiarly Irish idiomatic expression.
We aren't even allowed say 'working like blacks' anymore as Mark O'Rourke found out to here detriment, or what about 'as black as Christmas'.
We should organise a campaign to reclaim these phrases just like the feminists reclaimed 'slut'.
I have always taken "working like blacks" to be a reference to the conditions of slaves in America. I heard Mary O'Rourke use the expression, and her total mystification that anybody saw anything objectionable in it - clearly she did not understand it in the same way as I do.
What about the expression "black Protestant lie"? No racial connotations there, methinks. But is it objectionable?
There are black lies and white lies, but adding that it is a Protestant lie might well give it a bad religious connotation and objectionable by Protestants.
to prodestants? probably
No racial connotations, yes, because Protestants and Catholics are members of the same race.
The connotations are tribal, and that makes it a pejorative.
So "black" can be pejorative even when it does not refer to race.
That means that the use of set expressions using the word must be done with caution.
"Janey mac, me shirt is black, what'll I do for Sunday?"
No undertones there, it's just about grime.