Five Color Idioms Part 2: Black

In the second installment of the series on idioms and colors, attention will be turned to the opposite of color of white: black.
What associations do you have with the color black? Taking a look back at the beautiful graphic posted in last week’s blog post: authority, death, eternity, evil, mourning, and style are all cited as Western/American concepts that correspond with the color black.

Let’s see how the following five idioms exemplify these ideas:

(1) blackmail (someone)

Meaning: to extort or take money from someone by threatening him or her
Sample Sentence: The photographer tried to blackmail the famous actress with some photographs that he had taken.
In Pop Culture: A famous Alfred Hitchcock thriller drama film from the 1920s is called Blackmail.

(2) the new black

Meaning: used to say something is the most popular of fashionable color or thing at the moment
Sample Sentence: Designers say that brown is the new black
In Pop Culture: A recently popular Netflix original show Orange is the New Black came up with its name by playing with the fact that women in American prisons often wear bright orange jumpsuits which are not considered very fashionable, to say the least.

(3) black sheep (of a family)

Meaning: a person who is a disgrace to a family or group
Sample Sentence: The man is the black sheep in his family and has not made a success of his life.
In Pop Culture: This comic strip is entitled Black Sheep and its content focuses on nonconventional ideas.

(4) blacklist (someone)

Meaning: to exclude or ostracize someone, to write someone’s name on a list if they break some rules
Sample Sentence: The sports federation blacklisted the swimmer because he was using steroids.
In Pop Culture: A new hit TV show on NBC about the FBI, fugitives, and dangerous criminals is called The Blacklist.

(5) pot calling the kettle black

Meaning: the person who criticizes or accuses someone else is as guilty as the person he or she criticizes or accuses
Sample Sentence: My friend criticized me for not changing jobs but that is like the pot calling the kettle black. She will not change jobs either.
In Other Cultures: This image here shows similar idioms in other languages that mean the same as “pot calling the kettle black” in English.

Militza Petranovic
Militza is a Pedagogy and Research intern at Voxy. She is currently finishing up her master’s degree in Applied Linguistics at Columbia University’s Teachers College and received her bachelor’s degree in Theoretical Linguistics from the University of California – Santa Cruz in 2012. Militza is interested in researching all aspects of how web technology can help facilitate learning, particularly language learning.

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2 Comments on "Five Color Idioms Part 2: Black"

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I was keen to read your another post on the colors in idioms, and already I guessed the Black color, I was quite sure, that you are going to write, it on black color. Good to read this post and graphic is also nice, similar to illustrates found in Charles Dickens’ books. Well explained, waiting for another one.


I don’t know, why I missed such a nice blog, I am your fan from now.
Great work, keep it up, Voxy.