Why do we say, ‘The company is in the black’? (K. Manjula, Secunderabad)
The expressions ‘in the black’ and ‘in the red’ originated in the business world, and have been part of the language since the beginning of the twentieth century. When you say that the company you are working for is in the black, what you are suggesting is that the company is doing well; it is making a profit. The opposite of this expression is ‘in the red’. When a company is in the red, it is running at a loss; it is losing money. We all know that in English, the colour ‘black’ is seldom associated with anything good; it is always associated with something negative. When you are angry about something and are in a foul mood, you are said to be in a ‘black mood’. Then you have words like ‘blackmail’, ‘black magic’, ‘blacklist’, ‘blackball’, etc. — all of which suggest that the colour is generally not associated with anything good. So, why is it that people are happy when they learn that their company is ‘in the black’? It has to do with the way that ledgers were maintained in the past. For several centuries, accountants made use of two different types of ink when making an entry — black and red. All the credits (the money coming into the company) were written in black ink and the debits (the money going out of the company) were entered in red ink. So, if a ledger contained more entries in black ink than in red, it meant that the company had more money coming in than it had going out — the company was making money. The two expressions can be used with organisations and individuals. When you say you are in the black, it means that there is money in your bank account. In informal contexts, Americans tend to say ‘in the ketchup’ instead of ‘in the red’.
The past two years have been bad. We hope to be in the black next year.
Sheila doesn’t spend unnecessarily. She makes sure she’s always in the black.
I’m told the Club is 50 lakh in the red.
How is the word ‘finale’ pronounced? (V.S. Hemanth, Vellore)
There are two different ways of pronouncing this word. The ‘i’ in the first syllable and the ‘e’ in the final syllable are pronounced like the ‘i’ in ‘hit’, ‘bit’ and ‘kit’. The vowel in the second syllable sounds like the ‘ar’ in ‘dark’, ‘park’ and ‘shark’. One way of pronouncing the word is ‘fi-NAA-li’ with the stress on the second syllable. Some people pronounce the ‘a’ like the ‘a’ in ‘cat’, ‘bat’ and ‘hat’. In this case, the word is pronounced ‘fi-NA-li’. The word comes from the Latin ‘finalis’ meaning ‘of or pertaining to an end’. It was originally used to refer to the last or concluding part of a piece of music. Nowadays, finale is used to refer to the concluding part of any performance; it is usually the final event in a series of events. The finale is usually very exciting.
We thought of having fireworks for the grand finale.
I was so bored that I left before the finale.