Black Friday and bargain idioms

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When Game of Thrones captured the imagination of millions of fans to an obsessive degree, I used to say, “You get two kinds of people – those who watch Game of Thrones and those who do not.” I was in the ‘do not’ camp.

Similarly, today, as Black Friday hits South African shoppers the support is of equal obsessive frenzy, and the two-kinds-of-people separator serves as follows: those who shop on Black Friday and those who do not. Again, I am among the ‘do nots’.


I marvel at the hard-hitting advertising to drive consumers into stores and not only is it Black Friday – there’s a whole new colour palette. We also have Red Thursday (shopping a day prior), The Blue Dot Sale – the invention of a major online retailer,  White Wednesday (only joking) and the only thing that’s missing is Purple Tuesday.

As purple is my favourite colour – this is the one I would go for (joking again).

Give away money

It’s amazing how much effort goes into getting consumers to part with their money and how eager consumer are to do just that on the conviction of getting a bargain.

That could be because they are not familiar with the idiom “To drive a hard bargain” .

This definition from The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer is the most fitting: “To exact as much as possible from a transaction. Drive in this expression is in the sense of vigorously carrying through something.


This expression traces its roots back to the 1500s and has some Greek and American history.

It was used as long ago as the sixteenth century, when Sir Philip Sidney wrote, “There never was abetter bargain driven” (My True Love Hath My Heart, 1583). Hard, in the sense of “unyielding,” is coupled with bargain even earlier,

in a translation from the Greek of Suidas (Lexicon, ca. a.d. 950): “A hard bargainer never gets good meat.”

It also means to be tough in business by being able to gain the strongest advantage, or to negotiate agreements in your favour.

Whichever way you take it, I don’t’ think anyone is ‘the driver’ when they surrender to the seduction of Black Friday.

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