Black sheep

Black sheep is an English language idiom which describes an odd or disreputable member of a group, especially within one's family. The term has been looked upon either positively or negatively depending on the era and culture in which the term was used.

Idiomatic usage

Black sheep is an English language idiom—usually derogatory—which describes an odd or disreputable member of a group, especially within one's family.cite web |url=http://books.google.com/books?id=9re1vfFh04sC&pg=PA64&lpg=PA64&dq=american+heritage+dictionary+%22black+sheep%22&source=web&ots=JF-Bux9gXr&sig=rAsie-Mb4W-9vB3TZzSbIuVHKLE |title=American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms |accessdate=2007-11-13]

The term originated from the occasional black sheep which are born into a herd of white sheep due to a genetic process of recessive traits. Black sheep were considered commercially undesirable because their wool cannot be dyed as white wool can. In 18th and 19th century England, the black color of the sheep was seen as the mark of the devil. [cite book|last=Sykes|first=Christopher Simon|title=Black Sheep|publisher=Viking Press|location=New York|date=1983|page=11|isbn=0670172766]

In modern usage, the expression has lost some of its negative connotations, and the term is usually given to the member of a group who has certain characteristics deemed inappropriate by that group.cite book|title=The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms|publisher=Houghton Mifflin Company|year=1992|Answers.com 01 Apr. 2008|url=http://www.answers.com/topic/black-sheep|accessdate=2008-03-24]

Biological origin

In sheep, whiteness is not albinism but a dominant gene that actively switches color production off. As a result, sheep blackness is recessive, and if a white ram and a white ewe are parents of a black lamb, both must be heterozygous for black, and then there is a 25% chance that the lamb will be black. A recent study done by the [http://www.umb.no Agricultural University of Norway] , and [http://www.ohsu.edu/vollum/ The Vollum Institute of the Oregon Health Sciences University] believe the black color is created by an allele E D at the extension locus. [cite journal| coauthors = Dag Inge Våge, Helge Klungland, Dongsi Lu and Roger D. Cone|title=Molecular and pharmacological characterization of dominant black coat color in sheep|journal=Mammalian Genome|volume=10|issue=1|pages=39–43|publisher=Springer New York|date=January, 1999|url=http://www.springerlink.com/content/h800bru487qmhtck/|doi=110.1007/s003359900939|issn=0938-8990 (Print) 1432-1777 (Online)| accessdate=2008-03-31]

Other uses

In psychology, the "black sheep effect" refers to the tendency of an in-group to treat or evaluate a member of its own more harshly than a similarly negative behavior or deed of an out-group member. [ [http://www.psychology-lexicon.com/lexikon/black-sheep_effect.htm Black sheep effect] Psychology Lexicon. Retrieved on January 4 2008]

ee also

* The Ugly Duckling
* Scapegoat
* Albino Black Sheep

References

External links

* [http://www.imablacksheep.com] A home on the Internet for Black Sheep and their families
*cite journal
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors = José M. Marques, Vincent Y. Yzerbyt
title = The black sheep effect: Judgmental extremity towards ingroup members in inter-and intra-group situations
journal = European Journal of Social Psychology
volume = 18
issue = 3
pages = 287–292
publisher = Science Direct
location =
date =
url = http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/00221031
doi = 10.1002/ejsp.2420180308
id =
accessdate = 2008-01-04


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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • black sheep — n [C usually singular] someone who is regarded by other members of their family or group as a failure or embarrassment ▪ Amy s always been the black sheep of the family …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • black sheep — Someone who is the black sheep doesn t fit into a group or family because their behaviour or character is not good enough …   The small dictionary of idiomes

  • black sheep — noun count someone who is not approved of by the other members of their family or the group they belong to because they are thought to behave badly …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

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  • black sheep — [n] disgraceful person ne’er dowell, outcast, pariah, prodigal, reject, reprobate; concept 423 …   New thesaurus

  • black sheep — ► NOUN informal ▪ a member of a family or other group who is regarded as a disgrace to it …   English terms dictionary


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