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The song "Animals" by Nickelback starts with the following lines:

I, I'm driving black on black

Just got my license back

I got this feeling in my veins

This train is coming off the track

I am confused about what "black on black" means in relation to driving. Several translations of the lyrics that I've seen (which are probably just copies of one single translation) interpret it as "very slowly", which seems to not fit the spirit of the song and its portrayal of the driver.

Urban Dictionary, however, defines "black on black" as:

  1. The epitome of style. Referring to any and all things that can be categorized by having black as the background color and, again, black as the accent color.

  2. Any black vehicle on black rims.

The second definition does sorta fit the song's style and driving black on black, but still doesn't feel right.

So, what does it actually mean?

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Black on black adj:

1) (idiomatic) Something that is invisible or intentionally obfuscated, such as warnings or fine print.

2) A description of the colors of an automobile (e.g., all black rims, paint, and interior).

3) A reference to interactions between black people (e.g., "black-on-black crime").

Description n. 2 seems to fit the context. I think he is saying he is driving his car in the darkness, as lyrics say next:

I'm driving black on black

Just got my license back

I got this feeling in my veins

this train is coming off the track

I'll ask polite if the devil needs a ride

Because the angel on my right ain't hanging out with me tonight

  • 2
    Yes, I think so too. "I'm driving [a] black-on-black [vehicle]" with the implied additional poetry of driving a black car in a black mood on a black night. – Kit Z. Fox Jul 4 '14 at 21:38
  • Well, when combined with driving the car in the darkness, it fits nicely, although I'm still not entirely convinced that's what the author meant. – FlashCactus Jul 4 '14 at 22:42
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    Many people in the US name their cars (yes, we have that kind of relationship with them). Given the lack of articles, I'd always assumed it was the car's name, and further that the name probably derived from the color attributes of the car. If that's a somewhat common description for having black rims on a black car, IMHO that's the rest of the explanation. – T.E.D. Sep 25 '14 at 12:18
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I might be missing something, but it would seem to refer to the black of the tyres on the black of the road surface.

2

I assumed he meant driving in the dark with the lights off since she was sneaking out. Seemed to make sense.

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If you are curious about the meaning of black on black when it comes to driving, it is another way of saying recklessly. The expression comes from what happens with your tires and the asphalt when you are being reckless behind the wheel. You are leaving black lines on the black asphalt. You are driving black on black. Not sure where all the other definitions came from. But in terms of cars, and driving black on black that is what the definition is.

  • Welcome to English Language & Usage Stack Exchange! Your answer would benefit from some source or citation for your definition of "black on black". Adding a link to such a source would make your answer a much stronger answer, and would definitely get you some upvotes! – Nick2253 Nov 11 '14 at 15:55
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its a partial reference to Mad Max and the name of his car, the pursuit special, in early movies it was referred to the black on black. however this name is a VERY common aussie slang (remember where the movie came from and nickleback spent time down under) term for any car which is primarily painted black with black rims. adding to this the darkened mood of the singer in the song and its clear he is talking about driving his black car with black rims and a flat out speed at night. likely in a very suicidal mentality.

protected by user140086 Mar 5 '16 at 10:46

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