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To have the 'blues'; to be 'green with envy'

Posted by James Briggs on August 07, 2003

The following was offered in today's Q&A in the Times. What do others think of the given explanations? There is a much better explanation for 'green' in our Archive, but not much on 'blue'.

"In Anglo-Saxon societies some people may suffer from "the blues". Do other cultures suffer other colours such as "the browns" or "the purples"? And why "green" with envy?

"The blues" is a circuitous derivation from the English phrase "to be blown", i.e., to be knocked back, to the Southern US term "to be blewn" (phonetic) and therefore to have the "blues".
"Green" with envy is more direct. The term originated in America to describe people desiring or envious of those with more dollars than they had; i.e., more greenbacks.
John Clegg, Hoylake, Wirral"

As a point of interest, if you are 'blue' in German you're ....drunk! My wife tells me there is no colour description for sadness in her native language - at least none she can remember after nearly 50 years in Britain.