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In the red

Posted by Smokey Stover on July 06, 2008 at 17:36

In Reply to: In the red posted by Leib Lurie on July 06, 2008 at 10:01:

: "In the red" - phrase finder says this is a 20th century phrase, yet I recently visited the site of "Banco Rocco" in Jewish ghetto in Venice - a bank from the 16th century; where people who needed money went to borrow from Jewish bankers/money lenders.

: I was told while there, that if one needed money as a merchant, one went to the red bank (banco rosso) to borrow- and thus- if you were at the red bank's door, it meant you were obviously 'in the red'...

: Can anyone verify?

You may be correct about the Banco Rosso, but the Oxford English Dictionary believes that "in the red" refers to red ink, or the color of debits. (OED, s.v. Red, 1.g.) That would make the Banco Rosso story an interesting coincidence.