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Beating up the boys in blue

Posted by TheFallen on June 17, 2003

In Reply to: Beating up the boys in blue posted by Bookworm on June 17, 2003

: : There's a line from the song "Martin" by Tom Robinson Band from 1978, that goes "Got Borstal for takin' and drivin' away, and beatin' up the boys in blue". It's one of my favorite songs, but I always thought it was kind of obscure. So when I saw a headline in an article on UN peacekeeping forces, entitled "Beating up the boys in blue" (referring to their blue helmets) in The Economist newspaper (magazine), I was intrigued. I did a google search on the phrase but all I came up with was the lyrics to the song "Martin".

: : Is there more history to this phrase, or does the writer just share my taste for obscure punk bands?

: : Tanks...

: I've always heard the term "boys in blue" to refer to the police force. Perhaps the lyric is referring to a physical altercation with policemen? The article could mean the same thing, since peacekeeping forces could be policing an area. The fact that they were wearing blue helmets would lend itself easily to the use of this term.

: I'm stumped on the word Borstal, though.

Tom Robinson is British as you may know, and his lyric (in this case at least) reflect his origins.

Borstal - What would now be called a "Young Offenders' Institute". Effectively a detention centre or prison for those not yet adult.

Taking & Driving Away - The crime of stealing a car, probably for joyriding purposes.

The boys in blue - You're right. They're the police.