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The blues

Posted by ESC on August 07, 2003

In Reply to: 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.

BLUES -- Regarding "the blues" as in depression or the music, the "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris says it's believed this expression came from " abbreviation of 'blue devils' -- hallucinations, like pink elephants, popularly believe to accompany delirium tremens...the term blue in the sense of melancholy, depressed or despondent has been an element of slang, especially black slang, since midway through the past century..."

Blue Devils or A fit of the blues. A fit of spleen, low spirits. Roach and Esquirol affirm, from observation, that indigo dyers are especially subject to melancholy; and that those who dye scarlet are choleric. Paracelsus also asserts that blue is injurious to the health and spirits. There may, therefore be more science in calling melancholy blue than is generally allowed. The German blei (lead) which gives rise to our slang word blue or blucy (lead) seems to bear upon the "leaden down-cast eyes" of melancholy. From the First Hypertext Edition of The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable at THE DICTIONARY OF PHRASE AND FABLE BY E. COBHAM BREWER, FROM THE NEW AND ENLARGED EDITION OF 1894