phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Home | Search the website Search | Discussion Forum Home|

Blue devils, red spiders

Posted by Brian from Shawnee on February 10, 2004

In Reply to: Blue devils, red spiders posted by ESC on February 09, 2004

: : : Where did the saying "to see Pink Elephants" come from.

: : BLUE DEVILS AND PINK ELEPHANTS -- 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..."

: Also, red spiders and red monkeys. From "Slang and Euphemism: A Dictionary of Oaths, Curses, Insults, Ethnic Slurs, Sexual Slang and Metaphor, Drug Talk, College Lingo and Related Matters" by Richard A. Spears (New American Library, Penguin Putnam, New York, Third Edition, 2001).

: Neither source has a date of first use of pink elephants.

I have to take issue with Mr. & Mrs. Morris for associating the term "the blues" meaning sadness, with alcoholic hallucinations. The word "blue" has been associated with sadness since at least Shakespeare's day. In "As You Like It", Rosalind, disguised as Gannymede, questions Orlando's love for Rosalind saying he should have "a blue eye, and sunken" if he were really in love. The footnotes in my Shakespeare book said "blue" referred to melancholy, not the color.