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"the red mist descends"

Posted by Smokey Stover on July 14, 2005

In Reply to: "The red mist descends" posted by Bruce Kahl on July 13, 2005

: : What is "the red mist" and where is the expression "the red mist descends" from?

: If someone sees red or the red mist, they lose their temper and self-control completely.

: Here is the US we use the phrase "I am seeing red right now" to signify anger. I have never heard "the red mist descends" here in the NE part of the US.

: The color red has come to signify strength, health, vigor, lust and danger.

The phrase is unfamiliar to me, but the OED has it: " * red mist, the apparent physiological effect of a rush of blood to the head in anger or excitement, represented as an impediment to vision; (usu. fig.) a fit of extreme rage or violent passion that clouds one's judgement.
1857 W. M. THACKERAY Virginians in Harper's Mag. Dec. 63/2 A choking, dreadful feeling arrested my breath; the ground rocked beneath my feet; a *red mist swam before my eyes{em}I staggered{em}I fell! 1877 Appletons' Jrnl. Apr. 350 A red mist swam before my eyes, And all the fiery evening skies Seemed stained with blood. 1901 R. KIPLING Kim iii. 60 He was led to speak harshly by the Red Mist of anger. a1911 D. G. PHILLIPS Susan Lenox I. iv, The blood was pouring into her cheeks, was steaming in her brain, making a red mist before her eyes. 1992 N. HORNBY Fever Pitch 57 Shortly before his goal against Newcastle, one of the frequent red mists that plagued him had descended, and he had grabbed a rugged Newcastle defender by the throat and lifted him from the ground. 2002 Mirror 18 Mar. ('Mania' section) 3/2 Suffo was then sent off for head-butting scorer McInnes, with the Scot needing six stitches over his eye. Warnock added: 'We told Santos not to let the red mist come down.'"

I included all the citations because I thought they might be useful. I've been angry and excited a few times, but have never experienced the "red mist of anger," never had my vision impaired by any such phenomenon. Physiologically I don't know how this would come about. The retina is reddish, of course, but ordinarily one never sees one's own retina. Even if the blood vessels in the retina become engorged, one's vision does not become reddish unless a blood vessel leaks, in which case one's vision is tinted magenta, not red. As for feeling apoplectic, I can't imagine how one could literally see red. If you really had apoplexy you might not live long enough to tell anyone what you saw.

But red certainly has its associations, as in red dresses.

'Twas a cold winter's evening,
The guests were all leaving,
O'Leary was closing the bar,
When he turned round and said
To the lady in RED,
"Get out, you can't stay where you are!"
(There's more to this song, but to hear the remaining words you must ask.) SS

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