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Screwed, blued, and tattooed

Posted by Smokey Stover on October 28, 2006

In Reply to: Screwed, blued, and tattooed posted by RRC on October 27, 2006

: : what does: screwed, blued, and tattooed
: : mean? obviously, I know "screwed" and "tattooed,"
: : but what is "blued?"

: I don't know for sure but some possibilities:
: Dressed in a naval uniform is one possibility especially since not long ago tattooing was mostly associated with sailors. Since the phrase means something along the lines of completely and thoroughly put through some process, this follows the process of becoming a full-fledged sailor -- have sex before going off to sea, get dressed in a uniform and then you get a tattoo.

: Dosed with amobarbital sodium (blue, blue angel) which is a sedative (and a truth serum) possibly as part of being shang-hai'd in a brothel which could lead to the tattooing.

: Dipped in laundry bluing (a blue solution used to counteract white fabrics turning yellow after repeated washings) doesn't make much sense.

Google provides some information that might help. There is a Canadian writer named Simon Bradbury who wrote a play in 1990 entitled" "Screwed, blued and tattooed." (I imagine this is the same Simon Bradbury that creates videogames.) It is said to be a satire based on situations involving Canadian politicians or civil servants. More exact information I don't have, except that it doubtless has to do with one of the two current favorite explanastions of the expression, which I got from the second of the two sources named below.


One theory revolves 'primarily around language coming out of WWII. In the Pacific Fleet, if you were in the Navy, the phrase meant that you had landed in a foreign port and had done everything of consequence in that port. To wit, you had been screwed (serviced by the local prostitutes), blued (had a local tailor make you a couple of sets of Dress Blue Uniforms), and tattooed requires as much explanation as I just wasted on "screwed."

'Another theory is not as pleasant. In this scenario, "blued" is from the earlier "blewed," meaning "robbed." And "tattooed" is thought to have the less common connotation of "struck rapidly and repeatedly." Combined with these meanings, the "screwed" is not nearly as pleasant. In other words, you've just had the crap beaten out of you and those who did it took your stuff, too.'

In this theory, screwed is construed as in 'I've been screwed,' that is, I've been had, I've been cheated.

I haven't read Bradbury's play, so I don't know which meaning he has in mind. He wasn't in the U.S. Navy during World War II, so I lean towards the second, more plausible, meaning.