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Blue Streak

Posted by Smokey Stover on July 27, 2007

In Reply to: Blue Streak posted by Lewis on July 27, 2007

: : : : : : : What does "talk a blue streak" mean?

: : : : : : To pepper your speech with profanities.

: : : : : In the usage I'm familiar with (U.S.), it simply means to talk long and tirelessly. ~rb

: : : : It looks like you're right rb. I should have gone to US dictionaries to confirm my understanding. I'm guilty of inferring a meaning from the context in which I most often find the phrase; and, possibly, of confusing the phrase with "swear a blue streak". In my defence I could say that this context is quite common, as witness the example attached.

: : : Oh dear. The link didn't come out; perhaps because I didn't give it a title. Let's try again

: : -------------
: : "Streak" usually implies speed, as in "streak of lightning," or "the nude students streaked through the classroom" (which gave rise to the use of the verb "streak" to describe this particular activity without further explanation needed). "Blue" is often added for emphasis or rhythm. I don't think that "blue" implying raciness or vulgarity is the "blue" at work in "blue streak." Cf. the OED:

: : "blue streak colloq. (orig. U.S.), (a) something resembling a flash of lightning in speed, vividness, etc.; (b) a constant stream of words; esp. in phr. to talk a blue streak....

: : 1830 Kentuckian 14 May, To pass..with such rapidity as not even to leave a '*blue streak' behind him. 1847 Knickerbocker x. 178 Interspersing his vehement comments with a 'blue streak' of oaths. 1895 S. HALE Lett. 289, I..drove in her sort of..carryall..talking a blue streak two miles to her house. 1937 RUNYON More than Somewhat iii. 64 She hears..a guy cussing a blue streak. 1949 Landfall III. 236 Sid was talking a blue streak to Jean. 1968 'R. RAINE' Night of Hawk xxii. 109, I was talking a blue streak, my expression like thunder."

: : I don't wish to suggest that "streak" ALWAYS implies speed. Used as a noun, streak most often refers to a line, mark, stroke, or band of color (as in a streak of blond in an otherwise colored head of hair).
: : SS

: Blue Streak was an airborne missile programme in the 1950s, I recall. I think the missile was slung under Vulcan bombers.

: You'd have sworn a blue streak if you'd seen one of them heading towards you!

: L

The OED indicates that the noun is the source of the verb, to streak. If something streaks, whether it streaks the otherwise cleans surface or streaks across the sky, it leaves a mark with strong directionality and blurred edges. The fact that rapidly moving things, like lightning or a racing car, leave a visual memory that is a highly directional blur, is surely how the notion of speed became associated with "streak." When we say "he's on a streak," or "he talked a blue streak," we have moved some distance from the original meaning of the noun, streak, but in a logical progression. Or so it seems to me, and presumably the OED.