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"shows his true colors"

Posted by ESC on October 07, 2000

In Reply to: "Shows his true colors" posted by Wayne Jackson on October 06, 2000

: I've looked all over for the meaning and origin of this nautical phrase but I have not been able to find anything on it. Please Help. ("shows his true colors")

I'm not having any luck either. It's a common phrase that I thought would be easy to find. However, I have looked without success in two nautical expression books and several general phrase books. I am guessing that it refers to the practice of pirates flying (or sailing?) under false colors. Then revealing their "true colors" when close enough to their prey to attack. Anyone have any ideas?