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Ball of blue

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on March 16, 2011 at 20:34

In Reply to: Ball of blue posted by Kevin Magee on March 08, 2011 at 19:48:

: Does anyone out there know where the saying "Not worth a ball of blue" comes from?

Before modern detergents with optical brighteners, it was standard practice to rinse white laundry with some blue pigment into stop it coming out of the wash looking yellow. This pigment was known as "washing blue", "dolly blue" or by various trade names, such as "Reckitt's blue". It was sold either powdered or in solid "cakes" or "balls". See here:
So a ball of blue was a household item of trivial value, as one might say now "not worth a dishwasher tablet". (VSD)