Blue - The Versatile Color

by William Stroupe  

blue, light blue, dark blue

There is no record that blue represents versatility in any culture, but it should. The late Sydney J. Harris described several emotions that blue connotes.

First there is sadness. To expand Mr. Harris's point, jazz has given us "Am I Blue," and music provides an entire category called the blues. Individual compositions salute the color, from Bobby Vinton's pop song "Blue on Blue" to Gershwin's classic "Rhapsody in Blue" to the sad, yet suggestive, "Blues in the Night," leading to another connotation of blue.

Blue suggests obscenity in the phrases "blue language" (although naughty words are also called "purple prose") and "blue movies."

Finally, Sydney J. Harris pointed out that blue expresses amazement in the French phrase "Sacre bleu!"

But the shades of blue extend beyond Mr. Harris's comments. We have "blue laws," roughly the opposite of blue language. Most blue laws prevent certain activities for religious reasons, such as prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages until after church.

"Blue bloods" are aristocrats. An old phrase for the upper class of society was "blue-stocking." (Nowadays, if a guy wears blue stockings we call him a transvestite -- but that's another matter.)

Blue implies speed in "blue streak" and loyalty in "true blue." True automobile values are found in a "blue book," and a blue ribbon recognizes excellence. The meanings of blue are as varied as its hues.

A huge chasm would extend through our language without that flexible color, blue.

by William Stroupe
(who jokingly refers to red as "impaired blue."


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