Hello everybody!

Nice to talk with you again!
A couple of months ago, I found an interesting subject about colours and expressions linked to different kind of colours .

Somewhere over the rainbow...

See article to get more details about VOA: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voice_of_America
Voice of America (VOA), is the official external radio and television broadcasting service of the United States federal government. Its oversight entity is the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).

I selected this topic because we live with colours but do not have a clear notion of their interpretation. This subject was particularly appreciated by the members of the circle.

We started studying the VOA article. Here it is (quote):

Colors:  I'm Feeling Very Blue Today
01 April 2007

Now, the VOA Special English program, Words and Their Stories.

Every people has its own way of saying things, its own special expressions. Many everyday American expressions are based on colors.


Red is a hot color. Americans often use it to express heat. They may say they are red hot about something unfair. When they are red hot they are very angry about something. The small hot tasting peppers found in many Mexican foods are called red hots for their color and their fiery taste. Fast loud music is popular with many people. They may say the music is red hot, especially the kind called Dixieland jazz.

Pink is a lighter kind of red. People sometimes say they are in the pink when they are in good health. The expression was first used in America at the beginning of the twentieth century.  It probably comes from the fact that many babies are born with a nice pink color that shows that they are in good health.

Blue is a cool color. The traditional blues music in the United States is the opposite of red hot music. Blues is slow, sad and soulful.  Duke Ellington and his orchestra recorded a famous song – Mood Indigo – about the deep blue color, indigo. In the words of the song: “You ain’t been blue till you’ve had that Mood Indigo.” Someone who is blue is very sad.

The color green is natural for trees and grass. But it is an unnatural color for humans. A person who has a sick feeling stomach may say she feels a little green.  A passenger on a boat who is feeling very sick from high waves may look very green.

Sometimes a person may be upset because he does not have something as nice as a friend has, like a fast new car. That person may say he is green with envy. Some people are green with envy because a friend has more dollars or greenbacks. Dollars are called greenbacks because that is the color of the back side of the paper money.

The color black is used often in expressions. People describe a day in which everything goes wrong as a black day. The date of a major tragedy is remembered as a black day.  A blacklist is illegal now.  But at one time, some businesses refused to employ people who were on a blacklist for belonging to unpopular organizations.

In some cases, colors describe a situation. A brown out is an expression for a reduction in electric power.  Brown outs happen when there is too much demand for electricity.  The electric system is unable to offer all the power needed in an area. Black outs were common during World War Two. Officials would order all lights in a city turned off to make it difficult for enemy planes to find a target in the dark of night.

I also found some expressions including colours on the BBC website. Can you guess some of them? http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/learnit/learnitv337.shtml


We have many idiomatic expressions involving the whole range of colours in English. In answering your question, Michal, we will have a look today at just three colours: red, white and blue (the colours of our national flag).

120px_Music_halfnote white colour idioms
White in British culture is traditionally associated with purity and innocence. See if you can work out the meaning of the following white colour idioms word for word. Then check your understanding by reading examples of how they are used in context. Finally, check again against the explanations given.

go as white as a sheet
white coffee
a white-collar worker
tell a white lie
whiter than white

The news must've been bad.  She went as white as a sheet when she read the telegram.
- Do you want white or black coffee? - White please.  Well, dark brown, actually - just a dash of milk.
He hopes to get a white-collar job, though, with his level of education, he'll be lucky to get a blue-collar one.
It's OK to tell a white lie.  It doesn't do any harm and it nearly always does some good.
She's whiter than white - the image of perfection.  In her entire life she has never put a foot wrong.


go as white as a sheet:  become extremely pale in the face
white coffee:  coffee with milk (note: not white tea;  instead: tea with milk)
white-collar worker:  an office worker  (note blue-collar = factory or physical work)
tell a white lie:  telling a lie to avoid making someone upset
whiter than white:  someone who is totally fair and honest


red colour idioms Red is often associated with anger or danger (red traffic lights). In British culture, red-haired people (redheads) are traditionally hot-tempered and high-spirited. Try to work out the meaning of these red colour idioms in the same way as before.

 be in the red
see red
roll out the red carpet
paint the town red
a red-letter day

She's always in the red, never in the black.  No overdraft would ever be big enough for her.
When she realised saw that no housework had been done all week, she saw red and banished us from her holiday
It'll be time to roll out the red carpet when Auntie Meg returns home.  We haven't seen her for twenty years.
They decided they would paint the town red after winning so much money by gambling on the horses.
It was a red-letter day for us when we were able to move into our new holiday house - the house of our dreams.


be in the red:  have minus amounts on one's bank account (in the black = in credit)
see red:  lose one's temper; become suddenly angry
roll out the red carpet:  put on a special welcome for an important person
paint the town red:  enjoy yourself by going to bars and/or clubs
a red-letter day
:  a very happy or exciting day


blue colour idioms

Blue is traditionally the colour of boys' clothes in British culture - pink for girls. It is also associated with loyalty and true love. Try to work out the meaning of these blue colour idioms in the same way as before.

a blue movie
out of the blue
scream blue murder
the boys in blue
a blue-eyed boy

Blue movies, or adult videos as they are sometimes called, are normally only available from sex shops.
His suggestion that we should move to Cyprus came completely out of the blue.  I wasn't expecting it.
They started to scream blue murder when I told them they would have to work an extra half an hour on Saturday afternoons.
It's a criminal offence.  We can't sweep it under the carpet.  We should hand it over to the boys in blue.
He's the blue-eyed boy of skateboarding all right.  He's won this competition five times.


a blue movie:  a film with explicit adult scenes
out of the blue:  suddenly and unexpectedly
scream blue murder:  make a lot of fuss; shout loudly and emotionally in protest
the boys in blue:  the uniformed police
a blue-eyed boy:  a young man (grudgingly) admired because he is successful

Finally, Jennifer Kyrnin with her analysis about "Color symbolism chart by culture" gave us the final view of the circle. To enlarge, always enlarge our point of view and think in terms of international way.
Here is her item extracted from http://webdesign.about.com/od/color/a/bl_colorculture.htm

Understand the Meanings of Color in Various Cultures Around the World

If you use color on your Web site, then you should be aware of how your audience views those colors. This is especially important if you are designing a site that is intended for an audience of a different culture than your own (or a global audience). The cultural basis for color symbolism can be very powerful, and if you don't understand what you're saying with your colors, you can make big mistakes.


  • China: Good luck, celebration, summoning
  • Cherokees: Success, triumph
  • India: Purity
  • South Africa: Color of mourning
  • Russia: Bolsheviks and Communism
  • Eastern: Worn by brides
  • Western: Excitement, danger, love, passion, stop, Christmas (with green)


  • Ireland: Religious (Protestants)
  • Western: Halloween (with black), creativity, autumn


  • China: Nourishing
  • Egypt: Color of mourning
  • Japan: Courage
  • India: Merchants
  • Western: Hope, hazards, coward


  • China: Green hats indicate a man's wife is cheating on him, exorcism
  • India: Islam
  • Ireland: Symbol of the entire country
  • Western: Spring, new birth, go, Saint Patrick's Day, Christmas (with red)


  • Cherokees: Defeat, trouble
  • Iran: Color of heaven and spirituality
  • Western: Depression, sadness, conservative, corporate, "something blue" bridal tradition


  • Thailand: Color of mourning (widows)
  • Western: Royalty


  • Japan: White carnation symbolizes death
  • Eastern: Funerals
  • Western: Brides, angels, good guys, hospitals, doctors, peace (white dove)


  • China: Color for young boys
  • Western: Funerals, death, Halloween (with orange), bad guys, rebellion

Hope you have found this item as interesting as it was pleased to write down.
Talk to you shortly!

With best wishes,

PS: a strange colour, an anagram (once more of my first name Laurence) is also a colour:

cerulean (uncountable) - http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/cerulean

(color) A deep blue colour, like the sky on a fine day.

cerulean colour:   

Cerulean may be applied to a range of colors from deep blue, sky-blue, bright blue or azure color through greenish blue colors.

The first recorded use of cerulean as a color name in English was in 1590.The word is probably derived from the Latin word caeruleus, "dark blue, blue or blue-green", which in turn probably derives from caelulum, diminutive of caelum, "heaven, sky. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerulean_blue)

And finally... Hope and Happiness: Yellow is sunshine. It is a warm color that, like red, has conflicting symbolism. On the one hand it denotes happiness and joy but on the other hand yellow is the color of cowardice and deceit.

IMG_0892 IMG_0922 (C) Ceraulen - 2008