Word Nerd: 5 colorful expressions that are not really about color

13 Nov

Color can mean a lot of things besides the wavelengths that reach your retina. It can refer to embellished rhetoric, or imparting a certain tone to a story. In music, it can refer to timbre, which is what enables us to distinguish a note played on a violin from the exact same note played on a trumpet or flute or some other instrument. But sometimes a color is not a color. Check out these words below, and add your own in the comments!


In the plant kingdom, this is often a description of something that is unripe, immature, or undeveloped. When used to describe a human, it means simple or gullible. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the phrase “to be not as green as one is cabbage-looking” means to be less of a fool than one seems to be.


This word has so many meanings, it’s not funny. No, it’s literally not funny– it’s serious at best, and sad at worst. Blue can symbolize something that’s unchanging, possibly because of the blue of the sky. We use it in that sense when we say “true blue”, meaning faithful, staunch, or unwavering. Sometimes it’s the color of painful things, such as “blue murder” or “blue devils”. The latter, of course, are more commonly known as “the blues”, a phenomenon observed worldwide on Mondays. And the video above is a famous example of the musical genre known as the blues.


The color may be cheery and sunny, but the symbolism is not. Yellow often refers to cravenness or cowardice. And when applied to journalism, it can refer to articles that are recklessly or unscrupulously sensational.


This can mean politically left of center, though not as far left as red. In a different sense it can mean mildly vulgar, but something that’s too pink would be called “blue”, or even “off-color”. And the expression “strike me pink!” can convey astonishment or indignation.


Not to be confused with the ideological symbolism of red. Scarlet can be the color of what respectable people wear, such as judges’ robes and soldiers’ uniforms. But, oddly enough, it can also signify shame and indignation. In the 19th century in the US, people convicted of adultery were condemned to wear a large scarlet letter A (hence Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter). The video above features a song from the hit Chinese TV drama series “Scarlet Heart”.


By BrainGain Magazine Staff Writer


For more fun with words, click on the links below!
A good vocabulary makes  you smarter
The silliest languages of the internet
8 weird definitions that you never thought belonged in a dictionary
8 words for boring nonsense that just won’t stop
8 quirky phrases which make your language colourful
19 words banned in 2017 for misuse, overuse and general uselessness

No comments yet

Leave a Reply