Friday, December 12, 2008

It's Not Always Black and White

Let’s take a brief look at just some of the references to colour in English:

Red (Communism or Socialism).
Red faced (Embarrassed).
In the red (Owing money).
A red rag to a bull (Something which makes a person angry).
Caught-red handed (Caught in the act of doing something wrong).
Red herring (Something that takes attention away from the main subject or event).
Redskins (A slightly derogatory term for native American “Indians”).
Red tape (Bureaucracy and officialdom).
Red letter day (A day to remember an important event).
Paint the town red (Go out and have fun).


Feeling blue (Depressed).
The Blues (Music reflecting human hardship, poverty and broken-down relationships).
Blue movie/joke (Sexually explicit movie/joke).
Blue sky thinking (Open to new ideas and suggestions).
Blue-blooded (Royal or aristocratic).
True blue (Loyal, faithful, staunch).
Once in a blue moon (Very seldom).
Out of the blue (Unexpected).
Blue collar (Working-class person).


Greenhorn (Naïve, inexperienced person).
Green belt (The undeveloped area surrounding a city).
Greenhouse gases (Pollutants and emissions which are causing an atmospheric temperature rise).
Green-fingered (Skilled at gardening).
Give the green light (Give approval).


Brown nose (A “yes man”, a boot licker, a sycophant).
Browned off (Annoyed).

Pink (Yeah I know...this is not pink.. )

In the pink (A now unused and old-fashioned term for being in good health).


Yellow (Cowardly).
Yellow skin (A slightly derogatory term for an East Asian person, usually Chinese).


Orange (A supporter of the Orange Lodge, or Protestantism).


A grey day (Cloudy or wet weather).
A grey area (Not clear, not legally defined).
Grey matter (Referring to one’s intelligence).


Black Power (A power struggle against white supremacy).
Black eye (A bruised eye).
Black tie (Formal dress, in evening wear).
Black magic (Evil magic).
Black market (Illegal trading).
Black Maria (A vehicle for transporting prisoners).
A black day (A bad day, a financial loss).
The Black Death (Disease in Mediaeval times spread by rats, similar to the bubonic plague).
Black-hearted (Mean-spirited, cruel and unmerciful).
Pitch black/Jet black (Very black in colour).
Blackmail (To procure money, or favours, by means of intimidation and threatening to expose a secret).
Blackout (No electricity, no lights, a loss of consciousness).
Black sheep of the family (Someone who does not meet the expectations or standards of the rest of the family).
Black and blue (Badly bruised).


White elephant (Something expensive yet unused).
White lie (A slight untruth told to avoid trouble).
White collar (Management or office personnel, professional middle class).
White magic (Magic used for good purposes).

There we have it, a rainbow of English expressions which can delight or disgust, amuse or annoy. So if you show your “true colours” and let others see how good your language skills can be, I’m sure you’ll bring colour to future conversations or successfully pass an English exam with “flying colours”.

Vance Carson currently teaches in Libya and has previously taught English at SMAPK, Kajang.

copy&paste from here


Yummy Yum said...

Thank you teacher...banyak dah benda belajar pagi2 ni

Neeza Shahril said...

pink jadi purple pulak.. mesti blogspot takde color pink hehehh..

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