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 October, 2007


 My Colorful Language

My Colorful Language

By Al Owens
English sure is a colorful language.

Since the dawn of time, people have spray painted language with a full spectrum of colors – that sometimes don’t make a lick of sense.

What would really happen if you found out somebody was truly GREEN with envy? Would you call a ambulance?

Same thing, if somebody bragged that they had a GREEN thumb.

I’ve always been puzzled about that old song, “When the RED, RED Robin Goes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along.” I’ve never seen a RED robin. Have you?

What about that Lone Ranger guy? He had a horse he named SILVER. SILVER wasn’t SILVER. He was white. (I could have used a maddening pun here, about SILVER being a horse of another color. But I won’t)

I’m guessing the Long Ranger either named his horse after the precious ore, or he was color blind. I’m leaning toward the latter. The Lone Ranger was the only TV cowboy in history to wear powder blue duds.

Somebody who joins the Communist Party is said to be a RED. If somebody just sympathizes with the communists, they’re called PINKo’s. (They don’t even rate being slapped with a primary color)

If a PINKo gets sick, and then they get better – they may be a PINKo, who’s in the PINK.

Did you ever wonder why BLUE gets so much attention in the English language – especially in the world of music?

Musicians like The Moody BLUES, BLUE Oyster Cult, Bobby BLUE Bland have been among the hundreds of recording artists who’ve used the word BLUE in their names.

Then there are dozens of song titles with the word BLUE in them. BLUE Christmas, BLUE Velvet, Everyday I Get the BLUES, BLUE Moon, BLUE Danube, BLUE Hawaii, BLUE Suede Shoes, BLUE Bayou, Rhapsody in BLUE and My BLUE Heaven are just of few of them.

In the late 1970’s, country singer Chrystal Gayle made musical history. She sang a song with two colors in the title. Don’t it Make Your BROWN eyes BLUE, was a groundbreaker.

BLUE is such a popular musical word, they even named a uniquely American form of music with it - the BLUES.

For some reason people like to put colors in the names. There’ve been RED Buttons (Aaron Chwatt), RED Skelton (Richard Bernard Skelton), Ben BLUE (Benjamin Bernstein), RED Sovine (Woodrow Wilson Sovine), PINKy Lee (Pincus Leff) and more recently the late REDD Foxx (John Elroy Sanford). Oh, don’t forget The Jolly GREEN Giant (Jolly Giant).

Athletic teams sure have fun giving themselves colorful nicknames. There’s the Boston RED Sox (Who actually wear RED Sox), the Cincinnati RED Legs (Who don’t really have RED legs. For the record, they’d been simply called the REDS until the 1950’s when they changed it to avoid the snares of the Joe McCarthy’s of the world. They’re back to calling themselves the REDS these days), the Cleveland BROWNS (Some of them are BROWN, some of them are not), and the Syracuse ORANGE (I haven’t looked really close, but I doubt if any of them are really ORANGE)

It’s said that if somebody gets angry, they’re face can turn as RED as a beet. Or, if they get really, really angry they can see RED, through their RED face, I guess.

If they get frightened, they can be as WHITE as a sheet.

If somebody gets accused of being a coward, they just may get described as being called YELLOW. Or, alternately, they can have a YELLOW streak down their backs.

None of this requires much GRAY matter. There are colorful words all over the place.

Even on the battlefields of the Revolutionary War, some general (There are WHITE hot arguments about which general) admonished his men, “Don’t shoot until you see the WHITES of their eyes.” At my age, that would mean the enemy would have to be sitting on my lap.

I’m willing to bet every RED cent I’ve got, that one of the most popular colorful terms will surprise you. The color PURPLE.

PURPLE just doesn’t seem to be the kind of color that would be given to song or movie titles.

Yet, many years ago, Sheb Wooley wrote the classic novelty song, “One-eyed, One-horned, Flying PURPLE people eater.” (For the record, I liked the one about the YELLOW polka dot bikini a lot better)

I’d thought the rather odd use of the word PURPLE in song titles had ended with Sheb Wooley, until 1967, when music legend Jimi Hendrix took the word PURPLE to higher heights. He wrote and played PURPLE Haze.

And the PURPLES just kept on coming – as they say. By 1984, singer/songwriter/actor (if you can call that acting) Prince brought out an album, and a movie titled PURPLE Rain.

But Hollywood wasn’t finished with the word PURPLE just yet. The following year, Steven Spielberg directed the Academy Award winning The Color PURPLE.

It was a movie that made a lot of GREEN.