sunprint lenses
sunprint H. Kurzke, at the moment this is my favorite

I have been thinking about the word “blue”, the color “blue” and what it means to me, and its meanings in a more general cultural context. With “blue” I associate the sea on a sunny day, waves, fresh and clean air, calm and peace. It is strange to me how in English “being blue” means to be in a melancholic or depressive mood. A word by word translation to German is “blau sein” which means being drunk. And “to make blue” in German means skipping your duties, work or school. I faintly remember that I once read that both comes from dying fabric with indigo on Sundays; the process makes the dyer tipsy who then wouldn’t come to work on Monday because of a hangover. But I am not sure that I remember correctly.

The word references are plenty: You can make something out of the blue, something can be a blue light special, you can be blue blooded, and I am sure there are many more, these are just those that come to my non-native-speaker mind. What do you associate with the color blue, and what do you know about the meaning associated to the color or the word? Or do you know other phrases or sayings with “blue”, maybe in yet another language? Please share them!

Ich habe gestern doch noch 4 Sunprints gemacht, und das oben ist mein bestes Ergebnis, denke ich. Ein einzelnes Papier bleibt mir jetzt noch. Das habe ich übrig gelassen, falls ich merke, dass ich unbedingt noch einen bestimmten Druck machen will. – Ich brauche meine Materialien ausgesprochen ungern vollständig auf.

Bei all den vielen Blaudrucken, habe ich auch über die Farbe und das Wort “Blau” nachgedacht. Das erste, was mir so einfällt ist, “blau sein”. Wenn ich mich recht erinnere, kommt das vom Färberhandwerk, and vom Färben mit Indigo, das betrunken macht. Aber komisch ist’s schon, dass wir das immnoch benutzen, obwohl man allerhöchstens blaue Zähne vom Rotweintrinken bekommt, und kaum noch jemand mit echtem Indigo färbt.

Ich habe eigentlich vor allem gute Assoziationen mit Blau: blauer Himmel, das Meer an einem Sommertag, klare Luft und Ruhe. Daher ist es mir merkwürdig, dass wörtlich ins Englische übersetzt, “blau sein” bedeutet, in einer melancholischen oder depressiven Stimmung zu sein. Weiß jemand woher das kommt?

Und es gibt noch viele andere Redensweisen in denen blau vorkommt. Zum Beispiel kann man blaublütig sein, oder das Blaue vom Himmel herunterlügen. Welche Assoziationen habt ihr mit dem Wort oder der Farbe? Oder kennt ihr noch andere blaue Sprichwörter? Es würde mich sehr freuen, darüber zu hören!

6 replies on “Blue”

  1. I like these reflections on language and meanings… and colours too! As you know, we often discuss this here too.

    It came as a great surprise to learn what “blue” in German phrases and sayings mean!

    In Croatian, blond hair is called “blue hair” (plava kosa) – so girls are not blond, but blue (plavokosa). (We also use blond, but very seldom).
    When I have to meet someone I don’t know for coffee, I stress out my hair is blue, to be easily recognized. An they always expect a blond haired girl :))

    If you say that someone is blue, in croatian it means he/she is a bit stupid or confused (directly from: being blond /blonds are considered not bright, often used in bad jokes).

    In Italian I can’t remember any special use of the word. Blue-blooded also exist in both languages.

    As for my own associations: the sea, being calm, thinking

    I looked up in Anne Varichon’s book Colors – plenty of good explanations and stories. Did you know blue was feared by the Roman empire people because apparently barbarians used to paint their hair and body in blue?

  2. Sacre bleu!What a great post for a blue stocking to read!
    Yes, I am being a bit cheeky. But, like you, blue is a happy colour for me.
    Daria is correct about the Romans being wary of the blue(woad, produced from indigo)painted on the bodies of early Britons.
    Sacre bleu (holy blue) comes from the fact that blue was an expensive dye in early Christian times, produced from lapis lazuli.Virgin Mary is almost always shown in a blue robe, yet a common carpenter could not afford such a luxury!Artistic licence.
    I am sure there are further references. You have lit a fire, I think.;-)

  3. Dinah and Daria, thanks for your comments.

    @Daria: Instead of “blond” Croatians say “blue”? That was definitely new to me. Do you know whether it is also used this way in other (South) Slavic languages?
    I can just imagine how people look at you, seeing your blue-blue hair after they understood you meant blond 🙂
    I didn’t know Romans feared the color, but now that you mention it I do remember seeing blue painted babarians in a film (was it braveheart?). Anne Varichon’s book of Colors looks good, thanks for the tip. (I ordered a copy a few minutes ago.)

    @Dinah: Blue Stocking and sacrebleu, right, I forgot about these, thanks. 🙂 And the story behind sacrebleu was also new to me. – I got a lot to learn…

  4. :)) In all the ex-yu territory it’s called blue (plava, plavuša, plavojka, etc..) and sometimes blond (blondinka). I never figured out why. Colour gradations for blond hair are referred as blue gradations (light blue hair, dark blue hair, honey blue hair…)

    I had a great old professor at the university, he was a painter and philosopher – I clearly remember his classes about colours – each time he will talk about the meaning and history and applications of a colour (for 2-3 hours). I’ll probably never forget the class about “yellow” – it was the first one and I was in awe!

    All true what Dinah wrote! You can find some of these info in that book, I hope you’ll like it. It’s not a very complete book on colours, but it’s a good start.

  5. You already got the book? Oh, fast! I forget that only we have to wait 8-15 days for books to arrive in the mail… 🙂

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