English Color Expressions – Blue

It’s summer and hot, which means that everyone needs a break from grammar, so we are continuing our series on colors in English and some the unique phrases that they appear in.  Blue is used extensively in English and is used to describe much more than just blue skies.

Out of the blue – This is used when something happens unexpectedly or randomly.  For example, if you have a friend that you haven’t talk to for a year and they all of a sudden, she calls you just to talk. You could say that, “she called you out of the blue.”  Or another example is, “Steve decided to quit his job out of the blue and travel to Thailand.”  This means that you didn’t think that Steve would do this and that it was not characteristic behavior of him.

Blue blood – Technically all of us have blue blood in our bodies, but when you use this phrase in English you are referring to someone who is from a noble or wealthy family.  It also indicates that they view themselves as separate and better than other people.  For example, “All of the blue bloods were invited to meet the queen when she visited our town.”

Once in a blue moon – This doesn’t mean that the moon itself is actually turning blue in color.  Instead it means that something occurs which is extremely rare, perhaps only once in a lifetime.  “Every once in a blue moon, our schedules work and we are able to go on vacation as a family.”  This means that is very difficult and only occurs very rarely for everyone in the family to be able to go on vacation at the same time.

Blue collar – This refers to individuals whose work involves physical labor.  In contrast individuals who work in an office are called white collar workers.  The origin of this is believed to be because these individuals can wear the color white and not have it get dirty during the day.  Blue collar workers on the other hand would dirty their clothing while working and therefore couldn’t wear the color white.

Men in blue – Rather than referring to any individual who is wearing blue colored clothing, this phrase is used with a specific group of people, police officers.  This phrase can about because blue has been the traditional color of most police uniforms.  So, if someone says that they have seen the men in blue, they are referring to the police.

Blue ribbon – In competitions, the winner traditionally has received a blue ribbon to indicate that they are the best.  However, you can also use this phrase outside of a competitive setting, to mean anything that is of superior quality.  So, an advertiser might indicate that their product is blue ribbon quality.