If you have ever heard someone say “it is raining cats and dogs” during a rainstorm or even if you yourself have ever tried “to break the ice” when starting a conversation then you already know that we don’t always say what we mean – or mean exactly what we say – in English. And there are many idioms from colors that can mean many different things.
Idioms, or fixed expressions that are impossible to translate word for word, are the reason for this and, though they may confusing at first, but they don’t need to be. Idioms are just a form of advanced vocabulary and can actually be quite fun! Because a lot of idioms come have colorful (that is, interesting) origins, they can be a lot easier to remember than you might imagine. Speaking of color, then, consider the following few examples of idioms related to color as proof:
- If you ever wondered why giving someone the green light means giving them permission to do something, just consider your driving habits. After all, when you are driving down the road green means go no matter what language you speak!
- Likewise, something that is in black and white is clear and easy to understand because things printed out on a black and white page is itself clearly understood. Though it may seem old-fashioned, you will find that this idiom is still true on even the most modern computer screen.
- Another idiom with historical roots, in the black (which means financially secure or profitable) and its cousin in the red (which means owing money) is based on accountants’ long-standing practice of recording profits in black ink and debts in red. Though centuries old, this tradition is also still maintained on computer programs.
So, as you can see, no idiom truly comes from out of the blue* (out of nowhere) – each has its origins and many times those origins can help us understand and relate to them better.
* The blue in “out of the blue” refers to the sky and its origins are equally simple. After all, if something randomly fell from the sky you would think it came from out of nowhere, too!