I came across culture-specific meanings of concept 'blue' (that is, of a colour hue between green and violet) in various languages. We know its idiomatic meanings in Standard or American Englishes, but in Russian 'blue' (or, actually, light blue) /голубой/ has an idiomatic meaning 'gay' (referring to sexuality).

In other languages, the word has some other idiomatic meanings, e.g. surprised/drunk in French, or 'police person' (in Latin American Spanish).

Which other languages have specific idiomatic meaning for the colour? Not just in idiomatic sayings (e.g. like 'blue collar', or 'out of the blue'), but rather like a standalone word?

Was such an idiomatic meaning in any ancient languages ever?

  • I was under impression that the Russian meaning was borrowed from English, is not it the case? – Anixx Feb 10 '13 at 20:55
  • Out of curiousity, what will you do with this information? Is it your hypothesis that these idiomatic meanings are related? – acattle Feb 10 '13 at 23:40
  • @Anixx I think it is not possible. First, because English does not distiguish between 'light blue' and 'dark blue'. Second, because in Russian the word голубой obtained its meaning from маргаритка, or 'forget-me-not', used in 19th century as a slang word for a homosexual – Manjusri Feb 11 '13 at 8:14
  • See e.g. "Каторга" by Валентин Пикуль: ''В этой громадной толпе, что растекалась сейчас по трапам и люкам, заполняя корабельные трюмы, были представители многих древнейших профессий: маравихеры - карманники, мокрушники - убийцы, блиноделы - фальшивомонетчики, торбохваты - базарные жулики, хомутники - душители, костогрызы - неопытные воришки,... маргаритки - мужчины-проститутки и педерасты, марушники - карманники по церквам и на кладбищах, шопенфиллеры - грабители ювелирных магазинов, халтурщики - ворующие из квартир, где имелся покойник...) – Manjusri Feb 11 '13 at 8:15
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    The Welsh word, glas has connotations of youth, eagerness etc. – Danger Fourpence Feb 23 '13 at 14:09

In German, being "blau" means being drunk. See http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blau.

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I am not aware of blue meaning drunk or surprised in my native french language. However, les bleus are the cops, for the obvious clothing reason. Le bleu is “the new one”, in a job — I have no idea why.

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  • Are the French national football team not nicknames Les Bleus, also? – Danger Fourpence Feb 23 '13 at 14:11
  • Aren't these examples valid then? 6) Vivement surpris de quelque chose. J’en étais complètement bleue. 7) (Argot) (Populaire) Complètement ivre. Tu aurais vu le Maurice, avec les canons qu’il s’est mis, il était bleu, il divaguait complètement ! fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/bleu – Manjusri Feb 23 '13 at 14:11
  • @Danger — Yes, the national football team of France is also nicknamed les Bleus. I obviously naturally think more about the police than about football. :-) – Nicolas Barbulesco Feb 23 '13 at 16:20

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