Tuesday March 12, 2013
Colour brightens up English language
By ADRIAN TEEO
Colour brightens up not only our vision and our lives, but also the English language. Here are some words that have taken on meanings beyond their original hues.
Baby blues (n): It is a common description for eyes. Example: Your sexy baby-blue eyes.
Blue (n): (1) Australian slang for fight. Example: “He was having a blue with his wife”. (2) A police officer. Seldom used, but still heard in English-speaking countries.
Bluey (n): Derived from the colour of the British £5 note.
Bluebottle (n): A British term that has been in use for the past 500 years to mean a police officer. It was popular in the 1950s, but is nowadays sparsely used. Example: As soon as the alarm went off, the place was surrounded by bluebottles.
Blackjacks (n): American slang that has similar meaning to the British “cosh boy” – young male mugger.
Black bag job (n): A break-in.
Black maria (n): A nickname dating back to the mid-19th century in America, it refers to a police car or a prison van. This term is still used in Malaysia.
Black and tan (n): A drink concocted from a mixture of light ale and stout, which refers to the colour of both drinks.
Brown-nose (vb, n): A phrase popular after World War II, it refers to someone who is eager to flatter. Example: She is brown-nosing the manager in the hope of getting a promotion.
Brown trousers (n, adj): An extremely fearsome or terrifying situation, one that can even lead to the person being unable to control his bowels, hence a brown stain in the trousers!
Brown bread (adj): Believed to have originated in 1950s London, it means dead.
Gold-card (vb): To influence a situation or take control of someone through wealth. This slang probably originates from the use of a gold credit card. Example: The company MD just gold-carded his driver.
Goldbrick (vb): To cheat or con. Goldbrick refers to the fake gold bar used by swindlers.
Greenback (n): Refers to the predominantly green US dollar note. Also, American slang for financial support, sponsorship, funding or endorsement.
Green gilbert (n): A term mostly used by children to refer to a piece of green mucus from one’s nose. It has been in use since the 1950s. Once a taboo word, it can now be heard on TV.
Green-welly brigade (adj): British slang for rich urbanites who throng the countryside on weekends in pursuit of a “country lifestyle” – even to the extent of “dressing down”!
Greybeard (n): It literally means old man. Can also refer to an old-timer or long-serving employees.
Grey (n): A British term which means a traditional follower or conservative person. This term was popularly used in the late 1960s, referring to men’s dull clothing which was of stark contrast to the hippies’ colourful attire.
Pink (adj): A term coined by the heterosexual community for gay society.
Redneck (n): Originally, this word refers to a white farmer looking red or tan from being under the sun in the fields, but its usage was extended in the late 1960s to mean opponents of (black-dominated) civil liberties movements. Can sometimes be used to mean a crude chauvinist or extremist.
White-knuckle (adj): Frightening or petrifying but in a fun way, such as “a white-knuckle roller-coaster ride”.
White bread (n, adj): (1) This term is often used to describe a person who is righteous and well taught, but rather uninteresting. (2) In the business world, this phrase is occasionally used by competitors to describe your product as being ordinary.
White space (n): Spare time. In the context of designing, the slang refers to the blank space purposely kept that way in any design. However, with professional working people, white space refers to the emptiness in an appointment book.
White lightning (n): Describes the effects on one’s vision after having consumed strong alcohol.
White trash (n): In the mid-19th century, black communities in the United States created this phrase to refer to their poor white neighbours.
Yellow (adj): Scared and timid.
Yellow-belly (n): This is a spin-off from “yellow” and means someone with a cowardly personality.
The English language is like a maze to Adrian; it’s a complicated language to master, but also one that never gives him dull days.