06.26.18

Am I blue? A beryl full of fascinating facts about the world’s favorite color

  • Its name comes from both the Middle English and Old French word bleu.
  • Ancient Greeks loathed the color, finding it unsightly and uncivilized. As proof, in a 1700-page history of the poet Homer’s elaborate usage of colors, blue was never mentioned once.
  • On the other hand, Ancient Egyptians loved it so much they equated it with actual gold and would grind up metamorphic rocks called Lapis to make Ultramarine (Latin for “beyond the sea”) for uses ranging from adorning tombs to creating eyeshadow for Cleopatra.
  • In early modern Europe, when Lapis was unavailable (which was often, as it was only imported from Afghanistan mines), extracts from the woad flower were used to make blue textile dye. Both sources were so costly to produce, only nobility could afford it for their clothing. Due to their ostentatiousness (and desire to hoard it for themselves), the heavily-dyed darker shade became known as royal blue.
  • During the 14th and 15th centuries, even masters such as Michelangelo and Raphael could barely afford this pigment, while other artists of lesser means were forced to leave works unfinished indefinitely.
  • Historically, colors have been essential in religious symbolism. In many cultures, the use of religious colors was literally a matter of black (death) and white (life). But in the Christian faith, blue was embraced as the most spiritual of colors, synonymous with purity, hope, truth, obedience, heavenly skies and eternal life. Which is why in most depictions of the Virgin Mary, you will find her draped in blue.
  • Picasso’s Blue Period 1901 – 1904: Influenced by the death of a fellow artist, Picasso painted somber works with depressing subject matter in monochromatic shades of blue. At the time, he had difficulty selling them, but today they are among his most popular and sought after works.
  • Speaking of blue art: In the 1950s, artist Yves Klein registered International Klein Blue, a trademark shade he used in hundreds of paintings and sculptures. In one exhibition, he even painted his models in IKB, giving new meaning to the expression in living color.
  • Can you relate to this? All blue-eyed people are descended from a single European who lived approximately 8,000 years ago and was the first to develop a specific iris mutation.
  • Barbaric Celts loved war and took great pride in their appearance in battle. Their favorite look involved stripping naked, dying themselves blue from head to toe and charging their enemies while screaming at the top of their lungs. Gives new meaning to the Blue Man Group, doesn’t it?
  • Blue Jeans: First produced in Italy in the 17th century and ideal for manual laborers and cowboys, blue jeans were sturdy cotton twill pants dyed with indigo. In the early 1870s, inventor Jacob Davis partnered with Levi Strauss to create the first prototype of jeans we know today. Soon after, Levi added metal rivets—reinforcing the seams—and their rightful place in fashion history. Blue jeans exploded in popularity with greasers in the 1950s, hippies in the 1960s, and practically everyone else in the decades since.
  • Blue Ribbons: The universal symbol for a quality performance, the term Blue Ribbon is believed to have come first from the Cordon Blue, an adornment worn by a distinguished order of knights in the mid-16th century—followed by the Blue Riband, an award given to the fastest passenger liner to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Over the years, the English spelling of Riband evolved into ribbon. But spelling aside, it remains the official color of First Place for events ranging from Spelling Bees to Bakeoffs.
  • Thanks to small amounts of boron (which absorbs lower-energy red light), diamonds will appear to have a blue hue to the naked eye. Such is the case with the infamous 46-carat Hope Diamond, housed at the Smithsonian and estimated to be worth a mere $350 million.
  • Studies have shown that people are more productive in offices painted blue.

Phrases of blue:

 

  • Blue in the face: When strained or upset, some tend to express themselves—loudly—causing oxygen to leave the face, resulting in the face turning a bluish hue.
  • Working Blue: While the true origin of this phrase is debatable, “working blue” is primarily associated with comics whose material is considered risqué or controversial. Some notorious blue jokesters include Lenny Bruce, Redd Foxx, George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Bob Saget. True, Bob may have appeared harmless and insipid in Full House and America’s Funniest Home Videos, but if you’ve ever caught his standup act…yow. Other similar phrases include blue movies (of an adult nature) and Cursing a Blue Streak (ditto).
  • Bluebloods: Refers to European nobility. As the royals prided themselves on pale skin (signifying they did NOT work in the fields), their blue veins were more noticeable, and the term became more universal for defining one’s standing in society.
  • Blue collar: In the 1920s, manual workers in trade jobs often wore denim shirts (typically blue in color) as part of their uniform.
  • (Once in a) Blue moon: A second full moon occurring within the same calendar month only happens every 32 months, so the phrase “once in a blue moon” has come to describe an event that rarely occurs.
  • Talk a blue streak: Associated with the speed and force of a bolt of lightning, it means to speak quickly, excitedly, endlessly, and more often than not, aimlessly.
  • True blue: Whether its origin comes from the strength of blue dye, the continuous blue sky or the color’s association with dependability, this term is given to someone or something that is steadfastly loyal and faithful.

Musical Groups:

  • Deep Blue Something: After Breakfast at Tiffany’s this Denton, Texas group remained hungry for another hit.
  • Blue Oyster Cult: Long Island rockers who did not fear the reaper.
  • Moody Blues: Hoping for a sponsorship from the M&B Brewery, this English group’s name went from the “MBs” to (depending on the bio you buy into) either a variation of Duke Ellington’s Mood Indigo, or the Slim Harpo instrumental Moody Blues.
  • Blues Brothers: An SNL skit that became a #1 band with a #1 album and a #1 movie.      
  • Shocking Blue: Dutch band known for their 1969 hit Venus, later emulated by British female popsters Bananarama.        
  • Blue Cheer: Aptly named for a type of LSD, these acid rock pioneers ironically had their biggest success covering Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues.
  • Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes: Seventies soul group that jump-started the solo career of Teddy Pendergrass.
  • Blue Rodeo: These country rockers were huge in their native Canada, but not so much in the US. Shame.
  • Aqua: Danish Eurodance group who showed us the joys of living as a Barbie girl in a Barbie world.

Movies:

  • Blue Velvet: A human ear is found in a field. From there it gets really eerie.
  • Blue Lagoon: Castaways coming of age.
  • Blue Hawaii: Life imitates art as Elvis, a recently discharged soldier who sings, plays a recently discharged soldier who sings.
  • My Blue Heaven: How do you get financing for a movie in eight words? Steve Martin as funny mobster in witness protection.
  • Electra Glide in Blue: Tense counter-culture film starring Little Rascals alumni Robert Blake, and filled with delusional motorcycle cops, manipulative waitresses and overly friendly hippies.
  • Steelyard Blues: This classic cult film follows a band of antiestablishment misfits. Other than Young Frankenstein, Peter Boyle’s greatest role.
  • Blue Max: WWII drama about a German fighter pilot’s determination to win his country’s most honored medal…the Blue Max.

Songs:

  • Blue Christmas: Once again, Elvis makes you want to call your mother.
  • Behind Blue Eyes: Emotional Who tune written as a prayer.
  • Blue Suede Shoes: This upbeat warning was written, recorded and nailed by Carl Perkins. Rockabilly at its best.
  • Tangled up in Blue: This multidimensional Dylan song ranks #68 on the top 500 rock songs of all time.
  • Jackie Blue: A highly-polished 1970s tune from the highly-unpolished looking Ozark Mountain Daredevils.
  • Crystal Blue Persuasion: 1968 hit for Tommy James and the Shondells, inspired by the Book of Ezekiel.
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