March 01, 2015 20:51 UTC

Words and Their Stories: Colorful Expressions

Read, listen and learn English with this story. Double-click on any word to find the definition in the Merriam-Webster Learner's Dictionary.

Multimedia

Play or download an MP3 of this story

Now, the VOA Special English program WORDS AND THEIR STORIES.

Every people has its own way of saying things, its own special expressions. Many everyday American expressions are based on colors.

Red is a hot color. Americans often use it to express heat. They may say they are red hot about something unfair. When they are red hot they are very angry about something. The small hot tasting peppers found in many Mexican foods are called red hots for their color and their fiery taste. Fast loud music is popular with many people. They may say the music is red hot, especially the kind called Dixieland jazz.

Pink is a lighter kind of red. People sometimes say they are in the pink when they are in good health. The expression was first used in America at the beginning of the twentieth century. It probably comes from the fact that many babies are born with a nice pink color that shows that they are in good health.

Blue is a cool color. The traditional blues music in the United States is the opposite of red hot music. Blues is slow, sad and soulful. Duke Ellington and his orchestra recorded a famous song – Mood Indigo – about the deep blue color, indigo. In the words of the song: “You ain’t been blue till you’ve had that Mood Indigo.” Someone who is blue is very sad.

The color green is natural for trees and grass. But it is an unnatural color for humans. A person who has a sick feeling stomach may say she feels a little green. A passenger on a boat who is feeling very sick from high waves may look very green.

Sometimes a person may be upset because he does not have something as nice as a friend has, like a fast new car. That person may say he is green with envy. Some people are green with envy because a friend has more dollars or greenbacks. Dollars are called greenbacks because that is the color of the back side of the paper money.

The color black is used often in expressions. People describe a day in which everything goes wrong as a black day. The date of a major tragedy is remembered as a black day. A blacklist is illegal now. But at one time, some businesses refused to employ people who were on a blacklist for belonging to unpopular organizations.

In some cases, colors describe a situation. A brown out is an expression for a reduction in electric power. Brown outs happen when there is too much demand for electricity. The electric system is unable to offer all the power needed in an area. Black outs were common during World War Two. Officials would order all lights in a city turned off to make it difficult for enemy planes to find a target in the dark of night.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Learn with The News

  • Charles H. Flowers High School

    Financial Literacy Skills Last a Lifetime

    How to use math for planning a budget or managing money is not often in the curriculum. A school in the state of Maryland provides training in financial literacy. Skills include how to make a budget, how to balance a checkbook and how to deal with credit. More

  • Video Lebanese Artists Fight Back Against Censorship

    Lebanon is a country where religious differences and a permissive culture can lead to conflict. The Lebanese government has long been active in guiding the country’s arts and culture. Now, some activists and writers are taking the fight for free speech to the courts. More

  • Samantha Elauf, who was denied a sales job at an Abercrombie Kids store in Tulsa in 2008, is pictured at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, Feb. 25, 2015.

    Video Muslim Hijab: Dress Code or Discrimination?

    A closely watched case before the Supreme Court could have major results for religious rights in the workplace. It involves the clothing stores Abercrombie & Fitch and a young Muslim woman. She wore a Muslim headcovering, called a hijab, when seeking employment with the company. More

  • Video Putin: The ‘Lonely’ Leader Working to Rebuild Russian Power

    Experts say Russian President Vladimir Putin is a product of the collapse of the Soviet Union. They say he believes he is the only person who can lead the Russian nation and re-establish it as a world power. But some observers say he appears to be a lonely and unhappy man. More

  • FILE - In this undated file image posted on Monday, June 30, 2014, by the Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, a Syrian opposition group, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, fighters from the al-Qaida-linked Islami

    Audio Growing Support in US for Campaign Against Islamic State

    The Pew Research Center has released a new public opinion survey. It shows a growing number of Americans support the military campaign against the group known as Islamic State. Americans also increasingly support the idea of sending U.S. ground troops to fight the group in Iraq and Syria. More

Featured Stories

  • Steam and smoke is seen over the coal burning power plant in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009. Coal power plants are among the biggest producer of CO2, that is supposed to be responsible for climate change.

    Capturing CO2 Is Costly and Difficult

    Most scientists agree that increasing amounts of carbon-dioxide gas in Earth’s atmosphere is partly to blame for climate change. Changes in the atmosphere can have a big effect on weather conditions around the world.Scientists are looking for the best and least costly methods for capturing the gas. More

  • Kerry and Declan Reichs (Courtesy Photo)

    Video Choosing to Be a Single Mother

    U.S. officials say birth rates for unmarried women over age 40 have been rising in recent years. In fact, the rate in 2012 was almost 30 percent higher than just five years earlier. There are single mothers by choice. They are generally older, successful, well-educated, and financially secure. More

  • Audio Young Writer’s Plays Explore Race, Identity in America

    Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' latest play 'An Octoroon,' is showing at a theater in New York City. It is based on a 19th Century work by Dion Boucicault. It tells about a white man who falls in love with a woman who is part black. At the time, mixed race marriage was banned in southern US states. More

  • Audio Understanding the Misunderstood Teenage Brain

    A common battle cry of teenagers to adults is, "You just don't understand me!" Well, they might be right. A brain scientist (neuroscientist) and mother to two teenagers says the teenage brain is quite different from the adult brain. She "debunks," or clears up three common myths about teenagers. More

  • Audio Politics Share the Stage at the Oscars

    Racial equality was not the only political or disputed issue performers discussed last night. Some used their acceptances speeches to talk about immigration, women’s rights, illness, suicide and government surveillance. And the movie of an American sniper continues to fuel the debate. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner blog
Confessions of an English Learner blog

 

 

 

Tell us About Our Programs