Anyone here familiar with the origins of this term? Any information would be appreciated. Thanks
"Blue" means risqué as applied in several contexts, including to movies. Comedians' jokes and other entertainers' acts are called "blue" when they involve subject matter or presentation of which it is believed that members of the audience might take offense. They are said to be "working blue" or "dipping into the blue." Note that it is also said to be "off-color."|
...but why off-color? Why is sexuality considered "dirty?" This all goes a bit deeper than semantics or etymology. Grant that it is. Dirt and off-colors are outside the norm and thus the bounds of good taste. When an entertainer around the turn of the last century would go into that part of their act, a colored, usually blue, filter would be placed over the spotlight.
This might be derivative, however, from an already established sensibility. In fact, one hypothesis maintains that this use is an inversion. For reasons outside this scope, "blue" had already meant virtuous, good, formal, and strict for quite some time. Consider "true blue." "Blue laws" established days on which business couldn't be conducted, but it was those businesses that dealt in what was considered vice of some sort that were affected in particular; so it's vice which becomes "blue."
Lewis Joplin II
||BLUE - According to "Listening to America" by Stuart Berg Flexner, (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982) "blue movies, 1950s (was derived) from the 1864 use of 'blue' to refer to indecent or obscene talk." The "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" states: "blue. According to the 'Dictionary of American Slang, 'blue' in the sense of risqué or bordering on the obscene has been current since about the turn of the century and it suggests that 'blue' got this meaning 'perhaps because the color blue is associated with burning brimstone.' Well, perhaps - but that doesn't square with its use by people in show business, especially the more raffish kinds of show business like nightclubs and burlesque...it was standard practice to change the color filters on spotlights when the star dancer went into the gamier parts of her act. A favorite color used during these portions of her act was blue, so 'dipping into the blue,' as the common expression went, may well have come from this change in color of the spotlight." The Morris Dictionary has a separate entry on the term blue laws. But it doesn't explain how they come to this conclusion: "The New York Times reported that the name derives from Puritan legislation, regulating Sabbath conduct, printed on blue paper in the theocratic New Haven colony in the 17th century.' That's a nice story, but the truth is simpler. The 'blue' in 'blue law' is simply a synonym for 'puritanical' or 'strict.'"|