By : Germanteacher -Blog, Untranslateable, Vocabulary
A language lives from its speakers who tend to use codes in their everyday speech. Mostly the dictionary cannot help here, but after reading this article you know, why Germans have an affinity using the color blue (blau) and what they mean by doing so.
Let’s start with “blau machen”. It does not mean that something is colored blue, but that one does not go to work or school (most likely unplanned). Now, this expression goes back to the “blue Monday” which described the Monday which fabric dyers had off from work as they had taken the freshly colored wool of the dye in order to dry it.
The next candidate also has its roots in medieval times. Before the dyers could take a day off, they somehow had to get color for their fabrics and for a long time, there was no indigo which could have made it easy. This is why they used dyer’s woad which needed additional alcohol to color the fabrics. Actually, one could have used the alcohol directly but obviously, this was too expensive, and this is why it was given to men. As we all know, alcohol causes us to go to the toilet a lot and this is exactly what the dyers were looking for: the urine of the drunk men as it was cheaper. This story is the reason why Germans call themselves today to be “blau” if they are drunk.
“das Blaue vom Himmel versprechen”
This expression means that one promises the blue of the sky. But actually, one can only guarantee what one owns and luckily the sky is unreachable and unsaleable for all of us. Therefore, this “blau”-expression means to make false promises which can never really happen.
“mit einem blauen Auge davonkommen”
In German, a black eye is blue. That is the reason why this expression means that one gets away with luck and minor damage when there was a dangerous situation. The equivalent expression in English is: “get off with a slap on the wrist”.
Most of the European babies are born with blue eyes. As they are very new on this planet, we normally associate them with naivety. Exactly this is the connotation when somebody is called “blauäugig” – the person is naive.
“der blaue Brief”
This expression stands for a blue letter that schools sent to parents. It informs the parents that the transfer in the next class is in danger. Also, Germans call letters of dismissal “blue”. The history of this expression starts in the 18th century. Back then, one transported royal letters opaque which the people could achieve by using old blue rags within the paper production.
“sein blaues Wunder erleben”
You might ask yourself now, what a white wonder could be? Well, this wonder describes and unpleasant and unplanned experience. In English, one could say: “get the shock of one’s life”.
The meaning of “blau” in German
Finally, after you got to know so many expressions using the color “blue” you will know what your German friends and colleagues talk about when they use one of them. Of course, I warmly invite you to try them out yourself! To broaden your vocabulary, you might also be interested to check out 5 German words widely used in English.
Do you know more expression using “blau” or does your language have them? Please share them with us in the comments!