Posted by: Jack Henry | December 24, 2015

Editor’s Corner: Green, black, and prizes!

Good morning and happy (almost) holidays! Your gift for today is the final installment of Grammar Girl’s article on color-related idioms. The gift for five of you (yes, five) are some lightly used books.

I’m working from home today, so I don’t have all the titles for you, but the winner of the malapropism book is Adele Witzke Schumaker in Allen, Texas. The other books are Signspotting 3, 4, and 5, and part 2 of a book on Bad Grammer (sic). The winners of those books are:

· Alma Cayaban

· Scott Rose

· Robert Tresscott

· Jess Woodland

I’ll get your books in the mail next week. In the meantime, congratulations! Enjoy your holiday and weekend.

6. Green-Eyed Monster

Our sixth color is green and the idiom green with envy, which means jealous and dates from the mid-1800s. Shakespeare used other green-related phrases, indicating that the association between green and jealousy has been around much longer than 160 years. For example, you’ll find the phrase green-eyed monster in Othello, the green sickness in Anthony and Cleopatra, and green-eyed jealousy in Merchant of Venice. In fact, it seems we can go back to the Ancient Greeks and their humors, to propose an origin for the phrase. Remember the bile we mentioned when discussing the phrase white-livered? [KC – How could we forget, Grammar Girl? We love reading about that stuff first thing in the morning!] It seems that the Greeks thought if you were sick, the body produced too much bile, making you look green. We have probably all looked green at some point when feeling sick.

7. Black Humor

Seventh and last in our list of colors is black. Black humor, or black comedy, is a style of satire that highlights very serious issues through comedy. The term comes from the French l’humour noire and was coined by Surrealist André Breton around 1940. This phrase debuted in English around 1965, and you’ll also hear the terms dark humor and dark comedy to refer to this extreme kind of satire. Although the phrases are somewhat new to the language, the concept has been around for a few centuries.

A famous example of black comedy is Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, published in 1729. This short work “modestly” suggests how the British should eat Irish babies. [KC – Great. Just when you think it couldn’t get worse.] Of course Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels, was not serious; his outlandish—even funny—statements brought attention to the problem of Irish poverty. Here’s a sample: “I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.”

It is easy to see why the color black is used in this idiom, because of the horror involved—both the fiction (eating babies) and the reality (starvation).

Well, that’s all for now. We hope that our discussion of black humor at the end didn’t turn you a little green.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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