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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Colour Idioms - The Colour Red

In the Cambridge Dictionary of Idioms you can find many expressions which use the colour red. Let's look at a few examples.

If you discover somebody doing something wrong or illegal we say that you have caught them red-handed. (This is often follwed by the -ing form).

e.g. I caught him red-handed trying to break into my car.
e.g. I can't deny stealing the money, my boss caught me red-handed.

The expression a red-herring is used to describe something that takes people's attention away from the truth or objective. It is a kind of diversion.

e.g. Murder mystery books often contain a few red-herrings to keep readers guessing.
e.g. The detective investigated the secret letter but it turned out to be a red-herring.

Another common expression with the word red is used to describe somebody when they get very angry. Imagine your mother when you were naughty, my mother used to turn physically red from the neck up! You could say she saw red.

e.g. I see red when people don't offer their seats to the elderly or pregnant women.
e.g. When he laughed at me, I just saw red.

One thing that causes me to see red in Spain is all the red tape! I mean all the beaurocracy and official rules that don't seem necessary and make things happen very slowly!

e.g. My visa application has been held up by red tape.
e.g. I wanted to get married in Spain but there is too much red tape.

Another place where people can see red, literally though, not figuratively, is in the red-light district. This is an area of a town where people offer sex for money. The name probably comes from the red lights that used to shine out (and sometimes still do) of the windows of those rooms where sex is on offer, for example in the red-light district in Amsterdam.

e.g. The red-light district in Madrid is in the Casa Del Campo and Gran Via areas of the city.

We'll be back later with more colour idioms. In the meantime, if you like the colour red you may be interested in this French movie by the same name, which is part of a trilogy called Trois Couleurs.

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At November 14, 2007 7:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read that the term red-light district comes from when railway workers left their red lanterns outside brothels so that they could be called on in an emergency. Or that it comes from the Chinese lanterns that decorated brothels there.


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