Green’s Dictionary of Slang

blue n.1

1. a ‘blue stocking’ [abbr. SE blue-stocking, a term that originated c.1750 when a coterie of intellectual ladies – Mrs Montague, Mrs Vesey and Mrs Ord – set out to replace London society’s trad. post-dinner pursuits – card-playing – with more cerebral amusements. Formal dress was no longer required and among those who attended their soirées was Benjamin Stillingfleet, who habitually wore grey or blue worsted, instead of black silk, stockings. Admiral Boscawen, a staunch traditionalist, labelled these events ‘the Blue Stocking Society’; the ladies were called Blue Stockingers, then Blue Stocking Ladies and finally Blue Stockings].

(a) an intellectual woman.

[UK]Mme D’Arblay Diary (1891) III 7: He was a little the more anxious not to be surprised to-night, but his being too tired for walking should be imputed to his literary preference of reading to a blue.
[[UK]M.P. Andrews Better Late than Never 31: Literati; what in blue stockings, heh!].
[UK]‘Thomas Brown the Younger’ Intercepted Letters in Moore (ed.) British Satire (2003) V 96: Write Parodies. Sir, and such fame it will win you, / You’ll get to the Blue-stocking routs of Alb—n—a! / (Mind — not to her dinners — a second-hand Muse / Mustn’t think of aspiring to mess with the Blues).
[UK]Byron Beppo lxix: But luckily these beauties are no ‘blues’.
[UK]Byron Don Juan canto XI line 393: The Blues, that tender tribe, who sigh o’er sonnets.
[UK]Thackeray Yellowplush Papers in Works III (1898) 295: Miss M. being what was called a blue [...] always made a point to speak on these grand subjects.
[UK]London Mag. Feb. 5: The gentlemen who yawn in pit and boxes, / Shall find some sport, unkennelling state foxes; / The ‘blues’ in boddices or pantaloons, / Some porridge for their literary spoons.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 4 Oct. 3/4: Jemima was a regular blue [...] who looked like Juno and talked like Minerva—the Minerva library, I mean.
[UK]‘Cuthbert Bede’ Adventures of Mr Verdant Green (1982) I 8: His aunt Virginia was as learned a Blue as her esteemed ancestress in the court of Elizabeth, the very Virgin Queen of Blues.
[US]J.G. Holland Miss Gilbert’s Career (1870) 212: He disliked a ‘blue,’ and not only disliked her, but was afraid of her.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 28 Feb. 4/1: There is really a great deal of espièglerie in this rather lanky baby, who probably, when she has cut her wisdom teeth, will develop into a ‘blue,’ for she apparently knows such an astounding lot of subjects, and is equally fluent in all – a pedagogue in petticoats.
[UK]Punch 21 Mar. 135/1: [title] ’Arry on Blues and Bluestockings.

(b) (US campus) a puritanical, strait-laced student.

[Ire]C.J. Lever Harry Lorrequer 81: She was a little, a very little, blue – rather a babbler in the ‘ologies’ than a real disciple.
[US]Yale Gallinipper Nov. in Hall (1856) 30: Each jolly soul of them, save the blues, / Were doffing their coats, vests, pants, and shoes.
[US]B.H. Hall College Words (rev. edn) 30: blue. In several American colleges, a student who is very strict in observing the laws, and conscientious in performing his duties, is styled a blue.
[US] ‘College Words and Phrases’ in DN II:i 23: blue, n. A student who is strict in observance of college regulations.

2. the colour.

(a) (US black) a dark-complexioned black person [note 18C–19C Louisiana dial. blue, a mix of Indian, black and white, as well as Allen, The Language of Ethnic Conflict 1983): ‘Die Blaue, which Mencken, The American Language (3rd edn, 1936), says was used for black servants by German residents of Baltimore in the 1880s; they changed it to Die Schwarze when the blacks caught on’].

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 22 Sept. 14/1: Some years ago a ‘creamy’ named M’Dougall killed a white man on Wellingrove (Q.) and when he saw the police coming deliberately shot himself. [...] This M’Dougall was the reputed son of a squatter, and his wife, still alive, is the reputed daughter of another squatter who got a handle before he died. M’Dougall’s mother was a full nigger named Maryanne and was queen of Bonshaw. Perhaps it was this combination of ‘blue’ and royal blood that gave M’Dougall pluck enough to kill himself.
[US]Van Vechten Nigger Heaven 13: Blues, smokes, dinges, charcoals, chocolate browns, shines, and jigs.
[US]N. Van Patten ‘Vocab. of the Amer. Negro’ in AS VII:1 27: blue. V. n. A very black Negro.
[US]S. Lewis Kingsblood Royal (2001) 136: The reason for segregation is that otherwise the blues would marry all the white women.
[US]D. Goines Never Die Alone 18: He was so dark he had gained the nickname ‘Blue’.
[US](con. 19C) I.L. Allen Lang. of Ethnic Conflict 46: Color Allusions, Other than ‘Black’ and ‘Negro’: blue [19th century].
[US]R. Klein Jailhouse Jargon and Street Sl. [unpub. ms.].

(b) methylated spirits.

[UK]G. Fletcher Down Among the Meths Men 24: The meths men [...] were sitting on a step, passing a bottle of blue from one to the other [Ibid.] 51: Stage three is the drinking of neat blue or ‘Jake’.
[UK]J. Healy Grass Arena (1990) 64: Fuck it to hell [...] I wish I knew where there was a good ironmonger’s that’d give us a bottle of blue.

(c) the sea.

[UK]‘Doss Chiderdoss’ ‘When Woman’s Tongue Wags’ Sporting Times 25 July 1/4: She talks about going away / For a holiday trip by the blue.
[UK]‘Bartimeus’ ‘Narrative of Commander W.D. Hornby’ in Awfully Big Adventure 122: I reckon the bounding blue’s good enough for me.

(d) (Aus./N.Z., also bit of blue) a summons; also used in milit. context, a ‘write-up’ [the colour of the paper on which it is printed; note H. Lawson short story (1899): ‘His character was pretty bad just then, so there was a piece of blue paper cut for him’].

[Aus]Truth (Sydney) Feb. 1/8: So James, you’ve got your bit of blue at last — your ‘stiff’ — I thought they’d cop you.
[Aus]Truth (Brisbane) 13 Apr. 7/3: [A] burly policeman[...] with "a pile of ‘blue paper’ under his arm [...] looking. for a J.P; to sign his ‘little' bits of blue’.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 9 Feb. 4/7: When they serve her with a ‘blue’, / Wonders why and how and who / Could have been so very negligent and silly.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 27 Oct. 30/2: ‘Ha!’ said the local policeman, ‘here’s a bit of blue for you,’ as he served the summons on the false Butter.
[NZ]Truth (Wellington) 22 May 7/1: On being served with the bits of blue and being told they were divorce papers she promptly put a solid right to the jaw of her husband.
[Aus]Sun. Mail (Brisbane) 13 Nov. 20/8: ‘So-and-so strapped me for a shwe to-day. He was in a yike up north and copped a blue. Had to do a tommy-off and he is down here in smoke.’ Translated, someone had borrowed a florin from the speaker. He had got into trouble in the north and with a warrant issued for his arrest had escaped by boat and had gone into hiding.
[Aus]Baker Popular Dict. Aus. Sl.
[Aus]L. Glassop We Were the Rats 84: I seen ya snaffle that bayonet from the Q.M. store, doctor it up so it looked old and sell it to that old sheila as the one Jacka won his V.C. with in the last blue.
[Aus](con. 1941) E. Lambert Twenty Thousand Thieves 79: I got you out of that blue at Mersa Matruh, but you’ll have to go up this time.
[Aus]‘Neville Shute’ On the Beach 23: I put up a blue right away by ordering a pink gin.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 26 Apr. 45: The poor bastard needs an earn to handle those kite blues. The law is asking the earth and he fronts next week.
[Aus]G.A. Wilkes Exploring Aus. Eng. 7: Blue also has a number of meanings in Australia which no other users of English would understand. We may make a blue (a blunder, a mistake), we may pick a blue or stack on a blue (a quarrel, a row), and if we cop a blue, it is probably the result of a traffic offence.
[Aus]M.B. ‘Chopper’ Read Chopper From The Inside 113: The facts are that a limp wrist, two-bob pansy is a bum, whether he beats a murder blue or wins a Brownlow medal.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl.

(e) (US) a blue poker chip.

[US]Van Loan ‘The National Commission Decides’ in Score by Innings (2004) 299: ‘I’ll crack it,’ said Cordell, shoving two blues to the centre [of the poker table].
[US]O. Strange Law O’ The Lariat 21: Hell’s bells, I’d ’a’ give a stack o’ blues to ’a’ seen it.
[US](con. 1880s) E. Cunningham Triggernometry (1957) 216: Sizing up the two men, the canny bettor put his stack of blues on the long-haired ex-marshal.

(f) (US black) the sky.

[US] ‘Jiver’s Bible’ in D. Burley Orig. Hbk of Harlem Jive.
[US]in E. Cray Erotic Muse (1992) 405: We were halfway between Rangoonie and Berlin, / Wingin’ our way through the blue, / When the Jerries spotted us from five o’clock under, / And came up to see what they could do.

(g) (Aus., also bluey) Foster’s lager; a can of that beer [the predominantly blue can].

M. Cameron A Look at the Bright Side n.p.: The basic requirements of a good ‘happening’ were: an ample supply of ‘Blue’ or ‘Green’ (Vic. or Foster’s beer), the sappers, and someone fool enough to let it happen in his tent.
[Aus]G. Seal Lingo 133: Different brands of beer have their own Lingo names: Fosters is a bluey.
personal correspondence 30 June: And talking of blueys, a friend’s workmate when thirsty for a beer at the end of a day says, he tells me, ‘I’m tonguing for a bluey’ – we don’t know why ‘bluey‘ (obviously beer) – but two web sites on google (one Australian) return something for ‘tonguing for a drink’.
I.H. Adams Eurêka [Internet] Bluey (AuE) Fosters Beer.

(h) see blue ruin under blue adj.1

(i) see bluey n.1 (6)

3. the colour of a uniform.

(a) a blue-uniformed soldier.

[UK]Sporting Times 1 Mar. 2/3: The ‘Cherub?’ why, that’s what they call him, / The swells of the Horseguards Blue.

(b) a police officer; the police.

[UK]T. Hood ‘University Feud’ Works (1862) V 419: Or whether this here mobbing – as some longish heads foretel it, / Will grow to such a riot that the Oxford Blues must quell it.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 21 Oct. 3/3: Wm. Bestwick [...] in company with another blue, entered Greenwood's house.
[UK]Fights for the Championship 116: That town, despite the officiousness of the blues, reaped considerable benefit from the mill.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. (2nd edn).
[US]H.L. Williams Black-Eyed Beauty 7: There was going to be a big procession [...] In the streets, which the ‘blues’ had cleared of the stages and carts, a double set of contrary streams of people.
[UK]Manchester Eve. News 3 Nov. 4/2: ‘Only fancy,’ laughed Mac, ’the kids took us for the “blues”’.
[UK]W. Hooe Sharping London 34: Blue or bluebottle, a policeman.
[US]A.H. Lewis Boss 312: I felt no sorrow for the death of that ignobility in blue.
[UK]Sporting Times 11 Feb. 1/5: Posterity might like a picture of Bill Forster, pulled up in his motor by a whipper-snapper of a constable [...], saying ‘I thank you, sir,’ when the officious blue [...] grunted.
[UK]C. Williams A Master of Crime 95: Are the ‘blues’ on your track?
[US]G.T. Fleming-Roberts ‘Blue Heat’ Phantom Detective May [Internet] About that time, a squad of blues came along to prevent a panic.
[US]S. Sterling ‘Ten Carats of Lead’ in Black Mask Stories (2010) 234/2: This is a cop case. A blue’s been knocked off.
[US] in E. Cray Erotic Muse (1992) 241: The postman came on the first of May; / The policeman came on the very next day. / Nine months later there was hell to pay: / Who fired that first shot, the blue or the gray?
[Aus]B. Humphries Barry McKenzie [comic strip] in Complete Barry McKenzie (1988) 35: That bastard’s a flamin’ blue!
[US]E. Tidyman Shaft 81: The blue was coming, coming with a scream of sirens and a flash of red.
[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 230: blue. […] 2. Police.
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Ellroy L.A. Confidential 13: Two blues and Dick Stensland got out.
[US]J. Ridley What Fire Cannot Burn 161: Some probably considered Soledad was [...] Admin or IA. That made every other cop in the joint instantly [...] reassess their relationship with the blue who was having a sit-down.

(c) (US prison) a prison inmate.

[Aus]K. Tennant Foveaux 290: As long as you don’t smack a bad blue, you ought to ’ave a ’appy time.
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 369: one cowboy is picked to dance with a blue who has no heart.

4. in drug uses [the colour of the pills].

(a) (also double blue) usu. in pl., an amphetamine.

[Aus]B. Humphries Barry McKenzie [comic strip] in Complete Barry McKenzie (1988) 22: Yeah man, have a blue.
[UK]I. Hebditch ‘Weekend’ unpub. thesis in Hewitt (2000) 133: We buy cokes and wash down ten blues a piece with them.
[US]R.R. Lingeman Drugs from A to Z (1970) 84: double blue [from the colour] Usually drinamyl tablets but sometimes other blue tablets.
[UK]J. Healy Grass Arena (1990) 121: Pill-head slips me a couple of blues.
[UK]P. Baker Blood Posse 108: I got reds, blues, greens, ups, downs, morphine, acid, horse.

(b) a barbiturate.

[US] ‘Sl. of Watts’ in Current Sl. III:2 11: Blues, n. Amytal (blue capsule), a barbiturate.
[US]E.E. Landy Underground Dict. (1972).
[US]D.E. Miller Bk of Jargon 337: blues: 2. Sodium amytal, a barbiturate.
[US]ONDCP Street Terms 3: Blue — [...] depressants.

(c) (UK prison, also double blue) an amphetamine-barbiturate mixture.

[UK]S. McConville ‘Prison Language’ in Michaels & Ricks (1980) 526: Amphetamine-barbiturate mixtures seem to have spawned a particularly vivid range of nicknames and images, often arising from the appearance or color of capsules in which they are taken. These include [...] double-blue.

(d) crack cocaine [poss. mis-reading].

[US]ONDCP Street Terms 3: Blue — Crack Cocaine.

(e) (drugs) an ultra-thin Rizla paper – in a blue pack – used for rolling cannabis cigarettes or to wrap small amounts of cocaine.

[UK]N. Barlay Curvy Lovebox 86: Nood sticks a king size blue of charlie in my palm.

5. see blue heaven under blue adj.1

6. see blue pigeon n. (2)

7. see blues n.1

8. see bluey n.1 (2)

In phrases

bet on the blue (v.) (also bet on the Mary Lou) [Mary Lou is rhy. sl.]

(Aus.) to bet on credit.

[Aus]L. Glassop Lucky Palmer 248: No money changed hands. He was betting on credit — ‘Lucky’ called it betting ‘on the blue,’ ‘on the Mary Lou’ or ‘on the nod’.
bilk the blues (v.) [bilk v. (1)]

to evade capture by the police.

[UK]Five Years’ Penal Servitude 257: He would [...] enter with great gusto into the details of some cleverly executed ‘bit of business,’ or ‘bilking the blues,’ — evading the police.
cold on a blue (adj.) (also cold on the blue) [cold adj. (12)]

(Aus. Und.) wrongfully imprisoned or arrested.

[Aus]Tupper & Wortley Aus. Prison Sl. Gloss. [Internet] Cold. Innocent. Thus ‘to be cold on a blue’ is to be wrongly imprisoned.
[Aus]Smith & Noble Neddy (1998) 202: This guy got in touch with me asking could I do anything for him as he was cold [innocent] on the blue. The cops had just thrown him in for the fun of it, but he looked like getting fitted with it.
cop the blue (v.) [cop v.]

1. (Aus. Und.) to suppress evidence or obstruct police proceedings.

[Aus]Cairns Post (Qld) 16 Nov. 4: Defendant [...] gave Phillips to understand that he was [...] in charge of motor stealing investigations and would be in a position to ‘cop the blue’ which meant that he would be able to suppress, delay or obstruct complaints or proceedings in relation to the stealing.

2. (Aus.) to take responsibility for someone else’s actions.

Weekly Hansard (Aus.) 1 Jan. 1510/1: He is letting them cop the blue, as is commonly said in criminal circles. If he is so low that he is prepared to allow others to take the consequences of his actions.
in the blue [SE the wild blue yonder]

1. far away, off in the distance.

[SA]C.R. Prance Tante Rebella and her Friends (1951) 117: In May 1915 he and his wife trekked in to Rustenburg, eight days by donkey-wagon ‘in the blue’, five of them through what was then still mere no-man’s land.
[UK]A.E. Farrell Vengeance 159: Yeatman had beaten them to it and was now somewhere ‘out in the blue’.

2. (US) in the clear, not guilty.

[US]J. Dixon Free To Love 242: Our attorneys sent his man back with the message that they had Dan Carroll out in the blue – that is, that they have proof that he signed the contract in good faith and was entirely without knowledge of the ‘sleeper’ in it.

3. (Aus.) in trouble, in disgrace.

[Aus]F.B. Vickers Mirage (1958) 299: The skids are under him. Old man Trew happened to drive up while there was a bit of an all-in go outside your bloke’s humpy [...] They didn’t get him. But he’s in the blue.
put someone on the blue (v.)

(Aus. Und.) to defraud a confederate of their share of criminal spoils.

[Aus]Sun. Mail (Brisbane) 13 Nov. 20/8: The respectable citizen might hear somebody arguing belligerently with a companion for his ‘corner,’ i.e., his share of the proceeds, and complaining bitterly that the other was trying to ‘put him on the blue,’ in other words, give him nothing.
take a blue (v.)

to drink a glass of absinthe.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 31 Dec. 14/1: In fact, no kind of liquor on this planet has such a wide range of slang equivalents [as absinthe]. The Parisian absinthe drinker usually talks of ‘taking a blue,’ ‘killing a worm,’ or ‘strangling a parrot.’.

SE in slang uses

In phrases