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The Blues

Posted by Elyse Bruce on July 21, 2010

Washington Irving is credited with having first used the term “the blues” in 1807, as a synonym for melancholy:

“He conducted his harangue with a sigh, and I saw he was still under the influence of a whole legion of the blues.”

His usage was a shortening of the phrase “the blue devils” which was a synonym that goes back to at least Elizabethan times to describe a baleful presence.

That being said, the word “blue” was used by Chaucer in his poem,  Complaint of Mars — a transitional work that finds its fulfillment in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales — to represent woe.  The poem itself was written some time between 1375 and 1385. 

The idiom was reinforced by the belief that anxiety and sadness produced a blue cast to the skin of those individuals affected by sadness that lingers.


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