Am I Blue?

The sky is blue. A police officer's uniform is blue. But some blue things don't look very blue. The images on this page are examples of not-so-blue 'blue' items. Can you identify them correctly? Hint: All have 'blue' in their names.


1. Blue-collar workers are manual laborers - factory workers, miners, and construction workers. The "blue" in their title refers to the traditional color of the work clothes they wear on the job. Wage-earning blue-collar workers are often contrasted with salaried white-collar workers who have less-physical jobs in offices.

"Blue collar" is a fairly recent term: It entered the English language just after World War II. "White collar" dates from about 1920.

2. Bluegrass music emerged in the United States after World War II. It is a descendant of the popular string-band music played in the 1920s. The banjo, mandolin, and fiddle are staples in bluegrass music. It has a syncopated rhythm and was influenced by jazz and blues. (See No. 4)

Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs made the twangy sound popular in the mid-1940s, and by the late 1940s a number of bands were playing the music. Bill Monroe's group gave the music its name: They were the Blue Grass Boys, after the Bluegrass Region of north-central Kentucky, Monroe's home state.

Settlers had seeded this meadowed region of Kentucky with Asian and European strains of bluegrass, of which there are 250 varieties. By the 1800s it was called Kentucky bluegrass because there were so many bluegrass pastures. The grass is actually bluish green.

3. Blue cheese (also "bleu cheese," after the French) is marbled with bluish or greenish veins of mold. During cheesemaking, special mold spores are added. The newly made cheese is allowed to "ripen" in moist caves for three to six months. During this time, mold grows in the irregular openings in the cheese. Most blue cheeses are made from cow's milk, but Roquefort - the oldest of the blue cheeses - is made from sheep's milk. (Roquefort dates back to the time of Pliny the Elder in ancient Rome; it is mentioned in his book of AD 79.)

Some other well-known blue cheeses are Bleu de Bresse (France), Blue Cheshire (England), and Gorgonzola (Italy). Who was the first to eat moldy cheese and like it? No one knows.

4. The blues (or, more specifically here, the Blues Brothers). The photo shows Jim Belushi leaping during the halftime show at Super Bowl XXXI in New Orleans last year. He is joined by John Goodman (left) and Dan Akroyd (right).

As a musical form, the blues may have evolved from "field hollers," which were used as a means of communication among black plantation slaves in the American South. In the late 1800s, "country blues" were sung in the Mississippi Delta region. Male singers were accompanied on a guitar.

Blues music contains many "blue notes," half-flatted notes that fall between major and minor pitch. "Blue" and "the blues" have been used to indicate sadness since the mid-1700s, but no one knows why.

Blues music was popularized by bandleader W.C. Handy. In the 1900s, he published blues songs that won wide acclaim. Jazz, classical music, and many rock, folk, and country compositions are influenced by blues music.

5. Deep Blue is an RS/6000 SP-based supercomputer that was designed to play chess at the grandmaster level. The computer was put together at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. At first, its name was Chiptest. In 1993 it was renamed Deep Blue.

In 1996, Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov beat Deep Blue in a six-game match, 4 games to 2. But in a 1997 rematch, a more powerful Deep Blue defeated Kasparov 3-1/2 games to 2-1/2.

Deep Blue can process 200 million possible chess moves per second. The computer's technology is being developed to help clean up toxic-waste sites, design cars, and forecast the weather.

6. A blue blood is a person of royal descent. The phrase is thought to come from the literal translation of the Spanish term sangre azul (blue blood).

This term applied to some of the oldest and proudest families in the Spanish region of Castile in central Spain. They claimed that they never intermarried with dark-skinned Moors (who conquered Spain in the early 700s and were finally driven out in 1492), Jews, or other non-Castilians.

The expression is thought to have derived from the fact that Castilians' pale skin had a bluish cast from veins close to the surface in their faces and hands.

The photo shows Great Britain's King George V and Queen Mary in 1936. They were Queen Elizabeth II's grandparents.

7. Blue-chip stocks are those of well-known, substantial companies that have good track records in earnings and price stability. They are considered stable investments and usually are high-priced. They are called blue chips after the chips used for betting in poker. Blue-colored chips are the ones with the highest value, often followed by red chips and then white ones. The term blue chip was first applied to stocks about 1904.

8. A blue moon (as in "once in a blue moon," a very long time) has two possible origins. One theory holds that a blue moon refers to the second full moon in a month. This happens twice a year during non-leap years, but does not explain why it's a "blue" moon. Another theory is that occasionally the moon has a bluish or even a greenish cast because of atmospheric conditions. Smoke from forest fires or haze from volcanic eruptions can make the moon look different.

Leroy Doggett of the US Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., says the term may relate to sightings of bluish moons in ancient or medieval times.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.