Paint the town red
To paint the town red is to exhibit riotous behaviour and has come to mean simply enjoying an exuberant night out.
Example: Let’s go out tonight and paint the town red.
Most early examples of the phrase in print appeared in the United States. This strongly suggests that the expression originated in America. However, its precise history isn’t known. It is thought that the phrase might be a reference to the use of brothels and to men behaving as if an entire town were a red light district. Another theory is that the expression refers to an occasion in 1837 when the Marquis of Waterford and his friends ran riot in the town of Melton Mowbray, England, painting the toll-bar and several buildings red.
In the red
To be in the red is to be in debt.
Example: After paying all of my bills, I found myself in the red.
The expression refers to the fact that banks and businesses often use red print to signify a financial loss or negative balance.
Red tape is an expression which refers to excessively complex rules or annoying bureaucracy that impedes action or decision making.
Example: There was a great deal of red tape to plough through before we could gain planning permission.
It is believed that the use of this phrase dates back to the 16th century Spanish administration of Charles V. He initiated the practice of using red tape to bind the most important dossiers that required the immediate attention of the Council of State. Other documents and dossiers were bound with string.
A grey area is something which is unclear, without precise rules or a matter of debate.
Example: It would be best to consult a lawyer regarding whether dating a co-worker is appropriate as this is a grey area.
Situations which are governed by clear, unambiguous laws are usually referred to as being black and white. The colour grey is a combination of black and white. Grey areas are therefore those where clear distinctions cannot be made or where the rights and wrongs of the situation cannot be easily clarified.
Over to you!
What colourful idioms do you use? Perhaps you have green fingers or maybe you are the black sheep of the family! Colours lend depth of meaning to sayings and phrases. We’d be tickled pink if you’d let us know about any weird, wonderful or obscure yet colourful expressions that you use. Even if they are your own inventions!