"blue"(English)=obscene. Why "green" in Spanish?

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Wed Jul 21 02:25:35 UTC 2004

>We can all ascertain that "blue" was used in English since the 1820's(and
>before) to mean "obscene."  See Michael Quinion's excellent write up at
>A poster says that his Spanish teacher in High School told the class that
>in Spanish they use "green" to mean obscene.
>.... Is the poster correct about Spanish?

Yes. As for the fine semantic distinctions, I can only plead gross
ignorance of Spanish.

I find this sense of "verde" in the on-line Spanish Royal Academy
dictionary from 1852 on, but not in the 1843 edition.

>If so, why the color difference?

I don't know. Compare also "pinku" = "pink" in Japanese which is somewhat
comparable .... e.g., "pinku eiga" = "pink movie[s]" refers more-or-less to
soft-core pornography as I understand it ... something like "blue movie[s]"
in English.

According to my naive and casual speculation, the Spanish "verde" =
"obscene" may arise from a sense like "youthful"/"vigorous", thence

Again from ignorance, I speculate that the Japanese "pinku" might refer
simply to skin, or to blushing skin maybe (a less mentionable possibility
which might seem superficially plausible to some is actually unlikely IMHO).

The English "blue" is harder for me to explain offhand and I can't add
anything to Quinion's piece right now.

Corrections are welcome as always.

-- Doug Wilson

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