A 'blue zillion'

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Tue Dec 7 15:42:45 UTC 2004

"Blue" as in "cussing a blue streak" or British "screaming blue murder"?


David Bowie <db.list at PMPKN.NET> wrote:
---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: David Bowie
Subject: A 'blue zillion'

I recently had a student (army brat, so she doesn't have a cohesive
linguistic background) use the phrase "blue zillion", meaning "lots", in an
email to me. The relevant bit (including a typo from the original, ellipsis
points also in the original):

"I went to the library to look at for articles online, and i found
a blue zillion...i looked through some of them, but gave up and
went to look at the periodicals in the library."

Googling this, i get 61 (after duplicates are eliminated), most of which
unambiguously have this meaning, in both unhyphenated and hyphenated forms.
As a single compound word, Google gives me 13, only a few of which have this
meaning. (Only 3 non-duplicate ones with this meaning in the plural, both of
which have the form "blue zillions".)

An interesting hit is a letter that starts:

"I know you receive a blue zillion e-mails every day, so I've made
my third attempt a bit easier with an easy "yes and no" format."

The response to the letter (same page, ellipsis points in original) begins:

"A blue zillion? . . . . Well, not every day. Some days only a light
mauve billion, but others, a jungle-red gazillion. But who's
counting, right?"

No idea whether the playing with it in the response is evidence of playing
with a familiar form, or playing with a to-the-writer novel form.

Anyway, anyone else run across this?

David Bowie http://pmpkn.net/lx
Jeanne's Two Laws of Chocolate: If there is no chocolate in the
house, there is too little; some must be purchased. If there is
chocolate in the house, there is too much; it must be consumed.

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