A 'blue zillion'

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Dec 7 17:23:04 UTC 2004

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

I'd guess the "blue streak" is related to the color of "blue movies",
etc., while the color in "screaming blue murder" is a euphemistic
replacement for "bloody murder", but I doubt that "blue zillion" is
connected with either of these.


>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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