The idiom “black and blue” means to be badly bruised. It is often used to describe the physical injuries that can result from violence, such as being beaten or hit. In the African American experience in America, the idiom has a particularly strong resonance, as it has been used to describe the physical and emotional abuse that black people have often been subjected to.
The idiom “black and blue” also plays out in black music in other ways. For example, the term “blues” is often used to describe a type of music that is characterized by its melancholy and sadness. The blues is often seen as a reflection of the African American experience, and the idiom “black and blue” can be seen as a metaphor for the pain and suffering that black people have experienced. For example, the song “Black and Blue” by Nina Simone is a powerful exploration of the experience of racism and violence. The song’s lyrics describe the singer’s body as being “black and blue” from the “beatings” that she has received. The song is a powerful indictment of the racism and violence that black people have faced in America.
Origin of the idiom black and blue
The origin of the idiom “black and blue” is not entirely clear. Some sources say that it may have originated in the 16th century, when it was used to describe the bruises that were often inflicted during punishment. Others believe that the idiom may have originated even earlier, in the 14th century, when it was used to describe the appearance of someone who had been beaten with a club.
There is also that connection with the history of slavery in the United States.
The earliest recorded use of the phrase is in a 1542 poem by John Heywood, who wrote:
“He that feeleth his owne skinne blacke and blewe, Knoweth what it is to be beaten true.”
The Shakespeare connection
In Act 1, Scene 3 of Twelfth Night, Sir Toby Belch and Maria are discussing the arrival of Sir Andrew Aguecheek, a foolish young knight who Sir Toby has invited to Illyria. Sir Toby plans to “fool” Sir Andrew, and he tells Maria that he “will fool him black and blue.”
Sir Toby Belch: “A foolish knight”! Wherefore “foolish”? Doth he not speak well?
Maria: Well, well; but to the matter. In short, sir, I hear she hath taken a great aversion to you, and that she’ll have nothing to do with you.
Sir Toby Belch: “Aversion”? “Aversion”? Why, she never saw me in her life!
Maria: Yes, but you must not think to beguile her. She’s a shrewd young lady, and she’ll play you foul. She’ll put you down and fool you black and blue, before you have done with her.
The phrase “black and blue” is used here in a literal sense, to mean that Sir Toby will physically bruise Sir Andrew. However, the phrase can also be used figuratively to mean that Sir Toby will humiliate or embarrass Sir Andrew.
The phrase “black and blue” appears in Act 5, Scene 5 of Shakespeare’s play The Merry Wives of Windsor. The line is spoken by Falstaff, who is describing how he has been beaten by the wives of Windsor.
The phrase “black and blue” is used here in a literal sense, to mean that Falstaff has been bruised and injured. However, the phrase also means that Falstaff is feeling humiliated and embarrassed.
The phrase is a reminder of the power of the women of Windsor, and it also shows how much Falstaff has underestimated them.
Here is the full quotation from the play:
“Falstaff: [Enter Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Page.] Well, I am peppered, I warrant you; beaten black and blue.
Mistress Ford: Nay, you shall hear our mind. We have sent to London to your Master Brook, and he is coming post with Master Page to take up your quarrel.”
Black and blue in literature
In The Great Gatsby Tom Buchanan’s black and blue knuckle is an example that demonstrates chaos. In the following scene, Daisy accuses Tom of hurting and beating her:
“ ‘Look!’ she complained. ‘I hurt it.’ We all looked – the knuckle was black and blue. ‘You did it, Tom,’ she said accusingly. ‘I know you didn’t mean to but you DID do it” However, she still views his harmful actions as accidental, which brings attention to her constant ability and choice to forgive him.
In The Invisible Man by Ralph Elliston, the song, “What Did I Do to Be So Black and Blue?” plays in the narrator’s mind throughout the novel. The novel explores the state of African American life at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. The blues is a form of African American folk music with lyrics that lament the hardships and pain of life. In the novel, the blues are characterized by Louis Armstrong’s “What Did I Do to Be So Black and Blue?”
Black and blue in music
“Black and blue” is a favourite theme in African American music, echoing the mistreatment of slaves but with a strong metaphorical meaning– blue music and its relevance to black people. Some of that music:
Louis Armstrong “What Did I Do to Be So Black and Blue?”
Nina Nesbitt “ Black and Blue”
“Black and Blue” is a 1929 jazz piece by Fats Waller with lyrics by Harry Brooks and Andy Razaf: “Cold empty bed, springs hard as lead / Feel like Old Ned, wish I was dead / All my life through, I’ve been so black and blue “
Lyle Lovatt, “Black and Blue”
“It’s Saturday night
You check the TV guide
And pray the black and white
Can keep you satisfied
She had yellow hair
She had high-heel shoes
She red the whole affair
And left you black and blue”
Elijah Blake, “Black and Blue”
Using “black and blue”
The idiom “black and blue” is a colorful and evocative way to describe someone who is bruised or injured. It is a phrase that has been used for centuries, and it continues to be used in popular culture today.It can be used in a variety of sentences. For example, you could say:
- I fell off my bike and I’m all black and blue.
- I’m so tired of being beaten black and blue.
- The boxer was black and blue after the fight.
- The child’s face was black and blue after being abused
It could also be used metaphorically
- . I’m black and blue from fighting to save my job.
- By the time her divorce came through she was black and blue and had to take a holiday.
- You didn’t tell me that if I took him on in courft I would end ujp black and blue.