• blue-sky •
Pronunciation: blu-skai • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective, Transitive verb
Meaning: 1. [Adjective] Unrealistically optimistic, pie-in-the-sky, as blue-sky estimates of profits. 2. [Adjective] Worthless, of no value, unprofitable, as blue-sky property or stock. 3. [Verb] To subject a stock to the blue-sky laws of a state, designed to protect the public from fraudulent, overoptimistic promises made to sell stock or other property.
Notes: We all cringe when a beautiful word with pleasant connotations is used to refer to the nefarious, but today's Good Word is just that. On the one hand, it refers to an overly optimistic simple-mindedness, as blue-sky hopes for the future, which implies no evil. However, it also has a legal sense, suggesting the use of overly optimistic promises known to be false to make a sale. This tactic has led to blue-sky laws to protect the public from fraud. By the way, the verb has forms: (s/he) blue-skies, (is) blue-skying, or blue-skied. No paronyms, though.
In Play: The original meaning of this good word suggests simple simple-mindedness: "Dietrich's blue-sky idea of making money by selling pet rocks has everyone at the office laughing." However, using blue-sky figures to sell stock is far from simple-minded from the seller's perspective: "Having been convicted under the state's blue-sky laws, Miss Deeds will be seeing few blue skies for the next two years.
Word History: The conversion of this phrase to a word was motivated by the metaphorical use of the phrase to refer to a perfect day with no clouds, no rain. Notice that clouds (a dark and cloudy past) are associated with displeasure if not misdeeds, as is rain (don't rain on my parade). A blue sky indicates no problems, happiness, clear sailing in a sun-lit TV commercial, where the solution to any problem is only a purchase away. (We hope Bruce Spicer of McNees, Wallace & Nurik Law Firm in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is enjoying blue skies today—real ones. We thank him for suggesting this innocent word that unwittingly became a legal term for misbehavior.)