Printable Version
Pronunciation: bluz Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, plural

Meaning: 1. (The blues) A state of melancholy, mild depression, sadness. 2. (The blues) A style of melancholy jazz based on southern black music, distinguished by a strong 4/4 rhythm, flatted thirds and sevenths, and a 12-bar structure. 3. A characteristic hallucination supposedly seen by a deliriously drunken person.

Notes: The final S on this word is to make it sound like a disease or syndrome in a class with measles, mumps, and pox (pock-s, as in the pock marks pox leaves on the skin). The adjective is the normal blue as in, "I'm feeling kinda blue today."

In Play: Today's word is perhaps most closely associated now with the jazz style today, although the emotional sense antedates it: "Rusty Horne blew a mean blues cornet in the Catbird Combo for nearly forty years." The musical sense widely overlaps the emotional state known as 'the blues': "Now don't start singing the blues to me, Maribel, but I lost my job today." This husband must be feeling really blue today.

Word History: Today's Good Word is a reduction of "the blue devils", a phrase indicating a state of emotional dysfunction or despondency. Blue devil may be used in the singular: "The blue devil must have invented this machine!" Devil is cousin to German Teufel, Icelandic djfull, Swedish djävul, and Danish djvel. In Greek we find diabolos "slanderer" from the same PIE source, used to render Hebrew satan in translating the Bible. Greek diabolos is a noun based on diaballein "to slander", comprising dia- "across" + ballein "to throw, hurl". Greek ballein shares an origin with English ball, the round object that we throw and not the dance. (Lest we make Albert Skiles blue from our lack of appreciation, let's all thank him now for recommending today's historically fascinating Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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