Colour Idioms: White

This is part 4 of the series of blog posts on colour idioms and today we turn our attention to those using the adjective white.

Image by Mariano iPhotox Luchini from Pixabay

Let’s get started with as white as a sheet meaning extremely pale because you’re sick or experiencing a very strong emotion such as fear or anger.

– You’re as white as a sheet! What’s wrong?

– I think I’ve just seen a ghost!

Now, what do you call something absolutely useless, even though it costs a lot of money? In English, there’s a beautiful idiom for this sort of stuff – we call it a white elephant.

Image by Igor Schubin from Pixabay

Why? Well, white elephants have always been rare and therefore expensive and greatly valued by kings of South-East Asia who often kept them as pets. The kings of Siam are said to have used them to ruin people they disliked: they would simply give one to the unfortunate as a present. As you can imagine, elephants of all colours are not cheap to keep and, to make matters worse, white ones couldn’t be used as working animals because of their special status as symbols of power. So sooner or later the unwanted present inevitably forced the new owner into bankruptcy.

Nowadays we use this expression metaphorically.

The new shopping centre is another white elephant – with so many of them around the money would’ve been better spent on something more useful such as a sports centre or a hospital.

Image by Oldiefan from Pixabay

The next white idiom on our list is whiter than white.The idea behind this expression is that the colour white traditionally symbolizes purity and we use it to talk about people that are perfectly morally good and have never done anything bad.

Everyone says she’s whiter than white but something’s telling me you shouldn’t trust her.

The same idea of innocence lies behind white lies, in other words lies told to be polite or avoid hurting other people’s feelings.

Sometimes a white lie can do a much better job than brutal honesty.

And a couple of black-and-white idioms to build a bridge between today’s post and the next part of this series.

Image by Felix Mittermeier from Pixabay

To say that black is white means to say that something is true when it obviously isn’t.

He assured me that his new phone was a bargain, but the receipt he left on the table by mistake showed the shocking £1000. He’ll say that black is white to save himself.

Finally, a black and white situation or subject is one in which it’s easy to understand what is right and what is wrong.

Most things aren’t black and white. More often than not we have to deal with shades of grey.

That’s it for today. Hope you found this post useful. Next time we’ll be looking at some idioms with the colour black.

Bye for now!

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