“Off-color”, as in humor: Where does the term come from?

Can anyone tell me the origin of the term “off-color”? Not the wikipedia history (I read it) but why the term was coined that way? Does it refer to “blue” as in “blue movie”? In India, apparently, the same kind of humor is called “non-veg” humor… a lot of the population is vegetarian there so meaty is not to all tastes. In Philadelphia they say “green jokes”… as in feeling a little green? And in Australia “‘A bit crook’, means “… a little ill/sick or a little ‘off colour’.” Source: The Free Dictionary Word of the Day discussion. Link also includes an off-colour joke.

All in all, it seems to refer to jokes that are slightly sickening and make the face turn a different color. However, the fun thing about origins is that nobody ever agrees. Seems that the first recorded use of it refers to diamonds. Those that were not pure white were “off colour” and less valuable, according to the online etymology dictionary.

I like to think of my own humor as “unpasturized”. It is generally better for you than the lifeless boiled-to-death variety, but occasionally it may contain diseases that eat away at your face.

I feel there’s a big difference between “off color”, even physically revolting,  humor, and humor that is just hurtful, stupid hate speech.

I have never understood people who write "wash me" on other people's car windows. Why do they care? But this is much worse. "SWAG". "Homo". "I <3 Farts"... even if this is just a few straight friends teasing another straight friend, it's stupid, homophobic and purile.

I have never understood people who write “wash me” on other people’s car windows. Why do they care? But this is much worse. “SWAG” (secretly we are gay). “Homo”. “I heart farts”… whoever did this thinks there’s something wrong / embarrassing about being gay, even if they are just teasing a straight friend, or kicking it in the dorm parking lot with some drunk buddies at night.

stickfamilyzombiehonorstudent

“Nobody cares about your stupid stick figure family” and “My zombie ate your honor student”. Yes, this I like. I would be proud if my kid did well at school. But only an annoyingly proud mother puts a “My child was student of the month at blah blah blah” sticker on their people mover. It’s sorta nausiatingly sweet and I enjoy seeing someone making fun of it.

See, the person in the SUV above is clearly a mother… there’s even a child seat in the back. The difference is self-consciousness, or context. For example, a Jewish person making fun of their family’s oddities is funny. A Christian talking about the same family as a reason why “they” are “different” is another. Satire mimics the target to expose their hypocrisy. Mockery is bullying.

… and that’s 90 minutes I should have spent writing a script I spent blogging instead. Gone!

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One Response to ““Off-color”, as in humor: Where does the term come from?”

  1. shans99 Says:

    I feel old. I had no idea swag had that connotation. I’ve only ever heard it in a hip-hop sense, ie style, swagger. Reminds me of the time I wrote “FTW” (for the win) on the chalk board and the kids freaked out because to them, it meant “fuck the world.”

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