Project Blog Archive
Posted by Rachael Hamilton on the 28th of May 2013
A blue Monday is said to be depressing on account of having a full working week stretched out ahead. However, this sombre phrase once had a more positive meaning; referring to a day when people chose not to work, especially for a celebration or because they have overly indulged over the weekend (OED, Blue Monday noun). Originally found in German, blauer Montag was used as a synonym to refer to the earlier phrase gutter Montag ‘good Monday’. It has been argued that blauer Montag referred to a day of celebration before moving to the more specific meaning of the Monday before Lent (Taubach 1959, 332), a sense still current in languages other than English (Verspoor and de Bie-Kerékjártó 2006, 93).
The motivation for the colour blue in blue Monday is not entirely clear. However, if the above order of development is correct, it is possible that blue is used metonymically with reference to clothing. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries it was an accepted custom to wear blue clothing Sundays and holidays, and if Mondays were set aside as a day of celebration, people would have continued to wear their blue clothing (Taubach 1959, 332). This contrasts with the common interpretation of blue as a liturgical colour through the later connection with Lent. The metaphorical sense of blue meaning ‘drunkenness’ may have been influenced by blue Monday, particularly in reference to a day of recuperation after an excess of alcohol the day before. Completely unrelated to this meaning, blue Monday was also used to refer to a day of laundry due to the blueing agent used to combat yellowing and preserve the whiteness in fabrics.
The current use of blue Monday has acquired the metaphorical sense of ‘melancholy’ and ‘depression’ from blue. On analogy to blue Monday is black Monday, which is considered an unlucky day and can also refer to the day of the stock market crash on Monday 19th October 1987 (OED, Black Monday noun 3). Also in reference to the stock market is the blue Monday hypothesis, which claims investors are influenced by negative mood changes on a Monday and so invest less in high risk investments. Wherever the blue in blue Monday came from, numerous meaning extensions have developed the meaning from a day of celebration to the opposite meaning of a depressing working day.
The Oxford English Dictionary online (OED), <http://www.oed.co.uk> [accessed 8th May 2013]
Tubach, Frederic C. 1959. Notes on the Expression Blauer Montag. Modern Language Notes 74(4). 329-333.
Verspoor, Marjolijn H. and Ágnes de Bie-Kerékjártó. 2006. Colorful Bits of Experience: From Bluestocking to Blue Movie. English Studies 87 (1). 78-98.