Lesson 13: Colors

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"Colors" - English Vocabulary

It’s fall in New England. It’s that time you hear the leaves on the tree turn beautiful shade of red or autumn yellow. I thought this was a good time and place to share the next few expressions with you.

The first is “to pass with flying colours”. This means to do very well on a test. So if you have a friend who scores high on a test or exam, you can congratulate on him or her and say “Good job! I heard you passed with flying colours”. Sometimes you might hear a variation “to come through with flying colours”.

“To pass with flying colours”, “to come through with flying colours”- it means the same thing.
Now you may wonder where the expression comes from. It’s connected to sailing.

Picture a military ship. When it sailed home to a port, it raised the flag to show that was a victory in the battle.

The next expression is also connected to sailing. Now flags are what identify a ship. And an American ship sails under the flag of the United States, and a British ship sails under the flag of Great Britain, and a pirate ship sails under the black flag with a skull in crossroads. In fact is that the pirate ship that is from a distance might appear peaceful and friendly, but when it comes closely and raise the pirate flag, you know it to be dangerous. The expression “to show one’s true colors” means to review what you’re really like, to show your true character. So if you show your true colors, you do something or say something to raise initial impression and now you show what you’re really like as a person. That could be a good thing or a bad thing.

The final expression is also connected to colors but one specific one “red”. We say “to be in the red” means to be in death. And if you are “out of the death”, you’re out of the red.

To be “in the red” and “out of the red”. This expression comes from a day when bookkeeping was done by hand. And red ink or red pen was used to show a negative amount. So if business was going bad and company was losing money, they used red ink to show the money was being lost, “to be in the red”.

Okay. Let’s review these expressions.
What’s the expression?
(v.) to do very well on a test
Pass with flying colours

What’s the expression?
(v.) to show what one is really like as a person
Show one’s true colors

What’s the expression?
(v.) to be in debt, owe more money than what you have
(be) in the red.

What’s the expression?
(v.) to be out of debt, no longer owe money.
(be) out of the red.

Let’s try an exercise.
Complete each statement with one of the new expressions. Each expression will be used only once.

1. Read the statement to yourself, and then I will tell you the answer.
(use the verb in the simple past)
We used to think that our neighbor across the street was cold and uncaring. But when our house burned down, he showed his true colors by inviting us to stay in his home.

2. Business is better this month but we’re not out of the red yet. The company will need more time to pay back all that it owes.

3. (use the verb in the simple past)
Paulo’s knowledge of English is very good, and his math skills are excellent. It’s not surprising that he passed the GMAT with flying colors.

4. Kathy and Bob had to pay high medical bills this month. Even with their two paychecks, they are in the red.

That’s all for now. Thanks for watching and Happy Studies!

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