Historical Word Trivia

Orlan Smith shares with us the origins and original meanings of words that may have fallen into disuse or have been redefined over time.


Paint The Town Red

Many a celebrating individual has set out to “paint the town red.” So have lots of visiting conventioneers who would like to turn a convention into a spree. Why this color, always, instead of a green or blue foray once in a while?

One theory links red with the flame of pioneer villages set afire by marauding Indians. Somehow, it seems inappropriate to compare the notion of a high-rolling good time with watching a cluster of homes burn to the ground. A more plausible explanation suggests that fast action in red-light districts, or streets crowded with brothels, contributed to the development of the phrase.

Red is the color of excitement in so many cultures that they cannot be counted. So it is at least an even chance that the American who first spoke of painting the town red simply chose that expression as a way to express the notion of having a really exciting time.

Respectfully Submitted by
Orlan Smith