Friday, May 9, 2008

A Horse of a Different Color

The common meaning of the colloquial expression, “Now, that’s a horse of a different color,” means, “That’s something else,” or “That’s another matter entirely.” For example, if someone says, “I thought that he's her husband but in fact he's her brother—well, now that’s a horse of a different color,” means “the fact that he’s her brother is another matter entirely.” The phrase is commonly believed to have derived from a phrase coined by Shakespeare, who wrote “a horse of that color” (Twelfth Night, Act 2, Scene 3), meaning “the same matter” rather than a different one. Eventually, though, the phrase came to mean difference rather than similarity.

A number of additional colloquialisms have spun off this original expression:

Stick to your colors, meaning hold on to your view or opinion despite what others may say.
He’s shown his true colors, meaning his real or true self has been revealed, often used to suggest a person who’s been dissembling in a negative sense.
He used colorful language, meaning he varied his expression, often employing ribald or raunchy word choice.
A colorful story, meaning a story told with many lively, engaging, and picturesque details.
A colorful personality, meaning a person whose personality or behavior is generally interesting to people.
My view may be colored somewhat, meaning my view may be biased or prejudiced in some particular way.

Many, many popular songs have colors in their titles, but how many use the actual word “color” in their title, and in what sense? Some songs use the word "color" to refer to an actual color or colors, while other meanings of “color” are more elusive, but in general refer to what is “real” or “true,” as in Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors.” Here are a few songs that use the word color in various ways:

Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair – Nina Simone
Rose Colored Glasses – John Conlee
Coat of Many Colors – Dolly Parton
Color Me Once – Violent Femmes
She Comes in Colors – Love
Colors – The Oak Ridge Boys
True Colors – Cyndi Lauper
Forbidden Colors – Ryuichi Sakamoto (David Sylvain, vocal; from the soundtrack to Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence)
Color My World – Chicago
Colour My World – Petula Clark
The Colour of My Love – Celine Dion
Any Colour You Like – Pink Floyd
Colours – Donovan

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