Word for Wednesday: Blues

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Another year has flown past and we hope you have had a nice break and that your New Year’s resolutions are not too optimistic! The downside to the joviality of the winter holidays is that they must eventually come to an end, signaling our return to the daily grind and often, a case of the post-Christmas ‘blues’.

This is a phrase we hear every year. But can we really understand ‘the blues’? The meaning of the blues is an entirely separate enquiry and certainly, the notion of ‘having the blues’ is unique from person to person.

The word 'blues' to describe a kind of melancholy depression is commonly believed to originate with the hardship of the African American slaves at the turn of the 20th century. This is useful in marking the beginnings of blues music, which is characterized by ‘blue notes’ the flattened third and flattened seventh of a major scale. However, using the term ‘blues’ to describe a state of depression or sadness has been around much longer.

In the 17th century, it was widely believed that demons called ‘blue devils’ would linger around an individual plaguing them with sadness. One hundred years later, the first recorded use of the term ‘blues’ as an ailment was recorded. Almost two hundred years prior to the era most associated with the blues!

The post-Christmas blues don’t tend to stick around too long though, but in the meantime here is one of the greatest blues records and one chosen to represent mankind on NASA’s Voyager record.

07 Jan 2015
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