En vedette

lundi 15 mars 2010


Le présent billet a été rédigé par Jonathan Goldberg, que je remercie.

The 82nd Oscar Awards Ceremony took place last week on Hollywood Boulevard, five minutes from my home in Los Angeles. As is the custom every year, the guests made their way to their seats by crossing a red carpet.

This custom is inspired by the English expressions: “to roll out the red carpet” or “to give someone red-carpet treatment.” One definition of red carpet given by Webster’s New World College Dictionary is “a very grand or impressive welcome and entertainment” and “to roll out the red carpet” as “to welcome and entertain in a grand and impressive style”.

Other expressions and idioms contain the word “red”:

Like a red rag to a bull. This denotes any words or actions which infuriate someone. e.g. When he was reminded of his criminal record, it was like a red rag to a bull. The origin of the term red rag dates to the late 17th century. It first denoted a tongue. The Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1785 contains the following quotation: "Shut your potato trap, and give your red rag a holiday." (The expression shut your trap is still used in “vulgar” speech today.)

A related expression is to see red, meaning to become enraged.

• A red letter day refers to a significant day. The term originates in church lore and became popular with the appearance in 1549 of the first Book of Common Prayer in which the calendar showed special holy days in red ink. Red letter days were days for rejoicing and celebration.

To raise a red flag means to alert someone to a danger. It is now commonly used in a commercial context, e.g. The sales figures for last month raise a red flag.

A red under every bed – This expression is a vestige of McCarthyism in the USA. Senator Joseph McCarthy (1908-1957) led a witch-hunt from the late 1940s to the late 1950s against anyone suspected of belonging to the Communist Party. The Communists were known as “Reds”, on account of the color of the Communist Flag. The expression a red under every bed denoted the widespread atmosphere of suspicion that McCarthyism engendered.

To paint the town red means to celebrate with much festivity and merriment.

Red tape denotes excessive bureaucracy or an exaggerated reliance on rules. To cut the red tape means to overcome those bureaucratic obstacles.

To catch someone red-handed means to catch someone while he/she is committing a crime or a misdeed, or has just committed one (flagrans crimen). The metaphor is that of a murderer caught with blood on his hands.

Jonathan Goldberg

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