These Colours Don't Run

Alxmrphi

Senior Member
UK English
Someone from WR just showed me some lyrics, with "these colours don't run" in the context of a flag, and I said that it was about the colours not running into one another and that's what it must mean.

Then he showed me the rest of the lyrics and it said "these colours don't run from cold bloody war" - and I looked on Google Images and saw a picture of the American flag and the same quote, so I assume it's an expression I didn't already know.

My question is, does it refer to running colours, and they hold strong, in the sense of painting a flag, the colours don't "run" ?

Is this what is meant in the expression?
 
  • AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Hi Alex,

    I looked up those lyrics and read them.

    They're essentially a metaphor, using a twist on the word, "run."

    You can use that word to literally mean that a color is "colorfast" - it won't bleed its color into another color in the cloth - and you can also use it to mean that a person won't "run" - meaning retreat from an enemy in the time of war.

    That song, or poem, is about a group of protesters who come to burn the flag.

    An old soldier steps up and tells them he had relatives who died in wars to protect their rights to do that - he himself was injured fighting for that very cause: to continue to live in freedom.

    But then he also says he's not going to let them show disrespect and he stands up to them...he doesn't run.

    Instead of his words and attitude creating a breakout of violence, it has the opposite effect. He subdues the crowd and they change their minds about what they came there to do.

    It's about brave men who don't turn and "run" when there's a good cause to stand and fight for.

    I've never heard of this particular item before today.

    This is just my interpretation of it, having just read it.

    HERE


    AngelEyes
     

    Mlle Smith

    Senior Member
    US, English
    It's simply a play on words...as actual colors can "run" or "bleed" into each other...."these colors don't run" when used by soldiers simply means "we are not cowards"...we don't back down or run. I haven't heard this phrase since bootcamp, so it was kind of funny to see it here, of all places. :0)
     

    kkamannn

    Senior Member
    US of A (Inglés)
    They are correct. It is a creative and poetic play on words. The song is saying that the flag, with it's red, white, and blue colors, won't run away....or put another way, whoever is carrying the flag won't retreat from the fight.

    "These colors" = flag carried by army
    "don't run" = won't retreat
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    That's right, Thomas. When talking about the actual colors in our flag running together, that would be the bleeding of one color into the other.

    In this poem, they change the meaning of "run" somewhat to mean actually running away from the enemy in an act of cowardice.

    Same word, different meaning.



    AngelEyes
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I like that!

    It's actually a double play on words, isn't it...
    Colours = (1) hues (2) flag;
    run = (1) run into one another (2) run away
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Yes, Loob,

    That's exactly what we call it over here:

    A play on words. :)

    As if everyone who studies English doesn't have enough to keep straight!

    That's why I'm always impressed with those who learn it.



    AngelEyes
     
    This phrase has been used a lot in post 9-11 America. I've seen it on T-shirts, bumper stickers, etc. For me it has a conservative connotation, as in America will fight to the death, justification of the war on terror, that type of thing. And clearly in US English it would be 'colors'.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Yes, Loob,

    That's exactly what we call it over here:

    A play on words.

    Hi AngelEyes: the point I was making was that the play on words is a double one...

    But at least we've proved that AmE and BrE have one phrase in common!

    Loob
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Hi Loob,

    Okay, I see what you're saying.:)

    Colors/Colours symbolize the soldiers themselves, while the colors won't "run" from wash & wear, and neither will the fighting men.

    But did you read the poem all the way through?

    The old soldier had one bullet left in his gun and he challenged the crowd and said "You try to burn this flag and I'll shoot you down."

    Yikes, can you imagine if that happened today?

    I've not seen this "slogan" at all where I live.


    AngelEyes
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Double-triple-quadruple-yikes.

    I may like the play on words, but when you put it on a T-shirt it's no longer linguistic, it's political...
     
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