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I drowned in the search results of articles using "Color me confused" phrase.

What is its meaning and origin?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

"Colour me (something)" means the same as "call me (something)", typically, "colour me stupid" or "colour me gone".

Green's Slang Dictionary has "color" (US) as "to see, present as", and the first citation is for an advertisement for a television series (I'm Dickens He's Fenster) in 1962 "Color her married".

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Meaning

These are the closest definitions:

verb (used with object)
23. to cause to appear different from the reality: In order to influence the jury, he colored his account of what had happened.
24. to give a special character or distinguishing quality to: His personal feelings color his writing.


Origin

"Colour" as an verb goes back a long way, etymonline.com tells us:

The verb is from late 14c.; earliest use is figurative.

The more recent "colour me [adjective]" usage seems to have taken off around 1962, although I found one reference from 1925.

"Color me confused"

"Color me confused" can be found in a 1962 Newsweek article about colouring books:

("I am a patient. My analyst. says I am confused and abstract. Color me confused and abstract")

And from a 1964 Flying Magazine piece about colourful sectional charts:

“I am a Week-end Pilot. I have a Sectional Chart. Color me confused."

Earlier in the same article:

What a shock I got when I spread the chart out; it looked like a child's coloring book.


"Colour me [a metaphoric colour]"

Thomas W. Hanshew's 1910 The man of the forty faces:

"Oh, colour me blue ! Them beauties ? And in London ? I'd give a tanner for a strong cup o' tea ! "

A 1962 Marketing/communications:

Muldoon and the plaid promotion "Color me green," said Montague Muldoon, slumping into the spare chair in our office.

A 1962 Newsweek:

A Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev coloring book, brought out last week, contained such gems as "I am Nikita Khrushchev. Color me red."

A 1962 The New York Times Book Review:

Color Me Red "THOSE adult coloring books I are becoming more and more like political broadsides.


Literal use in children's colouring books

I didn't find any "color me [adjective]" variants in the 1950s, however this 1946 Grade Teacher instructs children:

Color me brown and green and red.

Color me brown and green and red.


Misc

"Color me" has some other meanings. For example from 1925:

... to creep into my mind, to color me to its purposes.

From 1810:

in order to color me to the Jury, as a person of of the most abandoned and worthless principles

And a second from the same book:

instruct his counsel to color me in such terms to them

Here's an unusual one from 1839's Tortesa, the Usurer, a play by Nathaniel Parker Willis (p.246 here), that seems to mean "Pass me that water!":

"Color me that water!"

The 1832 A dictionary of the Welsh language, explained in English by William Owen Pughe explains:

The colourist would make me glad; may God colour me a grey

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1  
The earliest "color me [not-a-color]" in the OED is from 1963: "See me on the first page with a clean uniform... Color me eager." –  Hugo Jun 21 '13 at 11:20

It's an extension of older common phrases like "color me pink" (that is to say, "I'm embarrassed -- imagine me blushing") or "color me green" ("I'm envious"). Obviously, since there are no color associations for emotional states like confusion, the extension of that phrase is a bit tortured -- but it gains a bit of a comedic aspect from that torture.

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I believe this expression was popularized by the singing group The Winstons, with their hit song "Color him Father". Check it out on YouTube.

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