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To scream blue murder is to shout loudly and make a huge fuss, sometimes with the implication that the fuss is excessive. But does anyone know why murder should be blue?

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Funny, I've always heard it as "scream bloody murder." –  Robusto Jan 15 '11 at 20:05
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@Robusto, perhaps then 'blue' is a euphemism for 'bloody'? –  Brian Hooper Jan 16 '11 at 13:14
    
Perhaps, although it's also possible each evolved independently. –  Robusto Jan 16 '11 at 13:57
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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

According to this, it comes from the French curse word "morbleu", which in turn is a euphemism for "mort de Dieu" (i.e. "death of God"). Most French profanity involves blasphemy.

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Thank you, splicer. –  Brian Hooper Jan 16 '11 at 19:33
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To add to @splicer's answer, the word blue was used in England back in the 17th century to describe someone who looked terrified. This is documented in Francis Grose's 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue:

to be confounded, terrified, or disappointed

and also recorded in John Ogilvie's Supplement to the Imperial dictionary: English, technological, and scientific.

Which is why it is probably used to scream blue (terrified) murder.

William J. Scott in the Scott's monthly magazine, Volume 4, Issues 1-6 (1867) offers an explanation to why blue is used and not another colour:

brimstone burns with a bluish flame, and hell is represented as being full of burning brimstone.

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@user7156, thank you. You may be on to something there. –  Brian Hooper Apr 9 '11 at 9:38
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Blue Murder is to murder someone of royal, blue, blood.

Murdering a royal is a hard crime to get away with.

To scream blue murder is to denounce someone has murdered a royal or at least accuse them of a heinous crime that they think they had gotten away with.

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While this is plausible, it really needs some kind of source rather than a flat assertion. –  Peter Taylor Dec 3 '11 at 8:50
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Yes, I'd also like to see some backup material. If I were going by blind speculation, I would have guessed that "blue" replaced "bloody" because bloody was too profane for certain audiences. –  mickeyf Dec 3 '11 at 19:15
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