2

I've looked on google and so far I can only find definitions and usage examples. I'm particularly curious where the 'blue' comes from as 'ruin' makes intuitive sense

4

According to Green's Dictionary of Slang, "blue ribbon," at one point meant "the very best gin," and later came to mean gin in general.

a blue ribbon worn as a badge of honour; thus referring to the quality of the best gin

[early 19C] gin.

Green attributes this as a precursor to blue ruin, for the ruinous effect of particularly bad gin on a person's health.

The earliest uses I can find in either OED or Google Books are instances of the term being defined as simply gin in slang dictionaries.

Blue ruin: gin.

  • Lexicon balatronicum: a dictionary of buckish slang, university wit, and pick pocket eloquence · 1st edition, 1811 (1 vol.). London
  • Thanks - that seems to make sense - the idea that bad gin was the 'best' at driving you to ruin - do you know anything about accents of the lower classes at the time? I'm curious if there was some kind rhyming slang going on with ribbon and ruin – Edna Jul 21 '17 at 2:42
  • @Edna I'm not sure, but an earlier variant of "ribbon" was "riband," which you could argue sounds like "ruined," to some extent. You can hear the pronunciation here: macmillandictionary.com/us/pronunciation/british/blue-riband – RaceYouAnytime Jul 21 '17 at 3:02

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