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


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 Jul 21 '17 at 3:02
  • Purely based on my opinion researching another name (english.stackexchange.com/questions/163917/…), I would venture to guess that it was because of the popularity of the gin. A blue ribbon winner would have been a craze, which may have led to its popularity being its own downfall. As public pressure against gin grew, its popularity as a blue ribbon winner might have worked against it leading to loss of sales, etc, which then led to poorer quality, cheaper product, etc., etc. This is just me merely speculating though.
    – Tucker
    May 24 at 11:58

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