User: It's a shame this answer was the accepted one, when it lacks detail, and doesn't address any of the ways that such a request from a recruiter could be cause for concern (or how to mitigate the associated risks).

Author: Brevity is the soul of wit. If you want the best way to mitigate the associated risks, paint yourself blue, face magnetic north, and waive [sic] a phillips head screwdriver your resume before sending it out. That will work just as well as any other method.

I silently chuckled at the imagery this ritual evoked. In particular, I was struck by the phrase paint yourself blue as it sounded weirdly familiar to my ears. However in my search, I didn't find anything that exactly matched, the closest were: paint yourself silly, which is the name of a popular store in Nebraska, and until blue in the face.

Is “paint yourself blue” meant to be read literally, i.e. physically paint your body and face in blue? Or does it mean “go wild/crazy”, “do something foolish/childish” without suffering any negative consequences.

Is it an eggcorn? “a word or phrase that sounds like and is mistakenly used in a seemingly logical or plausible way for another word or phrase either on its own or as part of a set expression.” as defined by Merriam-Webster. For example, sick sense instead of sixth sense and very close veins for varicose veins.

And if it's not an eggcorn, can someone explain why "blue" seems the best choice? The colour blue is usually associated with the sky, the sea, or with feelings of sadness.

  • 6
    At first sight, I'd say that magnetic needles having a metallic blue colour, the idea is to paint yourself blue so as to look like one as much as possible.
    – LPH
    Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 12:24
  • 15
    What comes to mind for me is Picts using woad to paint themselves blue before a battle, but that may not be as common an association as I'd like to think.
    – user888379
    Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 13:04
  • 2
    @user888379: I think you're onto something. See images.search.yahoo.com/yhs/… Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 14:11
  • 1
    @LPH I didn't know the magnetic needle [in a compass?] was blue, it now makes more sense!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 14:52
  • 2
    @Mari-LouA Magnetic north is the northern pole of the Earth's magnetic field and moves over time. This means that, except for a small and changing range of degrees of latitude magnetic north is only an approximate equivalent to true north. Having said that the author could have said "dye your hair green, face the setting sun and wave an egg whisk over your resume" and have made his point just as well. Analysing this piece is detail is like looking for common sense in Jabberwocky or The Owl and the Pussycat
    – BoldBen
    Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 5:45

5 Answers 5


The phrase "paint yourself blue, face magnetic north" sounded familiar to me as well, and it's because something similar was spoken by the character Austin James in the 1988 TV series Probe, specifically in the pilot episode.

When I was eight years old, I took off all my clothes and painted myself blue. Then I climbed up on the roof of a house, I placed both thumbs on the base of a lightning rod, and faced the electromagnetic north pole. Why? Why did I do that?

Perhaps the author of your quote was remembering and referencing the line by Austin James as an example of doing something absurd for no apparent reason.

  • I believe you are correct about the reference he's making, which is fairly funny if you saw a 1988 TV series, but meaningless otherwise. The point is still that the exercise is inutile. Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 1:14

Here is the Ngram

Looking at examples in Google Books, I think it usually means to look outandlish, do something bizarre—perhaps from the belief that the Druids/Picts/Celts painted themselves blue.

You paint yourself blue and stand before your enemy, fearsome, naked, blowing a horn, in hopes of frightening them into retreat. U.S. News & World Report, Vol. 124, p.8 (1998, snippet view)

"OK. Suppose Laneer said to her, 'Miss Farley, for the good of the business, I want you to strip, paint yourself blue, and go live in a tree like a Druid. I don't want you to ask me why. Just do it. I am depending on you.' How would she respond? Best Detective Stories of the Year 1978 (snippet view)

The same principle applies to you. You could put a lampshade on your head, paint yourself blue, and walk down Main Street singing "Yankee Doodle." As long as you didn't get arrested, you would probably eventually relax and learn that it doesn't matter what people think of you. But this would be a pretty tough thing to do and I doubt that you would ever do it. R. M. Rapee; Overcoming Shyness and Social Phobia: a Step-by-Step Guide (1998)

The Blue Man Group—well, what can I say? When you paint yourself blue, you're going to stand out. The good news is that you don't have to go to that extreme to be successful. Lauron Sonnier; Think Like a Marketer: What It Really Takes to Stand Out... (2009)

In the places where I was comfortable, whether honky-tonk, bohemian ghetto or fraternity house, there was just one rule: if you want to paint yourself blue and walk on your hands, go ahead, just don't suggest, don't even imply that anyone else should too. Even today, any congenial grouping of art and morality makes me break out in eczema. Dave Hickey quoted in Daniel Oppenheimer; Far From Respectable: Dave Hickey and His Art (2021)

I looked to see if the Smurfs got involved, and, sure 'nurf, they did:

If you want to worship trees, worship trees. If you want to worship the Smurfs and paint yourself blue, go ahead. Jocelyn Zichterman; I fired God (2013)

Were the Picts Painted Blue?

Why did the Romans call these peoples the painted ones? Did the Picts paint themselves blue, similar to Mel Gibson in Braveheart? One thing we can be certain of is that Sir William Wallace did not paint himself blue. The producers of Braveheart were well aware of how widespread the idea of the Picts painting themselves blue was. And a mere fact that William Wallace came a thousand years later, would never stop them from going with an arresting visual.

So, where did the idea about the Picts painting themselves blue originate from? Julius Caesar once noted that the Celts got blue pigment from the woad plant and that they used it to decorate their bodies. There are no surviving historic accounts of woad being used in Scotland to paint human skin. People have, nevertheless, tried testing woad and found it much better at dyeing cloth than skin. Woad was, in fact, widely used in the Middle Ages for all types of cloths, including the tapestries. The Great Courses; "The Origins of the Celtic Picts"

  • +1 for sure 'nurf soft snortings from me.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 14:55
  • Indeed. Assuredly, in certain such circumstances, soft snortings are sure to emerge.
    – John Smith
    Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 3:51
  • Of course, painting both sides of your body the same colour isn't very original… (See here at 0:35.)
    – gidds
    Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 19:40

The author is being sarcastic.

The specific meaning here is that painting yourself blue, facing magnetic north, and waving a screwdriver over a resume is pointless and useless, and would do nothing to mitigate any risk. The color itself is inconsequential; it just so happens that most speakers in any language choosing a color at random will pick blue.

The further implication is that any action whatsoever intended to mitigate the risk, whatever it is, would be as just as useful as this pointless exercise in personal coloration would be (that is, not useful at all).

Edit: Per @Dan Jurgella's answer below, the ritual described is probably a reference to the TV show mentioned, so the author is also being somewhat condescending as well as sarcastic, since dialogue from the show in question is not a cultural touchstone.

  • Still in the domain of possibilities, but sensible enough to serve as a likely rationale.
    – LPH
    Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 3:52
  • Despite all the references in @DjinTonic's answer, I think this is the right answer.
    – Barmar
    Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 15:25

Paint yourself blue: An expression indicating outlandish, wild or possibly scary behavior. Woad. Basically a bright blue warpaint used by (among others) the Picts.

Blue in the face: An expression for stubbornness, typically for ineffective stubbornness. Holding your breath until you are blue in the face.

Facing north, waving a screwdriver, wearing a tin hat, hopping on one foot, knocking on wood or other suchlike silliness: These are assorted superstitious actions that are supposed to invoke good luck, but mostly just evoke giggles from one's companions.

  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 12:13

It's probably supposed to be reminiscent of a magnetic compass.

What's blue, faces north, and has a pointy metal bit? A magnetic compass. Often, the needle of a compass will have one end painted red, and the other either left unpainted, or painted white, black, or blue. It's quite possible to find stock images depicting blue-and-red compasses with a quick Google image search, but I can't find one with a CC license so I'll refrain from including one in this post.

Will a compass help you find your way to a good resume? Probably not. Will turning yourself into a compass help? It's more ridiculous, but it probably won't help either.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.