Flying Colors and True Colors

Funky Phrases

A student who confidently filled in all the correct answers on a test might justifiably proclaim, “I passed with flying colors.” The phrase carries a bit of boasting but more a sense of pride. On the other hand, if that student had cheated on the test and the teacher suspected but could not prove it, the teacher might say, “his true colors will be revealed before long.”

What do colors, flying or true, have to do with anything?

The colors in these two idiomatic references refer to the colors of a flag or pendant. When Shakespeare has King Henry VI say, “Sound trumpets. Let our bloody colors wav...


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