Inspired Art and Living with Fiona Stolze

Blue and Green Should Never be Seen…or was it Red and Green?

I had actually been planning to write a second part to my post on wearing green clothing, however things have taken a different turn and although I’m still on the topic of green, I have decided to explore a slightly different question than what clothing you wear.

Red and green or blue and green

Most of us grew up learning all those delightful little ditties that we sang or chanted while playing or doing our homework. And there were always a few inbetween that sounded a little odd but then our grandmother or one of our teachers had taught us them and so we took them on board without questioning them.

The one that sticks in my mind is ‘Red and green should never be seen except upon an Irish Queen‘. I remember my grandmother saying that one again and again. Now up until recently I was perfectly happy using it even though I knew that it didn’t hold any water. I loved seeing vibrant red roses with contrasting green leaves in the garden. They went perfectly together, didn’t they?

But wait…”That’s wrong!” I hear you say. “It should be ‘Blue and green should never be seen except with something inbetween’.”

Now that’s very odd. I began to ask around and found opinions hugely divided on what the correct version should be. So I started digging to see if I could shed any light on the origin of the phrase. And that’s when it got really colourful.

One comment from an ex-marine stated that it referred to ships in the  night. If you see a red light on your ship and red on the other, the ships are travelling in opposite directions. If one is green and the other is red,  both ships are travelling in the same direction and if at an angle to each other, possibly in danger of colliding. Even worse is if you can see both red and green on the oncoming ship. Then you are headed for collision.

But here’s a fascinating suggestion. There was a film  in 1957 with Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn called “Funny Face” and a female fashion editor was supposed to have said ‘Red and green should never be seen except with something inbetween’. Was that the US fashion rule in those days? The funny bit for me is that this film is in a boxed set of Audrey Hepburn films I gave my husband for Christmas and I haven’t seen it yet. Time to watch it.

And yet that doesn’t really make sense when you look at how all shades of green go fabulous with blue jeans.

Personally I think  both versions of this saying are  nonsense because I believe that any colour can harmonise with any other one depending on how you use them.  And nature doesn’t seem to have heard of this rule at all.

Here’s a parting shot though. The Irish word for girl is cailin (with an fadda accent over the last i and it’s pronounced colleen). Is this then a slip of the tongue that makes colleen sound like Queen? This topic is turning out to be far more extensive than I originally thought and is giving me lots of new inspirations for further blogs.

But anyway, I wanted to throw this question out to you and see if you know any more about this. Which version were you taught and do you have any idea where the phrase came from? And do you flout the rule or do you find yourself avoiding green combinations as a result? Thanks for taking the time to share.


February 6, 2011 - Posted by | COLOURS | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. I’m sure that I learned about not putting blue and green together,and I’m equally sure that at some point as an adult I tossed that rule aside! I love pairing those colors if the tones are right. I have no idea of the original ditty (was not familiar with the rhyme). The idea (of not putting blue and green together) was just something “in the air” when I was growing up. People were hardly bold or color oriented at the time (at least in my world). So I didn’t learn much about color except the most traditional rules. Fun to think about now.

    Judy Stone-Goldman
    The Reflective Writer

    Comment by Judy Stone-Goldman | February 8, 2011 | Reply

    • Thanks so much for leaving a comment Judy. It’s so funny that people seem to just know one or the other and there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason for it either. Interesting that the ‘blue and green’ thing was in the air and everyone adhered to it.

      Comment by Fiona Stolze | February 8, 2011 | Reply

  2. I was constantly told that blue and green should never be seen but I always saw it as complete tosh and refused to follow the ‘rule’. To my mind all colors can go together if they are the right shades 🙂
    Louise Edington
    Facing Fears For Freedom

    Comment by Louise Edington | February 9, 2011 | Reply

    • Thanks for that Louise. I wonder where all these rules came from. But it’s good when we have enough presence of mind to try things out for ourselves.

      Comment by Fiona Stolze | February 9, 2011 | Reply

  3. In Germany, we don’t have any color songs that restrict colors. All I remember, my Mom telling my Dad which color combinations he can’t wear (up until today).
    Long time ago, he decided to wear a yellow shirt with a blue tie, I still remember my parents’ argument! And years later, every business man combined these colors…

    White socks are still a no-no in Germany whereas here in the US it’s standard.

    I agree with Louise, if it’s the right shade you can combine any color,

    Franziska San Pedro

    Comment by Franziska San Pedro | February 12, 2011 | Reply

    • Sounds like your dad had real colour sense after all. And I agree completely with you ladies. There aren’t any colours that you can’t combine provided the shade is right as well as the ratio. So no holding back. Thanks for commenting.

      Comment by Fiona Stolze | February 12, 2011 | Reply

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