Whats the correct phrasing for this British saying?

Turning the world bloody red.

or something like that.

I’ve heard Brits say something like “When our Great- grandfathers were turning the world red”.

Referring of course to Britain’s Empire building and colonial expansion.

I’m having trouble finding the exact phrase with Google.

Red of course was the colour [stupid spell check of course colour has a u!) of the British Armies uniform, so the reds are coming etc generally goes to the red coats. I know in OZ i have heard “turning to the outback red” before in a poem referring to the soldiers but damned if I can remember it.

The other phrase I often hear is “The Sun never sits on the British Empire”.

Meaning it was so vast that it was daylight somewhere within Britain’s holdings.

I’d love to know who coined the phrase.

Never heard of that particular phrase but on older maps, countries that were part of the British Empire were coloured pink. So maybe we were “turning the map pink”

Sets, please, and that phrase was originally about the Spanish empire. It’s attributed to Phillip II.

For some reason I like your typo version better than the actual one :D.

The sun never sets on the Empire, of course.

I have seen old globes where everything British was a red/pinky colour so when I heard the phrase my first thought was it applied to maps.

I doubt you are going to here many people say his now days. I have heard it before but its not a common saying.

“Paint the map red” is a quote attributed to Cecil Rhodes. It refers to the colour of British possessions on maps. It has nothing whatsoever to do with Redcoats.


I originally heard paint the map red or something like paint the world red from a British Antiques appraiser on the telly. He was appraising a piece of Campaign Furniture. He was saying “it was used back when Britain was painting the map red”. It caught my ear because such simple worlds means volumes when you think of the British Empire’s bloody creation.


It means that just like Sherwin-Williams, they were Communists?

The rejoinder being “That’s because nobody trusts an Englishman in the dark.”:slight_smile:

The color scheme is really that universal? And, if so, you are sure that doesn’t have anything to do with the redcoats?

Maybe not universal, but on British maps it was certainly the convention, and very common, to color the British Empire pink (and, later, the British commonwealth, or at least the bits, like Australia and Canada, where Queen Elizabeth is still queen). I have seen lots of maps like that in my time, and, although I do not know the specific phrase mentioned by the OP, I have often heard a phrase like “the pink (or red) bits on the map” used to mean (former) British possessions. I think most other older British people would understand it too. I am not sure about youngsters.

The cartographic convention was in use long, long after the British army ceased to wear red uniforms (indeed, I am not sure that it is not still in fairly wide use on British made maps). I see no reason to think that there is any connection.

An 1897 world map** showing British possessions** in pink, outlined in red.

All the maps in school (1950s and '60s), from pull-downs and atlases to globes, had the British Commonwealth countries in pink.

If it was “To paint the town red” it would have been a reference to the famous hooligan, Henry de la Poer Beresford the “Mad” Marquis of Waterford in 1837. (He literally went nuts with red paint - got the town toll booth, several buildings and painting someone’s horse’s heels with aniseed and then setting the bloodhounds on him.

Or so the story goes - I’ve no idea if it’s true.