Color me surprised — Meaning, Context & Examples (2024)

By the time most of us reach adulthood, we have forgotten all about the excitement that a new, blank page in a coloring book used to inspire in us.

Black line drawings of people, animals, dinosaurs––or whatever they may have been of––had the power to conjure up such eagerness and animation in most of us as children.

Using colored pencils, crayons, or felt-tip markers, we would fill in the different parts of the picture with whatever color we wanted to.

Because of how common coloring books are, most of us know what it means to color something red, green, or blue.

But what does it mean to color someone an emotion? Or, even stranger, to appear to instruct someone to color us an emotion?

As with most idioms, the phrase “color me surprised” doesn’t make a lot of sense when we first hear it.

“Color me surprised,” is a spoken, informal way to express that you are surprised by something. It is commonly used in American English. It is often used when someone gives us news that we were not expecting to hear, or when we see something we were not expecting to see.

Background and etymology of the expression “color me surprised”

The first recorded use of the phrase “color me…” to describe a state of being, is in the song “Calgary” by Ian and Sylvia of the band Great Speckled Bird.

The line in the song is “color that jet plane going/color me gone.”

In the song, the singer is wistfully wishing for an airplane to be going to Calgary, where their lover lives.

They are also wishing to be on that airplane, and thereby to be “gone” from where they are when they are singing the song.

“Color” first began to be used as a noun in English in the 1200s.

It began to be used as a verb, as in “to color,” approximately a century later.

The word comes from the Latin root colos, which means “cover or conceal.”

So, to come full circle, the meaning of the lyric “color me gone” in the song “Calgary” is essentially “cover me in the state of being gone.”

The phrases “color me surprised”, “color me amazed”, and “color me envious” are all part of the informal North American spoken lexicon.

They essentially mean “consider me” to be feeling surprised, amazed, or envious, respectively.

This figurative use of “color” derives from the idea that if something is “colored something,” it is covered in that thing, or is that thing all over.

To say, “color me surprised,” is therefore also to say, “consider me surprised all over,” or, rather, “consider me completely surprised.”

You could also think of it as meaning, “in your mind, color me surprised.” In other words, just as you once colored the figures in a coloring book a certain color, choose the emotion “surprised” to “color me” in your perception of this situation.

How to use the phrase “Color me surprised” in conversation

Nora: The cat’s in the cradle with my brother and sister at the moment. They are furious with each other and won’t even look at one another.

Ashley: Really? Well, color me surprised. They always used to be inseparable.

Annie: You’ll never guess who I saw at the restaurant last night.

Niamh: Who was it?

Annie: James! Apparently he is back in town visiting his parents.

Niamh: Well, color me surprised! I haven’t seen James in ten years.

Tiana: Jane, I really need your help. I know without a shadow of a doubt that Sam is cheating on me. What should I do?

Jane: Color me surprised, Tiana; I can’t hardly believe it! I always thought he seemed like such a loyal person.

Coach: I have to say, Charles was performing exceptionally well at basketball practice yesterday. He hit more three pointers than anyone else during the scrimmage.

Assistant coach: Well, color me surprised! I would not have thought that after the miserable start he’s had to the season.

Gina: Guess who is an incredible cook?

Nancy: Who?

Gina: Harris! He cooked us a pumpkin stew last night and served it with a homemade rye sourdough bread. I haven’t tasted anything so delicious in a while.

Nancy: Really? Well, color me surprised. The last time I saw him he could barely manage to boil a hot dog.

Henry: Hey, Charles. Can I tell you a secret?

Charles: Of course you can. What’s up?

Henry: I proposed to Rachel last night on our date and she said yes!

Charles: Seriously? Well, color me surprised, man. You’ve only been together for four months! Don’t you think it’s a little early?

Savannah: You know that fishing trip I went on with the boys?

April: Yeah, I remember seeing pictures of it on Instagram.

Savannah: Well, I was the only one who caught any fish.

April: Well, color me surprised! Look at you! I wouldn’t have thought you would want to hold a fishing rod up for more than a few minutes.

Hannah: Have you heard of the musical West Side Story?

Joe: Yeah, I’ve actually probably seen it over fifteen times. I know all the words to most of the songs.

Hannah: Really? Well, color me surprised! I wouldn’t have had you down as the musical theater type.

Uma: Have you ever been to Texas?

Lars: Yes, I actually lived there until I was ten.

Uma: Well, color me surprised! I wasn’t expecting that. You seem like such an East Coast boy!

Yael: Oh Jenny, I feel like I’d be dancing with the devil if I accepted that drink. I have to be awake at six in the morning tomorrow for a work zoom call. I think I’ll stick with soda water.

Harris: Well, color me surprised! Look at you, all grown up. I’ve never seen you choose work over a cold beer!

Color me surprised — Meaning, Context & Examples (1)

Marcel Iseli

Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.

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Color me surprised — Meaning, Context & Examples (2024)
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