I’ve never given it much thought. Roses are red, violets are blue, and if you don’t like it, nuts to you!
But they’re not. Violets are quite clearly, obviously, violet. In fact, the word for the colour was taken from the word for the flower in the late 14th century. And those of you familiar with Roy G. Biv and his invention, the rainbow, will know that blue is closer in colour to indigo than it is to violet.
So why are they ‘blue’ in the rhyme?
Well, that’s not too hard to guess at. A lot of words rhyme with blue. Off the top of my head, I’ll list moo, coo, you, too, shoe, flue, blue, true, askew, bamboo, shampoo, ah-choo and hullabaloo. On the other hand, unless the object of your affection is a pilot, there are not many places to go with ‘violet’. And there is absolutely nowhere to go with ‘purple’.
So rather than replace ‘blue’, perhaps we could replace ‘violet’ (the first one) with something that is actually blue. The sky? The ocean? Blueberries? Approximately one quarter of the blocks in a bag of MegaBloks?
No, but that last one makes me think of one of the people I love the most, and a rhyme that might one day mean something to her:
Elmo is red,
Grover is blue,
Big Bird is yellow,
And mummy loves you!