Everyone knows who the boss’s blue-eyed boy is. Male or female, that’s the employee who is chosen for plum projects, given a promotion and a raise in pay over more qualified employees, and adorned with accolades and awards. In short, it’s the person the boss adores who no one else can stand. While there may be nothing inherently hideous about a blue-eyed boy or girl, being the recipient of too much good grace leads others to suggest a brownnoser might be hiding behind the handsome demeanor.
Blue-eyed boys and girls are found in every walk of life, be it in the classroom or at work, in the club, or in the neighborhood. They really do seem to be just plain lucky, and oftentimes, although not always, that luck is enhanced with extremely good looks, a fine build, and a fashion sense that makes everyone else look a little like chopped liver. Of course, there are plenty of blue-eyed boys and girls whose eyes are really gray or brown or black, but they nonetheless draw the jealous, green-eyed glares of their coworkers, friends, and family members who are affected by their most favored nation status.
It’s easy to find a connection between this idiom and another common one. While it may be true that a fair-haired boy, like a blue-eyed boy, can do no wrong, setting the two physical attributes side by side suddenly drives home a not-so-subtle hint of racial prejudice. It is entirely possible that these turns of phrase hail from a time in which preferential treatment was given to employees and social acquaintances most obviously of North European descent. The word fair in this second idiom has no connection to the idea of fairness or justice. Rather, it is a synonym for pale, golden, or blond-colored hair.
Another possible explanation for these idioms has been suggested. Coined in an age long before DNA testing could identify paternity, a blond-haired, blue-eyed father might be more inclined to feel that a blond-haired, blue-eyed child was more likely to be his than a child with darker hair and eyes. Research indicates that, while the expression “a blue-eyed boy” is more commonly used in the British Commonwealth, it is largely replaced by the sibling idiom, “a fair-haired boy” on the other side of the pond. England and the North American continent are not as racially homogenous as are Nordic regions, but there’s no question that, historically, individuals who clearly fit into the category of blond had more fun, by and large.