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What Is a "Blue-Eyed Boy"?

By Cynde Gregory
Updated May 23, 2024
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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.

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Discussion Comments
By lluviaporos — On Jan 18, 2014

I almost feel bad admitting that I love blue eyes on a man. But you know, I've seen blue eyes on many different races. They aren't unique to people originally from Europe by any means.

I suspect it's got more to do with the fact that my first crush had very dark and pretty blue eyes than anything else. I guess everyone has their preferences.

By KoiwiGal — On Jan 17, 2014

@croydon - I suspect that isn't a conscious form of sexism so much as that the term "my blue eyed boy" is usually used metaphorically (as in, it doesn't actually matter if the boy has blue eyes, the person is just being described as singled out for good fortune) while "my brown eyed girl" is generally used when someone is describing a particular person.

Or it might be made in conjunction with the original saying, so the brown eyes are used to contrast with the blue ones. I don't think anyone uses "brown eyed girl" thinking that makes the girl less important.

By croydon — On Jan 16, 2014

I find it kind of strange that you will almost always hear about boys with blue eyes, but it usually tends to be a "brown-eyed girl". When you open up the discussion to ideas of racial prejudice and favoritism, it makes me wonder if there's an element of sexism in there as well.

I mean, if blue is associated with someone special and above criticism, then someone with brown eyes might be viewed as more passive and flawed.

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