Showing colors

If you see the true colors you know you are in trouble, pic: © Steve Mann |

The complete expression is “showing one’s true colors”.  This phrase is used to express that somebody has shown or expressed his real character or opinions, to reveal oneself.

That real character/opinion generally will come as somewhat of a surprise, good or bad. Here are a couple of examples:

“We all thought that he was such a wimp but when he rescued that little girl from the burning house he showed his true colors.”

“He showed his real colors when he refused to help his friend in a time of crisis.”

The background of this expression is quite interesting:ships used to fly the flags (the colors) of their enemies to get close enough to them to attack.  Just before attacking, they would lower the flag, raise their true colors – and attack.


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