Blue Funk

Meanings of “Blue Funk”

The phrase “blue funk” means feeling nervous or going through despair. Sometimes there is a valid reason. However, there are also times when a person is anxious for no reason or a silly reason. In other words, ‘blue funk’ means panicking or being afraid of something or someone.

Origin of “Blue Funk”

The phrase “blue funk” means differently in the United States where it is despair and in the United Kingdom where it is linked with panic. It has first appeared in Phrenologist’s Daughter, an anonymous novel, published in 1854 in which it goes: “Stapleton was in a blue funk.” Here it means anxiety.

However, in the United States, it appeared in a newspaper, The Daily Intelligencer, that published this phrase in its publication of 1958 in February where it goes thus; “she found herself in a long period of low energy and ‘blue funk.’” Here it means low spirits or despair. Since then, it is used interchangeably.

Examples in Literature

Example #1

Blue Funk by Tara Teeling

My trumpet’s lament is soft and taciturn
You do not hear
I grip onto my paint brush
I use very gentle strokes
The vibrant reds and yellows scream and shriek
You turn your head in your complacent way
What did it look like to you?
Shall I clamour loudly? Clout your face?
Frustration bubbling high, ready to spill over
Foam burbling dangerous
It will ruin the element
So I turn myself down, and simmer
I listen to you breathe
I strain to hear you blink
My expressions never clearly illustrate
The spectrum within
Hesitant to pick up another tool
Spent from all my efforts
To be heard, seen and felt

The poet expresses her extreme despair when encountering her lover. She not only shows the failure of her singing skills but also the failure of her painting skills to express her thoughts to her lover though she can listen to his breath as well as pulse. The meanings of the phrase used in the title of the lyric show that it means frustration and despair at the unresponsive attitude of her lover.

Example #2

Blue Funk by Heavy D & The Boyz

That’s all I really need and a bag of blue funk
Although I may be high profile, I keep a low pro style
Stay calmly, but my homies kinda wild
Mostly on the down low, now and then I hit a disco
Sport suits, drink milk, never Cisco

The above lines from the song talk about a singer’s anxiety or fear of being in public. He explains his condition using this phrase in the second verse. Here the “bag of blue funk” means all the new gadgets that cause him nervousness. The phrase shows the UK version of meanings here in these lines.

Example #3

Out of the Blue: September 11 and the Novel by Kristiaan Versluys

Kristiaan Versluys has beautifully commented on the novel of Jonathan Safran Foer titled as Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close written in the background of September 11 in the United States. He writes that this is a cautionary story written in this context that “Oskar’s father proclaims himself an optimist” adding that “In setting out on a quest rather than staying a blue funk at home, Oskar proves himself to be his father’s son (rather than his grandfather’s grandson).”

These excerpts show the use of “blue funk” in the American version of despair and anxiety rather than the UK version of nervousness. The above story was written based on the experience of September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Example #4

There Are Smiles That Make Us Blue by Barry Hawkins

I drove back to the Precinct in a blue funk, which is not a kind of automobile. It’s more like an old worn-out suit of clothes I sometimes wear … dirty and comfortable in an uncomfortable sort of way. I alternated between thinking I was spineless coward for not taking a chance at something with special woman, and thinking it was a good thing. I stopped myself before I said something real stupid.

Taken from the novel by Barry Hawkins, this paragraph shows the narrator going to drive the Precinct, a strange sort of car which is old, dirty, and slightly damaged. He believes the car is a “blue funk” which means that his vehicle is in the condition of total despair. Here the phrase means despair that the speaker experiences after finding that old car.

Example in Sentences as Literary Devices

Example #1: I am really in a blue funk after finding that he is not present in his room

Example #2: “The manager is always in a state of blue funk when he enters the office in the morning.”

Example #3: “Most of my friends like to stay in a blue funk even if they have everything they want. It is a state of permanent conflict that they want. They think that the world goes around this.”

Example #4: “There’s no point being in a blue funk. If you miss one opportunity, you can get another one. Just have faith.”

Example #5: “During the pandemic, everyone is in a blue funk. Many poor people don’t have enough to eat, and the rich don’t have options to spend.”