brown study
Posted: 05 January 2014 06:12 AM   [ Ignore ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3026
Joined  2007-02-26

brown study
a state of serious absorption or abstraction

I get the “study” part. But why brown? Does brown connote seriousness or intensity in other contexts?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 January 2014 07:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  812
Joined  2007-03-01

The OED gives ‘Gloomy, serious’ as a figurative sense of brown, but only cites it in the context of brown study.  It’s very old:

c1555 Lacke of company wyll son lead a man into a brown studdy.

When A L Rowse proposed the identification of Emilia Lanier as Shakespeare’s Dark Lady, he cited a remark by a contemporary that Lanier was ‘very browne in youth’ as evidence that she was dark enough to have been so described. I remember one of the reviewer of his book pointing out that brown in 16th-century English was also used in this figurative sense, so that the remark was just as likely to mean that she had been a thoroughly mumpish adolescent.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 January 2014 07:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3448
Joined  2007-01-29

The OED said (back in 1888):

Apparently originally < brown n. in sense of ‘gloomy’; but this sense has been to a great extent forgotten. (The conjecture that brown ‘might be’ the German braune ‘brow’ does not require serious notice.)

AHD says brown ‘gloomy’ + study ‘mental state.’

Profile
 
 
   
 
 
‹‹ You're telling me!      highball ››