Seeing the world through rose-coloured glasses

Are rose-coloured glasses a good thing?

There is some debate about whether seeing the world through rose-coloured glasses or rose-tinted-spectacles is a bad thing or a good thing. I suspect the divide would also follow those who think a glass is half empty as opposed to those who think it is half full. That is, the pessimists versus the optimists.

Wearing rose-coloured glasses is an expression for seeing everything in an attractive, pleasant light. On one hand it is cheerful optimism that sees only the good in the world and on the other it is naïve, self-delusion. These magical glasses can be good in filtering out all the unpleasantness from your view. They are also dangerous in deceiving you into not seeing things for what they are.

What is the origin of rose-coloured glasses?

The metaphorical use of rose-coloured-glasses seems to have come into vogue around the 1840s. There is no real proven link to any real rose-coloured-glasses. However, it has been suggested that it was simply a fashion to look through tinted glass to get a different perspective or mood. Another theory suggests that mapmakers would clean their magnifying lens with rose petals. This left a residual pink colour on the lens creating a real rosy world.

My favourite theory on the origin of rose-coloured-glasses is the least plausible. This theory does not derive from viewing the world through spectacles at all but from viewing it through the bottom of a red-wine glass. This has the double advantage of giving you a rose-filtered view with the added optimism induced by the alcohol. Compare this with beer goggles, which are a very modern equivalent of rose-coloured glasses. Beer goggles supposedly make unattractive people more sexually attractive when the wearer has been drinking (see our post on beer).

Why did the chicken wear glasses?

There is another form of rose-coloured-glasses that deserves a mention but is not linked to the origin of the expression. In the early twentieth century there was a very successful industry making chicken spectacles.

Millions of pairs of chicken eyeglasses were manufactured and sold. These did not improve the eyesight of the birds (or indeed to help them cross the road) but to prevent aggressive pecking and cannibalism. Chickens wearing red-coloured glasses could not recognize blood on other chickens which normally provokes them to aggressively peck them.

Why did the dog wear goggles?

If the thought of millions of chickens looking intellectual in spectacles makes you laugh there is a newish product out there to protect dogs’ eyes from strong sunlight. These dog sunglasses, of course, are called doggles.