Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Episode 120: Young Blood Show Notes

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Bunny Trails: A Word History Podcast

Episode 120: Young Blood

Record Date: August 8, 2021

Air Date: August 11, 2021



Welcome to Bunny Trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase. 

I’m Shauna Harrison


And I’m Dan Pugh

Every week, we take an idiom, or other turn of phrase, and try to tell the story from its entry into the English language, to how it’s used today.

This week we look at the phrase Young Blood. And no, we aren’t talking about infants, nor are we talking about vampires. 


We are, instead, talking about the idiomatic usage of these two words to form an entirely new concept.

From the OED

Young Blood

A lively or energetic young person; spec. a confident, high-spirited young man; (esp. in the 18th cent.) a rake, a dandy; an unruly young aristocrat

1557   Earl of Surrey et al. Songes & Sonettes sig. O.i   Yong bloods be strong: old sires in double honour dwell.

1602   John Marston - No Red Dead fans… not that John Marston, the poet and playwright John Marston active in the late 1500s and early 1600s. In his work  Antonios Reuenge i. v. sig. C2v   Listen young blood. Tis not true valors pride, To swagger, quarrell, sweare, stampe, raue, and chide.

I have an example from Shakespeare, but I think we’ll save that for the behind the scenes video - available to Patrons at every level. Check out to learn how you can join the Patrons of Bunny Trails!

In the late 1700s, the phrase began to take on a second connotation, being used as what the OED calls a mass noun, defining Young Blood as:


New elements or influences which bring fresh life or energy to something; esp. young people newly admitted to a profession, society, etc., who act as an invigorating influence.

End Quote

1782   Thomas Pitt Letter to Author of Lucubrations 28   The pouring young blood into a constitution, it was in vain to think of renovating.

1834   John Wilson Croker Letter (1884) II. xviii. 248   Get, if you can, new men, young blood..and throw aside boldly the claims of all the ‘mediocrities’ with which we were overladen in our last race.

The OED notes this particular usage was originally with reference to the idea of refreshing a bloodline by introducing new stock, then morphed into bring fresh life into anything. In our previous examples, new life to a profession. 

But by the 1830s, we saw a rise in the phrase being used for a person who was new to an organization or an activity and brought what the OED calls, “an invigorating influence” to the group. 

1830   Mechanic's Free Press 19 June   In forming the ticket for Commissioners, men of age and experience, of all political parties, are to be excluded..and all the young bloods of the first order, in the district, are to be supported as candidates for that office.

1862   Saturday Review of politics, literature, science, and art 8 Feb. 159   To give the young bloods of the present day a notion of what the Northern Circuit was in the year 1825

An interesting note by the OED, the term young blood can also take on a derogatory note to some in the black community with this definition:


In African-American usage: a young man, esp. one who is perceived to be relatively inexperienced or naive. Chiefly as a form of address.


End Quote


This seemed to have hit a peak as a slang the 1960s and 70s but also persists to some extent today. Despite what Urban Dictionary may try to have you believe, the 60s and 70s slang usage wasn’t the origin, but it certainly didn’t hurt the popularity of the phrase.


One other quick fact before celebrate those who make this show possible.

According to the Dictionary of American Family Names (1956), the surname of Youngblood was not derived from the idiomatic usage, rather it was the direct translation of the German name ‘Jungblut’, which originally took its meaning from  heather leaf. 

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A Quick Thank You


This episode is sponsored by our amazing Patrons. 

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Modern Uses


The Coasters had a hit with the 1957 song “Young Blood” about a boy who becomes smitten by a girl.

There are two movies called Youngblood:

1978 - A gang war/drug story set in a Los Angeles ghetto about the coming of age of a 15-year-old black youth.

This one starred Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs and Bryan O’Dell. The tag line was “If you live through the gang wars, the pushers, the back-alley deathtraps… You gonna be a star!” 

1986 This one is a sports drama in which A 17 year old farm boy is offered an ice hockey tryout. His brother drives him to Canada. He has fast legs, slow fists, but is chosen. Will he learn to use his fists and play ice hockey the Canuck way? Will he get the coach's cute daughter?

This one is starring Rob Lowe, Cynthia Gibb, and Patrick Swayze 

2014 - Young Blood Chronicles

The Young Blood Chronicles is a 2014 American musical film composed of music videos produced by Fall Out Boy, featuring each song from the group's fifth studio album, Save Rock and Roll (2013). The separate, eleven videos were uploaded online gradually, but also link together to form the narrative film, which made its premiere on May 21, 2014 on television network Palladia. The film stars the members of Fall Out Boy – Patrick Stump, Pete Wentz, Joe Trohman, and Andy Hurley – and also features guest appearances from 2 Chainz, Big Sean, Foxes, Courtney Love, Elton John and Tommy Lee.

2016 Novel Youngblood by Matt Gallagher

The US military is preparing to withdraw from Iraq, and newly minted lieutenant Jack Porter struggles to accept how it’s happening—through alliances with warlords who have Arab and American blood on their hands. Day after day, Jack tries to assert his leadership in the sweltering, dreary atmosphere of Ashuriyah. But his world is disrupted by the arrival of veteran Sergeant Daniel Chambers, whose aggressive style threatens to undermine the fragile peace that the troops have worked hard to establish.

As Iraq plunges back into chaos and bloodshed and Chambers’s influence over the men grows stronger, Jack becomes obsessed with a strange, tragic tale of reckless love between a lost American soldier and Rana, a local sheikh’s daughter. In search of the truth and buoyed by the knowledge that what he finds may implicate Sergeant Chambers, Jack seeks answers from the enigmatic Rana, and soon their fates become intertwined. Determined to secure a better future for Rana and a legitimate and lasting peace for her country, Jack will defy American command, putting his own future in grave peril. 

2018 Youngblood, by 5 Seconds of Summer


Say you want me, say you want me out of your life

And I'm just a dead man walking tonight

But you need it, yeah you need it, all of the time, yeah ooh ooh ooh


Say you want me, say you want me back in your life

So I'm just a dead man crawling tonight

'Cause I need it, yeah I need it, all of the time, yeah ooh ooh ooh 

From 2019, Bethesda published the first person shooter Wolfenstein: Youngblood in which players can play as one of the twin daughters of BJ Blazkowicz, the protagonist in several of the predecessor games including the 1992 title Wolfenstein 3D, which I spent many hours in front of the computer playing. The title seems to be an allusion to playing as the daughters of Blazkowicz and introducing this new young blood into the series. 

This is just an interesting thing I saw on Twitter while researching…

In a Tweet from the ESPNStatsInfo account on August 4, 2021

On this date in 1982, Joel Youngblood played for two teams in one day.

He was traded midway through his game with the Mets in Chicago, then flew to Philadelphia to finish his day with the Expos.

Youngblood got a hit in both games. 

We’ve already covered that the last name Youngblood has no ties to the idiomatic phrase, but I do love me some baseball so I decided to share that random fact. 

Here are a couple of uses I found on social media for our phrase…

On Aug 7, user Fahi84 tweeted some frustrations...

I hope I’m considered in the basketball Twitter group. This nba Twitter group is exhausting when high school kids call Bill Russell and Magic and others washed. I’m done with the young bloods….

Aug 7

zolani simayi


Duduzane says cabinet needs fresh young blood! It's true, but then, he's not that fresh young blood!


Gcinumzi ka Saki


Replying to @zsimayi

Not young blood contaminated with corruption.

And finally this sports commentary (rugby, specifically) on the recent loss by the British and Irish Lions to South Africa where Benny McAllister says,

Benny McAllister



I think this tour puts it's future at risk. It's gone stale and while COVID certainly is the trigger, Gatland has to take a lot of blame. Young blood required. 

Wrap up...

As we can see, the current usage of Young Bloods isn’t inherently positive or negative anymore, and instead you have to pay attention for the context clues to know how it is being used. But in almost all cases, it is still used as either an invigorating influence, or as a naive and inexperienced person.

I find it fascinating this phrase has persisted with both of these meanings still being used. Which just adds to the complexity of understanding the English language. 



That’s about all the time we have for today. If you have pop culture reference we should have mentioned, we’d love to hear about it! Reach out to us on social media where we are @bunnytrailspod, or comment on our website - Of course, the best way to make sure we see your comment is to post it on the Patreon page! 

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Thanks for joining us. We’ll talk to you again next week. And until then remember... 


Words belong to their users.

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