In the pink
To be ‘in the pink’ means to be in the very best of health and good spirits and dates in this sense from the early 20th century. Long before this, from the 16th century, ‘the pink’ meant the very epitome or pinnacle of something. Shakespeare used it in this sense in Romeo and Juliet Act IV, Scene II when Mercutio says, “Nay, I am the very pink of courtesy.” Why pink was chosen to mean the pinnacle of excellence is not certain but the most plausible explanation is that it may derive from the Dianthus family of flowers, many varieties of which are called pinks. These flowers were held in very high esteem during the 16th century. It would be tempting but misguided to assume that it has something to do with a pink and healthy complexion but this is not the etymological root. Associations with hunting pink, the colour worn in foxhunts, and a certain tailor by the name of Thomas Pink, are equally spurious and unproven, although these are frequently put forward as origins.