Color terms (was Alstroemeria key)

Mary Sue Ittner
Sat, 18 Sep 2004 19:48:45 PDT
Dear Jane,

We've done some favorite colored bulbs topic of the week this year and it 
has been interesting that some of the colors overlap. A couple of plants 
were selected by different people as representing different colors. This 
could be a perceptual thing or perhaps the same species does show variation 
in the color of the flowers.

I still want to do purple and blue favorites (which I definitely thinK are 
different). There are some blue flowers and some flowers that photograph 
blue with a digital camera that are really purple. At least I don't think 
all those gorgeous blue Crocuses probably are purple. Correct me if I am 
wrong. I find it interesting that the purple flowers turn out blue since 
before digital so often blue flowers photographed pink. I find it really 
hard often to capture purple with our digital camera. Many of the Babiana 
pictures I took last year I never added to the wiki, because I couldn't 
capture the right color.

Perhaps we could do a five favorite purple bulbs as a topic of the week and 
then in a couple weeks do blue and see what people come up with.

Mary Sue

At 09:26 AM 9/18/04 -0700, you wrote:
>Many thanks to Jamie Vande for elucidating a section of German color 
> >As to ROT, it is generic.  In German, the colour descriptions are a bit
>>different; ROSA is pale pink, PINK is deep pink (in the purple range).  Many
>>colours that are perceived as red are quite warm.  I think that BLASSROT
>>would be a warm, medium pink to most, while HELLROT would be like cadmium
>>pale, in artists colours, sort of scarlet, like a Pelargonium.  DUNKELROT
>>would be like a very ripe tomato, while KIRSCHROT would be a deep, cold,
>This is the kind of information one never gets from classroom language 
>study or reading works on history and other non-artistic subjects. Color 
>terminology is such a complex subject across languages that it forms a 
>special area of study for linguists. For example, a wide set of languages 
>around the world don't distinguish 'blue' from 'green'. 'Red' is another 
>area where there is a good deal of complexity. Linguists have also studied 
>what kinds of distinctions different groups of people within a language 
>community make; for example, women tend to use more different color terms 
>than men do (though male horticulturists and artists would know more than 
>the average woman, of course).
>I wonder if a multilingual horticultural color term chart would be useful 
>to many people? I could probably design a questionnaire on which to base 
>one, but it would require a sample of a certain size (at least ten 
>respondents, I think) for each language. It would be interesting just to 
>see, within a language, what different people call the color of a certain 
>flower. The present discussion related to Worsleya offers an example: Is 
>it 'blue'? I think "blue" is used more loosely in English than the 
>equivalent color terms in some other European languages -- that is, it 
>seems to extend more into the purple range in English. Or is that just 
>horticultural wishful thinking?
>The existence of widely grown clones and species with little color 
>variation offers gardeners an opportunity to define what they call a color 
>from samples other than expensive color charts (which may not reproduce 
>well over the Internet). Thus, you could elicit your local color term for 
>'yellow' (the single quotes indicate a gloss, or meaning; double quotes 
>are a word-as-word) by referring to Sternbergia lutea. 'Yellow' is easy; 
>what flowers are 'purple', though?
>This subject is of great practical interest to me as an editor of 
>botanical and horticultural writing. I tend to cringe a little, for 
>instance, when an author describes a flower as "mauve," one of the most 
>ill-defined English color terms.
>Jane McGary
>Northwestern Oregon, USA
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