Color terms

Sun, 19 Sep 2004 02:37:15 PDT
Morning all,

here is an interesting site that discusses colour terms.  Many terms are
based on the latin root, which for plant people is positively interesting.

Also, another site for understanding colour/pigment.

> Jane McGary wrote:
> > I wonder if a multilingual horticultural color term chart would be
> > to many people?
I had started work on an international definitions table about two years
ago, but found that the variations in terms was much too complex.
Apparently, perceptions are deeply rooted in local cultures, and less in
language.  I encounter this every day, as an artist, and it is clear that
one cannot bring the world to have a common understanding of colour.  Often,
colour names are quite local, such as periwinkel, which hardly a European
has heard of.

Mauve is an interesting term, as it is often used for a relatively broad
group of greyed-purples/ greyed-lavenders.  I do not have a proplem with
this, as colour perception is largely based on ambient light.  This becomes
especially clear in the dustier tones, which become indefinable under low
light, such as in the typical home or shaded garden corner.  Under the sun,
the tones become clearer.  Mauve is common in the garden, just look at the
fading flowers of many Helleborus orientalis hybrids or the flower heads of
fading Hortensia.  They are truly a wonderful mauve. (personal favourite in
the garden)

Puce is another strange term derived from the French for flea!  It refers to
the colour of their blood, which is a pinky-purple. (someone must have been
very bored to make this observation!) In a way, this is very similar to
mauve, but moving to the violet spectrum, instead of into the blue-purples.

Many colours are simply difficult to pin down, such as peach.  In the
English (UK) version, it is quite pink, while in othere languages it can be
quite yellow.  Interestingly, one can trace the developement of this
relatively new colour: peach > peche > persik > pfirsich > persia, the land
from where it first came to Europe!  Apricot leads back to Armenica/Armenia.
Generally speaking, apricot is the more yellow tinged pink/rose, which peach
is more soft orange tinged pink.  Then there is melon!  And let me warn you,
in Germany their flesh is chartreuse!  I was a different cultivar as in the
English/French-speaking lands.

Although I use an RHS colour chart, yes, expensive, but an excellent and
world-wide known reference, there is still notable variation in plant colour
due to garden culture and climate.  One of the reasons is the plant pigments
themselves.  The water-soluble anthocyanins, which are responsible for the
reds-purples-blues, are very dependant on temperature, pH and sometines
metallic ions in the soil.  Without getting into the rather complex
chemistry which lies behind pigments and which I do not fully grasp in any
case, we can safely say, natural colour variation based on environment is

Couple this with the subjectivity of colour perception and we do not seem to
come much further, which is why I do prefer the RHS colour chart.  At least
it sets a standard which is numeric and not filled with prosaic definitions
(I love extoling the nuances of colour, but it's not very accurate!).  This
said, I'm certainly not against attempting to collect terms and
co-ordinating them to visuable definitions, I just question how useful it
would be, other than to feed our imaginations. I do enjoy discussing it! (if
you hadn't noticed LOL)


Jamie Vande

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