Color terms

John Bryan
Mon, 20 Sep 2004 09:06:30 PDT
Dear All:
Prior to the current RHS Color Chart, the old version circa 1950's, also
had descriptions of the color, these I found most helpful when writing
descriptions of lilies. They referenced fruits, vegetables, etc., which
conjured easily understood descriptions, ideal when writing
descriptions. Such a chart might be less expensive than the new color
chart, and perhaps as, or even more useful. Cheers, john E. Bryan 

Jane McGary wrote:
> I had an idea that my comments on color terms would stir up a lot of
> discussion! This is something almost everyone can talk about. Some responses:
> Yes, the RHS color chart is valuable, and I am going to buy one, but only
> because I can call it a business expense; as several correspondents
> remarked, it is quite expensive. However, a reference tool of this kind is
> valuable only to the extent that its users' readers have access to it. If I
> write that a flower is no. 187 on the RHS chart, only readers who have the
> chart will benefit from that information. Those who don't will be
> (momentarily) bored or annoyed. That's how editors have to think.
> There is at least one book on the subject of color terms and their
> cross-linguistic taxonomy: Brent Berlin and Paul Kay, "Basic color terms:
> Their universality and evolution" (Univ of California Press, 1969).
> Semanticists have also turned their eyes to folk biological classification,
> by the way. Berlin & Kay's conclusions have been modified to some extent by
> subsequent researchers and by Berlin's later work.
> Susan Hayek wrote,
>  >*And I believe, when I was teaching spec ed, somewhere I had a workshop
> on cultural >differences/languages and learned that in some native American
> cultures there was only one >word which meant warm colors and one word for
> cool. "Warm" and "cool", of course, may mean >different things in different
> language/cultures.
> I think this is one of those folk-linguistic myths that originate in
> misinterpretations by journalists or other nonspecialists, similar to the
> myth that there are languages where it's impossible to count beyond three
> (a misinterpretation arising from verb number, apparently), or languages
> that have a hundred words for 'snow'. (True, you can make a hundred words
> for snow in Inuttitun [Eskimo], which can compound even more lavishly than
> German or Classical Greek, but you could make the same words in English if
> you really tried.) The Native American languages I studied used the same
> device for expanding their color terminology that European languages use,
> referencing (perhaps with affixes) the names of common objects that are the
> appropriate color, such as 'rose', 'turquoise', and 'gold'.
> Jim Waddick wrote,
>  >      Roses are red -  you get this response from many people, but isn't the
> color 'rose' another distinctly different shade?
> Jamie noted that "rosa" in German is pale pink, but "rose" in English tends
> to be used for medium to deep pink, i.e. red mixed with white. Most garden
> roses, however, are either blue-pink or yellow-pink, as you will find when
> you try to mix them in arrangements. I think Eng. "rose" is rather a
> blue-pink, but not as blue as "mauve."
> Jim went on,>and Violets are neither blue or rarely violet, but more often
> purple, yellow, etc.
> "Purple" is a difficult term in English. For many people it's synonymous
> with "violet." Some people take the Classical view of "purple," which would
> make it a blue-red, while others shift their definition more toward the
> spectrum color indigo, a slightly reddish blue. If you lean toward the
> former, "purple" and "violet" (the latter is the spectrum term) are
> synonyms. I tend to write "violet" rather than "purple" for this color
> range. As for the colors of Viola spp., these range from near-blue to
> near-red, offering no help. If, as Mary Sue suggested, we discuss favorite
> purple-flowered bulbs, we may see how far people's field for "purple"
> extends, and we may hash out "lavender," "lilac," and so on.
> We may even agree on a cutoff point for "blue," which plant catalog
> copywriters toss around so freely, as Mary Sue mentioned. The photos she
> cites are probably Photoshopped to create a more colorful page layout.
> There are really blue crocuses, but they're light blue (C. abantensis,  C.
> baytopiorum) or the blue is mostly in the external markings (C.
> leichtlinii), and you'll never find any of them in a mass-market bulb
> catalog. Regarding capturing blue in digital photographs, I think this
> depends on your camera. My Nikon Coolpix seems to do a good job with this
> (almost as good as Fuji Astria slide film), but I recently viewed the
> submissions for the NARGS photo contest and noted that certain
> photographers were having trouble with their blues (either because their
> cameras didn't capture the color right, or because they had tried
> unsuccessfully to enhance the colors), while others sent in photos of
> flowers in the blue range that appeared quite true to me. (I'm not a
> photography expert, but I have an unusually acute visual memory, including
> for colors.)
> Jim mentioned more specialized color words ("lilacs, pinks, orchid,
> primrose, cerise (from the french for 'cherry'), and John Ingram also
> commented on these. Many of these words entered English in the 18th and
> 19th centuries when fabric dyes diversified greatly (as Sheila noted, mauve
> resulted from a dye chemist's work in that period). Many such words were
> imported from French because it was the language of high fashion -- hence
> "cerise" and "puce," and "mauve" which is the French word for a flower,
> mallow or Malva. "Aqua," or pale greenish blue, mentioned by John, is a
> fashion color term innovated directly in English but taken from Latin.
> Sorry to go on so long!  Must write something about the bulbs now.
> Jane McGary
> Northwestern Oregon, USA
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