Words for colors in various languages.

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Dinosaur, Aug 11, 2015.

  1. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

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    The paint & make-up industries have a very large number of color words. I would like to ignore such terms/words for purposes of this Thread. It also makes sense to ignore words/terms like ruby or ruby red.

    Even ignoring the above, English has a lot of words for colors.

    BTW: I have heard that Russian has two different words for hues which English refers to as blue. Is this correct?

    Red, crimson, vermillion, pink, maroon, & perhaps some others for red hues. Do other languages have his many or more words for red?

    English includes words for purple, yellow, green, blue, red (see above), pink, brown, tan, white, black, gray, & various others.

    What other languages have a similar number of color words? I think that French & Italian have a lot of color words, but am not sure of his.

    BTW: There is an African language which has no word for green: It uses the term The color of ripe grass.


     
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  3. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

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    We do the same thing in English - e.g. "plum-coloured". Another variation is "cherry red" which uses an example/illustration to make the colour more specific.
     
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  5. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    The online English-Russian dictionary lists only one translation for "blue:" goluboi.

    As for "the color of ripe grass," one of our color-words is "orange."

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    "Purple" comes from Latin purpura, a species of shellfish that yields purple dye.

    The ancestor of "green" in Proto-Germanic is an inflection of "grow." In other words, "the color of growing plants."

    "White" is derived from the same Proto-Germanic word as "wheat."

    The ancestral form of "black" was the word for "ink."
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2015
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  7. rpenner Fully Wired Staff Member

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  8. someguy1 Registered Senior Member

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    And there is a language that has no word for the color orange. Instead they use the name of an orange-colored fruit. I mean English, of course!
     
  9. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

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    English using orange for both a color & a citrus fruit is not equivalent to the African language using the color of ripe grass to indicate the color green. They do not merely say ripe grass or grass to indicate the color green.
     
  10. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

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    Fraggle Rocker: You might be correct, but I am not sure I would trust the online dictionary on this issue.

    I will try to remember to consult one of my Russian friends on this issue. I have a memory (possibly erroneous) that somebody told me of two different Russian words for two hues that English speakers would call blue.
     
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    I've never found an error in the etymologies at Dictionary.com. If one is not 100% certain, they happily say so.
    But that is simply a reflection of the rules of the language. In English we can (and frequently do) draft nouns to serve as adjectives: brick house, hand brake, dog food, etc. Chinese does the same thing, albeit much more vigorously. Both English and Chinese use word order to indicate relationships.

    In highly-inflected languages like Russian and German, this simply cannot be done. You can't shove two nouns together without one of them sprouting an inflection that indicates the relationship between them.
     
  12. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

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    The question is: Are Blue and Green the same color? Notice anything interesting about the picture below?

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  13. Randwolf Ignorance killed the cat Valued Senior Member

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    Yeah, what appears as blue vs green are really the same color - is that it Michael? Do I win my choice of prizes from the third shelf? In fact, they have almost the same hex value even - 00ff7e and 04ff96 - wow...
     
  14. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

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    All colours are variations of the same thing. That's why we use examples like "sky blue" and "grass green".
     
  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Our eyes have two kinds of light receptors. Rods are extremely sensitive, useful at night or in dark places, but they do not distinguish colors. Our night vision is basically black-and-white.

    Cones
    are much less sensitive, not very useful in dim light, but we have three different sets of cones that are sensitive to different sections of the visible light spectrum.

    The colors we see are the brain's rendition of the brightness of each of the "primary colors," as we call red, yellow and blue. There's no way to compare what two different people see, so for all we know, each one of us may have a completely different picture in his brain when viewing exactly the same scene.

    Some animals have the same color-perception mechanism as ours, but others are quite different. Dogs have only two kinds of cones, so they don't see the same riot of colors that we do.

    On the other hand, many birds have four kinds of cones. The fourth one is sensitive to ultraviolet. This is how they can tell the males and females apart, while we can't: they have ultraviolet pigmentation in their feathers that we can't see.

    Some insects have as many as seven kinds of cones. This helps them find ripe fruit and avoid the most dangerous predators.
     
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  16. Randwolf Ignorance killed the cat Valued Senior Member

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    Women are much the superior sex - at least at discerning shades and hues of color. Theories as to why this is so include the idea that they stayed back at the cave picking berries and such, genetically selecting for those that weren't able to distinguish the poisonous from the edible.

    Hell, to me black and navy are pretty much indistinguishable...
     
  17. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

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    Some women are born with tetrachromatic retina. About 1 in 200 I thought?
     
  18. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Indeed. Just watch a man being dragged helplessly by his wife through a fabric store, or the paint department in a home improvement store. Ecru? Navajo white? They're all the same color with different names!
    Same here.

    You're surely right about women needing to distinguish between subtle shades of colors. In an era with no contraceptive technology, the average woman had three young children hanging out with her at any moment. There's no way she could join the men's hunting parties. So indeed, the women stayed close to home, being the gatherers while the men were the hunters.

    But it turns out that we have an advantage of our own. Men have a much greater ability to perceive motion than women. This allows us to spot the slight movements of an animal that's trying to hide from us, or to simply notice a herd of herbivores grazing way off in the distance.
     
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  19. Daecon Kiwi fruit Valued Senior Member

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    That's not blue and green, that's cyan and green.
     
  20. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    In French there is a colour called "caca d'oie", a sort of deep green/brown which is often found in people's eye colour and is very attractive. This translates as "goose shit".

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    A bit about its somewhat rude history here in French Wiki: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caca_d'oie
     
  21. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    How the continuous visible spectrum is divided is arbitrary. Some primitive languages (many dead now) had only one color named. It was always the part of the spectrum we call red. In some that same word named blood too. Interior decorators have more than 24 divisions of the spectrum named.
     

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