colorful language

Color is the place where our brain and the universe meet.
– Paul Klee


Though our eyes can distinguish millions of different shades of colors, our color vocabulary is limited in comparison –  about thirty words in all.  As a species, those words – colorful language – enter vocabulary at a snail’s pace, using  a sequence that remains much the same from culture to culture.

All languages have words for black and white. Red is always the third color to have a word associated with it, followed by green (or yellow) and then yellow (or green). Blue, brown, purple, pink, orange, and grey follow suit.

There are a few  variances to this general pattern.  One African tribe has no word for green but six for red. The ancient Greeks had no word for blue. There is no Old English word for orange.

Personally, I like the fact that red is always the first color to get a word. This reinforces a notion I have about red, white, and black being the most striking color combination there is.

Source: The Art of Looking Sideways, Alan Fletcher

Eric Shew is a graphic designer and front end developer living in Bellingham, Washington.

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