Thursday, 15 March 2012

Colours of the rainbow

I really must have nothing better to do to be writing a post on this subject...

ALL men see in only 16 colours, like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a colour. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.

The above statement is one of twenty-three from a list of observations called `Men's Rules' some smart guy wrote as a relationship guide for his female partner. I posted this list previously under the heading of `No hints please. Just say it!'.

I'm not talking about the rules again this time but about colours... specifically about the various unfamiliar names given to the hundreds of shades of colours. I remember back in secondary school, my science teacher asking the class, "How many colours are there in the rainbow?" Of course, the standard answer that came back from us students was seven. Well, that's what the textbooks tell you, my teacher said. "If you are to go and ask a shopkeeper selling paint," he continued, "he will say that there are hundreds of colours."

Indeed there are... a few hundreds from what I can see in Wikipedia's article on this topic. Unless we are working in an industry that depends on colours (for example : fashion design, paint, lipstick, electronic display screens), most of these names would escape us, let alone identify which shade of primary colour it is.

I just found out that there are two sets of primary colours : the Red/Green/Blue grouping is called the additive combination (as in overlapping projected light or CRT display) while the Red/Yellow/Blue grouping is called the subtractive combination (as applied to pigments and dyes). All the other colours can be obtained by mixing of the primary colours, in varying proportions or degree. And since there can be an infinite combination of such mixes, there is therefore an endless shade of colours. New names are coined to go with the new shades, which sometimes add to the confusion.

Apart from the primary colours, the established secondary colours are well-known and readily identifiable. Colours like brown, pink, purple, grey and orange are easily understood. It is when we come to the derivatives that we get stumped. Maroon is reddish-brown, or is it brownish-red? Beige is a popular colour but is it more pale-brown or pale-yellow? Cyan is another well-known modern day colour that's found on our computer display screen (although the origin of the name is quite ancient). It is a blue-green combination... but how much blue and how much green?

The names of many of the colour shades come from nature, especially plants and flowers. Names such as peach, lavender, periwinkle, lilac and asparagus (yes, there is a special shade of green that takes its name from the vegetable). Some natural sounding names are easy to identify (charcoal, ivory, maize) while some takes a bit of describing (fallow, teal, russet). I am quite hopeless at identifying colours. That is why I guess, I like to stick to grey (or sometimes spelled gray) as my favourite colour... there's just light grey, dark grey, ash grey, smoky grey and maybe one or two more. Pretty drab and unexciting, huh?

So what's the colour of this orchid flower?
My previous post on a similar subject -> Colourful words.
Interesting source for origin of some colour names -> The colour of words.

8 comments:

Jehan Bakar said...

Apa lagu dlm crite Pocahontas tuh?

"...can U sing with all the colours in the wind?"

That is simply beautiful ain't it?

Oldstock said...

Verse,

Yes, lovely song by Vanessa Williams.

Can you sing with all the voices of the mountains..
Can you paint with all the colours of the wind...

zafi said...

Hi Oldstock,

No.. I will stop from blogging... Due to many constraints that I can't handle... made me limits my time to blog! I'm back ... :D
Nice entry... I am pretty bad with colors...

Lili said...

I'm a fan of grey but lately lilac/mauve/lavender..hiks...tempt me!

And...don't we all love Colors of the Wind?! ;-)

Papa-NtiQ said...

My man Oldstock is really good with words...he can transform a simple and seemingly uninteresting subject of color into an exciting and colorful (?) essay. Ever thought of becoming a lecturer?

Oldstock said...

Hi Zafi, welcome back to blogging. Hope you get your visa to go to the US.

Oldstock said...

Yes, Lili my friend... but what exactly is the colour of lilac/mauve/lavender? If you can help explain, hehe...

Oldstock said...

Papa antik,

I cannot become lecturer... have no patience with students :-)