What is your favourite colour?
If it is blue (after all it is the world’s favourite colour), what kind of Blue is it? Is it Baby Blue, Navy Blue, Air Force Blue, Royal Blue, Light Blue, Dark Blue, Deep Blue, Sky Blue, Kingfisher Blue, Klein Blue, Sea Blue (oh, no, that’s only Sea Green isn’t it?), Bright Blue, Cambridge Blue, Oxford Blue, Prussian Blue, Cobalt Blue, Powder Blue, Ice Blue, Denim Blue, Sapphire Blue …
My point is that there are very few dedicated colour terms ie: names that mean only that colour and nothing else. There is black and white, blue, green, yellow, red, brown, grey. And these cover a wide range of colour. The more specific terms such as crimson, azure, scarlet, cyan etc have a correspondingly limited use. It is almost impossible to accurately describe in a paragraph, let alone a word or two, a specific point on the vast spectrum of colour differentiation. The net has to be cast a little wider.
Most colours have names which come from other sources, such as:
FLOWERS/PLANTS – violet pink fuchsia lilac lavender indigo rose primrose chestnut magnolia (aargh!) linen amber
ANIMALS – coral pearl camel fawn
FOOD/DRINK – orange chocolate saffron apricot raspberry plum olive lemon peach cream mustard lime avocado ( ’70’s aargh! this time) champagne coffee wine burgundy
MINERALS – jade ruby platinum gold silver turquoise sapphire
EVENTS/PLACES – magenta (named after a battle) ultramarine (meaning ‘beyond the sea’, as it was imported by ship from Asia)
Often colours are described using dark or light as a prefix and other times they are made more specific with a qualifying adjective:
NATURAL WORLD – peacock blue jet black slate grey salmon pink primrose yellow emerald green sea green apple green grass green pea green
PAINTERS – Titian red International Klein blue
In the 20C colour names became more conceptual, with titles such as ‘Georgian’ or ‘Gainsborough’ or ‘Byzantium’, suggesting a flavour or impression of a bygone era.
Today, the naming of paint colours seems to have hit stratospheric heights, witness the names of the paints in the photo above: Ivory Smooth Gold Grey Steel 3/4/5 Lemon Chiffon 2/4/5/6/ Blue Seduction Hot Paprika 3 Azure Sky 6 Kiwi Burst 6.
I would hate to be the person who has to come up with an original paint name these days. The weirdest one I have come across is ‘Emotional’ – I dread to think what colour that would be in my case (!).
Please let me know any of your favourite/weirdest colour terms …