Playpen

Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 16:39 on 17-02-2013, Andy G
I think in general, across all languages, it would be weird or at least uninformative to describe the colour of a flower using the name of the flower! Though since violets aren't called Violetten (as I'd mistakenly thought) but Veilchen, it wouldn't have been weird if "violett" had been the colour of violets (counterfactually, since in fact it isn't).

One colour term I did come across while translating a clothing catalogue that definitely seemed not to match onto English usage was "olive". Seemed to be referring to something that was basically just brown without a hint of green or grey.

Something else that I found mind-blowing when it was pointed out to me (though perhaps less so to everyone else) is that red wine isn't red but purple, and white wine is actually greeny-yellow. Obviously, in a sense I already *knew* that, and yet in another sense it seems not to fit how they are conceptualised in our language.
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at 15:10 on 17-02-2013, Cammalot
By the way, if you find it odd that we don't think violets are violet


What with "Roses are red/ Violets are blue" popping up all the time in impromptu poetry, it's not as odd as all that. :)
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at 15:06 on 17-02-2013, Arthur B
More on Aliens: Colonial Marines: this video makes an interesting case that either the "gameplay demo" which built up hype for the game was nothing of the sort, or the designers deliberately went out of their way to make the game look substantially uglier between producing the demo and finishing the game.
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at 15:00 on 17-02-2013, Arthur B
Not only is it harsh-sounding with the sharp k at the end, the closest native word is "pinkeln", which means "to piss".

And if your piss is pink you need to see a doctor.
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at 14:44 on 17-02-2013, Cheriola
"Purpur" isn't a artificial colour, it's really mostly used for animals or plants or stuff traditionally dyed with natural purple. But most more blueish shades of violet are kind of considered... plastic. I guess it goes back to that first artificial dye I was talking about. Aside from lilacs I can't really think of any native plants that are considered purple, and none that are blueish. The more natural hues you sometimes see in clothing catalogues are loan words from non-native plants, like "aubergine". (Are lilacs even native to Europe?)

"Lila" isn't really artificial, it just sounds a little childish (because it's an easy word to pronounce, and perhaps because there was a kids' show called "Li-La-Launebär", even if that had nothing to do with the colour). So nowadays people selling clothes or make-up avoid it for the most part.

And yes, like I said, "pink" is used for a loud, hot pink or neon pink if you want. But only for artificial things, not for example for the newer breeds of roses or tulips that have the same colouring. Flowers or meat or whathaveyou are always "rosa", or maybe "pinkfarben" ("coloured like pink") if it's a particularly strong, garish shade. I suppose it's because the word "pink" kind of sounds ugly and unnatural. Not only is it harsh-sounding with the sharp k at the end, the closest native word is "pinkeln", which means "to piss".

By the way, if you find it odd that we don't think violets are violet, I find it just as odd that the English language named a musical instrument "viola" (which is the Latin name of the plant, and as coincedence has it, one of my middle names). Though I admit that it sounds more melodic than the German term "Bratsche".
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at 13:15 on 17-02-2013, Daniel F
Anyone else get a laugh out of this?
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at 01:43 on 17-02-2013, Jamie Johnston
But we have -well, had - one for the planets: "Mein Vater erklärt mir jeden Sonntag unsere neun Planeten." ("My father explains our nine planets to me every Sunday.")

The one I learned at school (UK) was 'many velvet elephants munching juicy satsumas under nodding palms'. And the idea of not being able to use that any more is, frankly, the most upsetting thing about the downgrading of Pluto.
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at 00:42 on 17-02-2013, Andy G
Thanks for the more precise outline of the German colour system! As a non-native speaker, my understanding of the colours is based on a few paragraphs from a book on German linguistics I read a while back. My memory was that the claim was that not just "purpur" but "lila" was primarily used to describe artificial colours, but I don't know if it's the book or my memory that's wrong.

Can't you also use "pink" in German primarily to describe synthetic "neon" pink? This may also be a case of bad memory ...
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at 00:40 on 17-02-2013, James D
Oh, poop, I thought it was a brand new Howard defender for me to play with.

He argues so poorly, too. Instead of acknowledging that there are some problematic aspects to Howard's work and then trying to coherently defend its actual merits, Sterling basically just nitpicks lots and lots of minor details (he's not a fantasy Arab, you Philistine, he's a fantasy Turk!). I mean I've read most of his responses, and while I have a great understanding of why you don't like Howard's work, I have no fucking idea what Sterling sees in it that sets it above similar action adventure stuff (beyond 'it's really exciting' I guess). All he's really accomplished through his comments is to draw even more attention to Howard's racism, rather than get people to consider his good qualities.
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at 16:05 on 16-02-2013, Shimmin
For a second I read that as "neuen Planeten" which, I mean I know astronomy is a cutting-edge field these days, but I didn't realise Germany had always been so ahead of the curve.
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at 15:38 on 16-02-2013, Arthur B
I think you broke them all.

/weeps due to lack of worlds to conquer.
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at 13:48 on 16-02-2013, Cheriola
Hello!

I thought I might shed some light on this discussion of my native language. (Thanks, Kyra, for the quick registration.)

No, purple is not considered an "artificial" colour in Germany. At least, not all shades of it. I think this perception is based on the way how very similar terms in English don't match up with the same hues in German.

1. What we call "purpur" is not "purple", but rather a very particular shade of blue-ish red (it's also called "purpurrot", literally "purple red") - about what you would call magenta or amaranth. This term is still associated with royalty and expensiveness. It's practically only used to describe the things that used to be dyed with the original snail extract (for example Catholic bishop's robes), or occasionally for red plants and animals. A darker shade of this would be "weinrot" or "bordeauxrot", i.e. "red like wine".

2. "Violett" is a particular shade of dark, blue-ish purple. It's a loan word that, in the closest meaning, describes the particular hue of the first purely chemical aniline dye that was developed in the Victorian Era and was all the rage for a while back then (the proper English name is "mauveine", I think). So, yes, this shade is considered artificial.

3. Violets, as in the flower, are traditionally considered blue. We use the words "veilchenblau" ("blue like a violet") for that particular shade. And a shiner / black eye is called a "Veilchen" / "blaues Auge" in German.

4. However, some other flowers are considered purple. The dark, slightly redish purple of lilacs is "lila" and the light purple variant of liliacs are "fliederfarben" ("coloured like lilacs"). "Purple" is mostly translated with "lila", because that can encompass several redish or blueish hues. For example "The Color Purple" = "Die Farbe Lila".

5. Mauve, on the other hand, would be called "rosa" in German. (Well, we do have "malvenfarben", "colored like mallows", but nobody actually uses that word.) This word covers practically all shades of pink, too, except the hot pink of cadillacs or Barbie dresses, for which the English loan word is used and which is considered an artificial colour. The word "rosa" is a natural colour and it's mostly just altered slightly to describe different shades. "Zartrosa" ("delicate pink") would be a light shade close to what you'd call "rose-coloured". "Altrosa" ("old pink") would be a dusty, darker shade associated with little old ladies.


If I remember correctly, there are a *lot* of languages that conflate blue and green, or consider green a type of blue.


IIRC, in Japanese "aoi" can mean both blue and green, though there's also the term "midori" for "green like plants". I suppose it's a similar difference like "teal" and "verdant".

Having a phrase-that's-also-a-complete-sentence as a rainbow colour mnemonic never struck me as that out of the ordinary, but perhaps it is. Anyone know of any others, in English or in other languages?


I don't know any rainbow mnemonic in German (I never needed one). But we have - well, had - one for the planets: "Mein Vater erklärt mir jeden Sonntag unsere neun Planeten." ("My father explains our nine planets to me every Sunday.")
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at 13:28 on 16-02-2013, Wardog
I think you broke them all.
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at 13:01 on 16-02-2013, Arthur B
Oh, poop, I thought it was a brand new Howard defender for me to play with.
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at 12:41 on 16-02-2013, Wardog
I meant to say, welcome back Adrienne :) You've been missed.

And I personally don't count my Saturday mornings complete unless I've banned Steve Stirling. *sigh*
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at 07:50 on 16-02-2013, Adrienne
Just FYI, folks, I'm pretty sure that the recent commenter on We Need to Talk About Conan is Steve Stirling again. The OpenID is http://openid.aol.com/joatsimeon -- 'Joat' and 'Simeon' are main characters in the Brain/Brawn service books that Stirling wrote with Anne McCaffrey. And it SOUNDS like him.

...just in case anyone feels like banning him again.
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at 19:42 on 15-02-2013, Cammalot
If I remember correctly, there are a *lot* of languages that conflate blue and green, or consider green a type of blue. I had students refer to blue traffic lights meaing "go." (And isn't Duncan's blood called "gold" in That Particular Play? :-D Which has been interpreted both as an allusion to his royal nature and just fun with color name assignment and perception...)
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at 17:27 on 15-02-2013, Alice
It's my understanding that Newton assigned 7 colours to the light spectrum for weird alchemical reasons rather than because there are objectively seven colours there


Yes, that's what I've heard.

Speaking of rainbows, I delighted some locals a while ago by casually dropping a "Richard of York gave battle in vain" (I've also heard this as "gravely battled") into a conversation about rainbows. Apparently the local (Southeastern US) version of the mnemonic for the names and order of the colours of the rainbow is the rather unimaginative "ROYGBIV", pronounced either ROY-gee-biv, or sometimes spelled & pronounced as if it were a person's name: Roy G. Biv (in which case the emphasis is on the "Biv").

Having a phrase-that's-also-a-complete-sentence as a rainbow colour mnemonic never struck me as that out of the ordinary, but perhaps it is. Anyone know of any others, in English or in other languages? "Rowntree's of York gives best in value" is another I've heard for the UK (probably York(shire) specific, too), but I've yet to come across one in another language.
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at 15:55 on 15-02-2013, Fishing in the Mud
That explains why the indigo/violet boundary seems like such a stretch.
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at 13:28 on 15-02-2013, Arthur B
Colour naming gets quite a lot of study, it's fun stuff. Everyone draws different boundaries.

It's my understanding that Newton assigned 7 colours to the light spectrum for weird alchemical reasons rather than because there are objectively seven colours there (which there clearly aren't, there's a whole range of shades and how many distinct colours you get depends on how good your prism is).
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at 13:11 on 15-02-2013, Janne Kirjasniemi
Great idea! But I'm kinda in the middle of getting my all authentic organic table salt to the health scene. At the moment it is too sticky and it would be nice if it wasn't so oily in color.

Apparently the ancient greeks didn't have a name for blue. It sounds dubious, yet it was on QI. Hmm...
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at 12:46 on 15-02-2013, Shimmin
Yeah, colours often get treated oddly. Celtic languages usually use "blue" for vegetation. Gaelic languages tend to have two words for "natural" (glas[s]) and "artificial" (uaine/geayney) green, as well as one for blue. "blue man" in Gaelic means "black person". "argid glass" (blue-green silver) is pure silver, but in practic edistinguishes actual silver from money in general. "liath/lheeah" covers anything between pale green, pale blue and grey. Despite this, "glass" sometimes means grey, rather than green, especially of animals. Colour naming gets quite a lot of study, it's fun stuff. Everyone draws different boundaries.

@Janne: quick, sell it as a health supplement! It's all natural. Send some samples to a couple of magazines, we'll make a fortune.
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at 12:36 on 15-02-2013, Andy G
German has different colour concepts to English. "Blue" includes some shades we would call "purple". They did introduce "purpur" to describe imperial purple (same as in English) but unlike in English, it is still primarily used to describe things that have been dyed or coloured, not things that are naturally a certain shade.

I'm not sure if it's the same for pink, but the words for pink are also loan words so it wouldn't surprise me if "pink" flowers were described as "pale red" or something. "Violet" does exist as a name for a colour but I guess you wouldn't say that a violet was violet-coloured.
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at 09:13 on 15-02-2013, Janne Kirjasniemi
But, but, how is it not natural? The germans have certainly heard of Imperial Purple? It is secreted by sea snails, what's more natural than that?
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