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.
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.
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. :)
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.
"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".
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.
Can't you also use "pink" in German primarily to describe synthetic "neon" pink? This may also be a case of bad memory ...
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.
I think you broke them all.
/weeps due to lack of worlds to conquer.
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.")
And I personally don't count my Saturday mornings complete unless I've banned Steve Stirling. *sigh*
...just in case anyone feels like banning him again.
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.
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).
Apparently the ancient greeks didn't have a name for blue. It sounds dubious, yet it was on QI. Hmm...
@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.
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.