color terms

X99Lynx at X99Lynx at
Wed Aug 25 04:15:25 UTC 1999

In a message dated 8/24/99 2:45:51 AM, you wrote:

<<I don't see any great reason to be surprised because speakers of another
language, or speakers of an earlier form of our own language, happen to
apply their color terms in a different way from us.>>

The surprise actually happens when we think otherwise.  But are semantics
taken as lightly as you seem to indicate?  I've seen etymologies discounted
on this list because a word that meant "iron" could not have meant "silver."
I can find it for you if you like.

I quoted:
<<"Glas" is used for foliage and softer greens, but also for various shades
of grey, from sheep to steel.>>

I wrote:
<<How else could we explain the form 'blake' turning up in the old
text to mean both black and white?>>

You wrote:
<<Well, we use `gray' for everything from very pale gray to charcoal gray.
Not so different, really.>>

Well, there's is a bigger difference between black and white than shades of
gray.  And green and gray is a pretty big difference indeed - in the same
word.  But I was getting at a bigger difference than that.

Funny that you should choose grays, as in shades of.  The word itself has
come to mean not only "charcoal gray' but indefiniteness.  How about reds?
We have used that to refer to everything from communists to a baseball
players to (in the singular) deficits.  That's a much wider range of
indefiniteness of meaning.

We use color terms for more than colors.  That was important to the point
about "bla'madr."

I wrote:
<<One explanation for all of this is that ancient peoples would use the color
names for pigments irrespective of "color" or even contrary to how these
matched with other pigments or natural colors - which often end up being not
what we think of as colors at all.>>

My point of course was that a 'blueman' might have nothing to do with blue.
Not as easy a point to make as I might have thought.

Steve Long

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