Wednesday, December 24, 2014

What color are your blue jeans?

The language of color can be silly at times.

Flat paint is not flat. 

I know this will probably rock the very foundation of your belief system, but glossy paint is a whole lot flatter than flat paint. The very thing that makes a flat paint look un-glossy is the fact that the surface is very far from being smooth.

Cool colors are hotter than warm colors. 

If a color is reddish, we say it is warm. A warm light fixture might have a color temperature of 3500 K. If a color is bluish, we call it cool. A cool light fixture might have a color temperature of 6000 K. The color temperature scale is based on saying that the color looks like the color of a solid object that has been warmed up to that temperature, in degrees kelvin. 

We call all kinds of things red that aren't red.

People with red hair are called "gingers". Now tell me, what color is ginger? And this so-called "red" hair is really orange. Am I the only person to ever notice this? Oh... and the breast of the robin red-breast is also orange. Thanks, Mom. I'm still in therapy over that one.

By the way, the pigment responsible for gingers is only found in humans. No kidding. I red that on the internet, so it must be true.

Red shirt and "red" hair

Red roan horse? Red marmoset? Red fox? Red kangaroo? Red elephant? Red squirrel? Red bat? Gimme a break. Cardinals are red. There ain't no such thing as a red mammal.

Well, maybe some mammals are red

(I threw in that red elephant thing just to see if you were paying attention. Every elephant that I have ever seen for sale is white.)

Apples and tomatoes can be red, but red onions?  Red cabbage??!?  These are both some shade of purple. Maybe a reddish shade of purple, but I'm gonna call them purple. And I hate to say it, but most of the white cabbage I have seen is actually more of a green color.

Speaking of fruits and vegetables...

It has always bothered me that carrots are oranger than oranges.

Mommy: "What color is that shirt, Johnny?" 
Johnny: "It's carrot." 
Mommy: "Oh, you silly boy. Carrot isn't a color name." 
Johnny: "I thought orange was a fruit"

Which food deserves to be called an orange?

Did'ja know that the original carrots were purple? They had the purple bred right outa them. Goodbye anthocyanins.

Before I forget, most oranges that I buy in the grocery store have been artificially ripened with ethylene to make them go from a greenish-orange to a richer orange color.

Thank you for the appropriately-named blueberries, but how about blackberries?? And how about them red and black plums? I'm gonna need a glass of red wine (which is purple) to get through this. Or white wine, maybe. ...which is amber colored, or something.

What about dog breeds?  

You might not have heard of a kerry blue terrier, but do you think it's blue?  Guess's not. Neither is a blue heeler, or a Texas blue lacy.
I'll have a blue hound dog, without you...

How about the greyhound? Most of the greyhounds that I chum around with are some shade of tan or brown. I guess some are gray. Or grey, if they are British.

Is a golden retriever really golden? And speaking of which...  

All that's golden doesn't glitter.

There is just a plethora of things that we call "gold" that lack that metallic luster that lustrous metallic gold has. Goldfinches, golden retrievers, golden delicious apples, a sunset, and Goldie Hawn. Not to mention Goldilocks.

Gold isn't really a color name... it's a goniochromic effect

(I am happy to say, though, that brown bears and black bears have proper names--"Mama Bear" and "Papa Bear". But of course, the red panda is neither red, nor a bear.)

Human skin is neither white nor black.

Come on now. Is my skin really white? And my good friend Barack... I would say that his skin is brown. I don't dare mention Native Americans. I have never been green with envy that I am not a blue-blood.

Look... up in the sky!

If someone says "all the colors of the rainbow", are they aware that they have excluded pink, brown, gray, black, and white? Not to mention periwinkle, tangerine, lavender, mauve, and chartreuse.

Technically, the sky isn't "blue", it's more of a cyan. But I am sure that my wife will argue with me on that one. She'll probably say that it's aquamarine or azure or cerulean. Or flooberskullion.

How about a blue moon? Yeah, right. If a calendar month has two full moons (which happens maybe once a year), then the second one is called a blue moon. It's not blue, though.

Not a blue dog, but he does have a blue cape

All I can say is that our language is pretty messed up when it comes to color.


  1. Fun post John,
    The Blue Moon comment piqued my curiosity. From Wikipedia:

    "The suggestion has been made that the term "blue moon" for "intercalary month" arose by folk etymology, the "blue" replacing the no-longer-understood belewe, 'to betray'. The original meaning would then have been "betrayer moon", referring to a full moon that would "normally" (in non-intercalating years) be the full moon of spring, while in intercalating year, it was "traitorous" in the sense that people would have had to continue fasting for another month in accordance with the season of Lent."

  2. Just to be pedantic, "degrees Kelvin" is a misnomer. The unit of measurment is the "kelvin"
    See Wikipedia:

    "Before the 13th General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) in 1967–1968, the unit kelvin was called a "degree", the same as with the other temperature scales at the time. It was distinguished from the other scales with either the adjective suffix "Kelvin" ("degree Kelvin") or with "absolute" ("degree absolute") and its symbol was °K. The latter (degree absolute), which was the unit's official name from 1948 until 1954, was rather ambiguous since it could also be interpreted as referring to the Rankine scale. Before the 13th CGPM, the plural form was "degrees absolute". The 13th CGPM changed the unit name to simply "kelvin" (symbol K).[9] The omission of "degree" indicates that it is not relative to an arbitrary reference point like the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales (although the Rankine scale continued to use "degree Rankine"), but rather an absolute unit of measure which can be manipulated algebraically (e.g. multiplied by two to indicate twice the amount of "mean energy" available among elementary degrees of freedom of the system)."

  3. The red haired cannot be anything else but a Human? Eh...and the fox is.....? Not a human that's for sure but I would swear I saw a red glow on that fur. Tssss... Science prooves me wrong?

  4. Janneke - I think that science is going to prove you right! I will explain in the next blog post.

    Thanks for giving me a topic! :)

  5. Is the pigment in red hair unique to humans, as I suggested? Nope. I lied.

    I tear this statement to shreds in another blog post: