>John F. Sowa wrote:
>> the Slavic languages make
>> a sharp distinction of siniy (dark blue) and goluboy (light
>In Polish, 'siny' is typically defined as blue-violet, not just dark
>blue; it is the color of desaturated blood (visible, e.g., on the lips
>of someone who freezes). Blue (simply blue) is 'niebieski' ('niebo'
>means sky), and there is also 'blekitny' (light blue, more or less),
>etc. -- surely you have a few such words in English as well? (01)
I would translate both 'siny' and 'niebieski' as
'blue' and 'blekitny' as 'pastel blue' or 'sky
blue' or 'light blue' depending on the context,
unless a more precise translation were important.
English refers to frozen people having blue lips.
This kind of phenomenon is common, almost
universal: different cultures and languages carve
up the color space into different named regions.
(The same happens with, for example, spatial
prepositions: Dutch has a version of 'in' which
applies only to the case of a tight or exact
fit.) Nevertheless, the choice of the
prototypical colors is, apparently, not cultural.
A Pole will draw a different boundary around
'niebieski' than an Englishman will around
'blue', but if you ask them to choose one color
point to be the most representative such color,
they will choose the same one. Everyone on the
planet will choose fire-engine red, alarm yellow
and policeman-blue as the most typical or
characteristic colors. (02)
For an artist, there are many color names, often
very precise, some of them named after particular
pigments. Cerulean is the color of a shallow sea
over white sand. Prussian blue is a dark, rich
green-tinted translucent blue, like dark blue
glass. Ultramarine is a bright vivid intense
saturated blue, a little too dark to be 'simply
blue' but otherwise very close to the prototype.
Less precise, and more in common usage, there are
'sky blue', which refers to a moderate pastel
blue (not, in fact, the color of a clear sunny
sky, which is more saturated) and Pthalo blue,
which is somewhere between cerulean and prussian.
Similarly, any painter will know the difference
between chrome yellow, lemon yellow and naples
yellow; or between chrome red, alizarin and rose
madder; or sap green, viridian and chrome green.
Or, for that matter, between zinc white and
titanium white, or lamp black and ivory black.
But I doubt that any of these distinctions are
widely known by people who do not use artists
I wonder, is all this English? Or is it Artist English, a special dialect? (04)
>A study on this distinction, which perhaps you had in mind, has been
>recently published in PNAS ("Russian blues reveal effects of language on
>color discrimination", 2007 May 8;104(19):7780-5).
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