Interesting about orange

  • Orange, seems to be the only basic colour word for which no other word exists in English.
  • There was no colour orange, at least before oranges came to Europe. This is not to say that no one recognised the colour, only that there was no specific name for it. Chaucer called it ‘colour betwixe yelow and reed’
  • In Swedish there are different words for the color (“orange”) and the fruit (“apelsin”). The color used to be called “brandgul” though (fire yellow) before “orange” came from French.
  • In English, no word rhymes with orange
  • A friend of mine calls oranges ‘solid juice units’
  • In some cultures, the colour range of what we could call orange is very narrow. There are also some languages with words for very few colours.
  • Some theorise that we didn’t develop terms for any particular colour until we had the ability to reproduce it (dyes, pigments…)
  • If people had no oranges in their country and had never seen an orange, what would they call the colour? Yellow?
  • and, not orange related but…one of my students told me that Japanese historically had no word for pink. They called it ‘cherry blossom.’ However, now they use the word ‘pink’.

So as time has gone by, we can recognise and produce more and more different colours. Some of the Pantone colours of the year are things people in days gone by could not have imagined.

I also wonder…

Who decides to name a colour? For example someone at some point called wood brown. But does everyone see the same colour when they look at the same brown table, for example? And why the word brown? And how did everyone decide to use that word for that colour? Who got to decide what it would be called?

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

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