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Thread: No one could see the colour blue until modern times

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    Veteran Member Aaltrude's Avatar
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    Default No one could see the colour blue until modern times

    Kevin Loria
    Feb 28 2015

    Until relatively recently in human history, “blue” didn’t exist.

    As the delightful Radiolab episode “Colours” describes, ancient languages didn’t have a word for blue — not Greek, not Chinese, not Japanese, not Hebrew. And without a word for the colour, there’s evidence that they may not have seen it at all.

    How we realised blue was missing

    In the Odyssey, Homer famously describes the “wine-dark sea.” But why “wine-dark” and not deep blue or green?
    In 1858, a scholar named William Gladstone, who later became the Prime Minister of Great Britain, noticed that this wasn’t the only strange colour description. Though the poet spends page after page describing the intricate details of clothing, armour, weaponry, facial features, animals, and more, his references to colour are strange. Iron and sheep are violet, honey is green.

    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com.au/wh...e-color-2015-2

    Last edited by Islander; 03-02-15 at 10:30 PM.

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    Administrator Islander's Avatar
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    Default Re: No one could see the colour blue until modern times

    Oh, this is fascinating! Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages, has been on my "to read" list for at least a year... and now I want to order it through interlibrary loan as soon as I finish the Dickens novel I'm reading... oh, and the book on theology I'm reading for my nonfiction book club. Too many books, not enough time. But this whole concept of how we perceive the world and translate it through language, is utterly fascinating to me. Thanks for finding it, Aaltrude. So glad you're back, too!
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    Default Re: No one could see the colour blue until modern times

    Islander, which Dickens are you reading? Do tell!

    On words in different languages and what they tell us about their cultures: I find the subject fascinating. There is a wonderful word in Spanish, which while I'm not surprised that it doesn't exist in English, I was surprised to discover is missing in Portuguese as well: "consuegra". Suegra, for anyone unfamiliar with it, means mother-in-law. My son's mother-in-law is my consuegra and vice versa. To me, that a word exists for this relationship highlights the importance in most Latin cultures of family, including extended family. That's why I was surprised to find no such
    word in Portuguese.

    And last week I was speaking to a student in English, and I used the Porguese word, "lembrancinha." Turnabout is fair play, so he reminded me that the word in English is souvenir. I agreed, of course, but explained that there is a nuance often meant in the Portuguese word that isn't usually intended in the English word, and the Portuguese meaning fit better. A souvenir is usually an object related to a place or an event, whereas a lembrancinha is often to remember a person by. Again, a reflection of the intense importance of interpersonal relationships in Latin cultures.
    Last edited by Pattypans; 03-03-15 at 06:07 AM.

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    Veteran Member Reesacat's Avatar
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    Default Re: No one could see the colour blue until modern times

    Thanks for a great article Aaltrude So nice to have you back! This was absolutely fascinating — and so interesting Pattypans about relationships shaping words in Latin culture.

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    Veteran Member grulla's Avatar
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    Default Re: No one could see the colour blue until modern times

    Most interesting. Apparently the color "blue" can be a strange, difficult, and elusive color.

    Author Kevin Loria says there are no blue animals, but parrots, parakeets, blue jays, and blue birds come to mind. I used to ocean fish for blue fish. But Russian Blue cats, Blue Heeler dogs, and Blue Roan horses, are more of a figurative descriptive breed or species name. And Huckle Berry Hound certainly does not qualify :-) .

    I recall a long time ago being told that the blue paint on my old 66 Dodge Dart peeled because the the color blue reacted adversely with sunlight.

    And it wasn't until the mid 90s that the Nobel Peace Prize winning blue light emitting diode (LED) was FINALLY invented, 50 years after the green and red versions, which further resulted in the ability to electronically synthesize all other colors (RGB); http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_priz...sprize2014.pdf
    Last edited by grulla; 03-03-15 at 11:09 AM.

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    Default Re: No one could see the colour blue until modern times

    In the circle of blocks in the article, I was unable to differentiate the one outlier; to me they all looked exactly the same. I'm sure I'm not color blind but sometimes I have difficulty distinguishing greens from blues. I have no idea why that is.

    @Pattypans: if someone had told me it's as a college freshman that there was a field called linguistics, especially cultural linguistics, I would have had my career and vision set for the next 50 years. What language can reveal to us about culture is a huge area largely unexplored. Some of the nuances of language prevents us from accurately translating a sentence from one language to another; For instance, it's not possible to translate the sentence, "I hired a new worker for my store yesterday" from English to Russian. To be honest, I don't think that's the exact sentence, but the example pointed out that among other difficulties, one would need to know the gender of the worker... and there is some confusion around time and tenses as well.

    The book we just finished for the nonfiction book club was a hefty biography of Dickens. I'm not usually keen on biographies but this was well written, and the man led an interesting life indeed. it just whetted my appetite because when I was about 9 or 10 my grandmother gave me a volume of four very condensed Dickens novels which I enjoyed... but for some reason I never revisited the actual full-length novels. So now I'm reading Great Expectations. It runs to over 800 pages but I'm loving every minute of it. I can tell I'm going to end up on a Dickens binge... I did that with Jane Austen once too.
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    Veteran Member Aaltrude's Avatar
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    Default Re: No one could see the colour blue until modern times


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    Default Re: No one could see the colour blue until modern times

    I saw 33, the very minimum to be considered a "tetrachromat". That surprises me, actually, as I often see certain shades of gray as green. I could have sworn my daughter's couch was green until she told me it was gray.

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