[Tig] Color Standards and Color Nomenclature

Richard Kirk richard at filmlight.ltd.uk
Fri Jun 8 09:37:33 BST 2012

> From: Rob Lingelbach <rob at colorist.org>

Following from Rob's post...
> Deutscher analyzes Gladstone and Geiger's work on Homer's Odyssey, where the "wine-dark sea" may be an indicator that color vision was more primitive (and may not have had a term for blue-- there is no use of it in the Greek text).
It is hard to interpret historical terms for colour. Homer describes 
Hector's hair as 'kyanos' with is blue-green as far as we know, but back 
then may have meant 'bright' or 'shining' like the sky rather than being 
a color. Unfortunately, linguists have already used this argument to 
cover his 'bronze' skies. More recently, I suspect Newton's 'blew' may 
have been an azure blue-green, which is why he needed a separate 
'indigo'. The more modern use of 'blue' to mean 450nm light probably 
came about 1800 - you can see the shift though Thomas Young's papers.

Some problems survive to the present day. 'Violet' to me is a 400nm 
colour, and also the color of the African Violet. 'Violet' to a gardener 
may mean a much pinker and lighter native plant.

The original proposal was to interfere with evolving linguistics by 
assigning names to 'constant' colours. Mauve #E0B0FF, for example,  is 
the colour of the mallow flower, and of Perkin's famous analine dye. We 
may not have a sample of either to hand, but we can probably call up a 
monitor and get a fair example of the colour. If we have a common 
understanding of a colour, then it is easier to see small differences. 
We can discuss the differences between 'mauve' and 'magenta' and 
'purple'. This does not change what we see, but it may modify our 
ability to appreciate the differences. This is a much weaker form of the 
Sapir-Whorf hypothesis referred to in the article, and one that some 
people may accept to some extent.

It would be nicer if we could get a color-corrected colour browser - 
perhaps even a spectrally corrected version for real colours, but we do 
adapt to monitor primaries, so the present RGB definition is not bad.

If I was going to change color names, I would make the rainbow hues 
'red, orange, yellow, green, azure, blue, violet'.

Richard Kirk

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