Archive for August, 2012

Uranium Orange?

Those few of you not accustomed to haunting the various URLs of Mac Ind Og will not have noticed how fond this author is of various, as yet unnamed, aspects of spoken language, e.g., jargon, and in particular here, the jargon of color. Can we as humans perceive some color for which our language has no name? I suspect we can, but how about distinguishing between two colors, say, where one or both are unnamed? As language evolved, so too did the naming of colors, and for reasons no one seems to know, just about every language evolved names for colors in the same exact order, with black and white being the first two colors to appear. According to professor Wiki, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_term the colors enter a language pretty much in the following order: “black,” “white,” “red,” “green,” “yellow,” “blue,” “brown,” “orange,” “pink,” “purple” and “gray” for a total of 11. Virtually all modern languages have terms for these 11 colors. Turkish and Farsi have a twelfth, “azure.” All other colors are considered, by speakers of the respective language, as variants of this basic set. For example, in English we say “pink” instead of “light red” and that makes “pink” a legitimate color name. The reader is perhaps perplexed by all of this, i.e., can’t we make the same argument about “turquoise” say? No, we can’t, because there are lots of  colors for which the speakers of English would label as “turquoise.” I see that I am sinking deeper and deeper into an epistemological mire, and this is not what I wanted to write about.

One day last week as I was departing the homestead destined for LLNL, a nuclear weapons laboratory, where I work as a programmer, my wife handed me a ceramic dinner plate, one with a bright orange glaze, “Here, see if you can get rid of this at work,” she said, “It’s highly radioactive, and I have no idea of how to dispose of it,” her thinking being that surely a nuclear weapons laboratory would know how to deal with a 70 some odd year old piece of Fiesta, AKA Fiesta Ware. It is Uranium Oxide that imparts the red-orange color to that particular glaze.

In fact if you google-images on “uranium orange color” one of the first images returned will be that of a Fiesta dinner plate,  , the very same one handed to me by my wife that fateful morning. And this got me to wondering about “atomic tangerine,” a color in the Crayola color set, . If you suspect that atomic tangerine became a Crayola color about the same time that radio active Fiesta showed up, circa, 1936, you’d be mistaken. Crayola introduced “atomic tangerine” in 1990, but surely they must’ve been influenced in their choice of a name by the presence of Uranium orange. One can’t help but wonder why it took them so long; Uranium orange is an appealing color . Why am I making such a fuss over this one particular color name? Well, as I said at the outset, I am fascinated by color names, a fascination that didn’t blossom until I realized one day that women have and use a vast lexicon of color names, whereas men, generally speaking don’t and confine themselves, at least in conversation, to the basic set of 11 color names. And this is not due to women having a heightened color sense relative to men. Not at all, for the human eye has no gender specific variations that I am aware of. No, it’s more a matter of women having superior verbal skills relative to men. That is, unlike the eye, the brain exhibits lots of gender related variation. For example, a woman might describe the color of a ripe apricot as “salmon pink” where a man would say (and see?) just “pink.” And this got me wondering about “ochre”, “mauve”, “taupe”,  “azure”,  and most of all “puce”. Is it that men just cannot “see” these colors, or what is more likely, while they can see these colors, do they lack names for them in their acquired dictionaries? Or failing that, is it that men just don’t care about color that much. That is, they can see that something is viridian, say, in color and they are familiar with the name, but when pressed to describe what they see, green, or at best burnt green, will be what they come out with, and this, simply because they don’t give a fig, or have any desire to go (explore?) beyond the basic set of evolved color names.

But not me! I have a fondness for words and language—I have a collection of color names, that includes such beauties as “icterine”, “rufous” and “flavescent,” though truth be known I’d be hard pressed to identify any of these in a police lineup. Maybe it’s a matter of practice and scholarship, and what I need is a set of color swatch flash cards with the subject color on one side and its name on the other. I could thereby become as facile as any woman that ever lived at naming the color of a thing. I must  confess to becoming dangerously aggravated (a no-no for we bipolars) this one time in a heated argument with a dear friend of my wife, over, of all things, just exactly what color “puce” is. It was my position that  puce is this color,  , and it was her position that it was this color,  , and she was adamant about it. So was I. I was able to elude the ‘man thing’, i.e., screaming, as we argued back and forth. We finally settled the argument via google-images. As it turns out, the world isn’t all that sure of itself regarding puce, and two main views obtain, hers and mine, see above. There are others, . It was a Mexican standoff sort of, I guess.

So, fascinated as I am by the vast color jargon, the reader can easily understand my delight in having discovered the following Mecca,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_colors a large proportion of which is taken from the X11 and HTML4 naming schemes. And it was while exploring this list that I came across “atomic tangerine” and fell in love with both its color and its name.

In my youth I was given to painting the various kitchens that passed through my life with what was then called antique yellow walls and trim, and antique white ceilings. This color scheme assumed a positively valenced role in my life, as kitchen after kitchen succumbed to my tastes. Ah, but now that I am older and having entered my last major psychological shift/adjustment/stage, what Erikson terms the 8th stage (Wisdom), I’m thinking for my next kitchen, possibly my last,

flavescent walls

with icterine trim  and

cosmic latte ceiling, . That should work!

 

 

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The Expanding Universe

The universe is expanding, they say. But that simple statement doesn’t begin to convey its true import. “Expanding into what?” you ask. It’s expanding into the abyss. Slowly, inexorably, all the stars are distancing themselves from each other, getting farther and farther apart, and ultimately so far apart that the light they emit can never reach their neighbor stars. Do you see what is happening? At some point, the stars will “disappear” from the heavens. They will all seem to have gone out. All of them. At that point, then, we will be alone, truly and finally and utterly alone. In the abyss.

How could God allow this to happen? What kind of a God would turn his back on us like this and abandon us? So, I’ve come to the conclusion that either there is no God, or else S/He is so beyond our understanding that we can’t begin to comprehend what S/He’s up to. It says somewhere in the bible that man cannot know the mind of God. Well, babies, they got that right. So, there is a God, I say. Just as surely as we are being gobbled up by the abyss, S/He is there, for then we will truly be in His/Her embrace, for ever and ever, world without end, amen.

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