No Name Colors
We are the nameless colors. No mere words can encapsulate our radiance. We are questions without easy answers. We are puzzles for the sake of enigma. We are the cats that get your tongue, leaving you speechless in our wake. We are anonymous yet individual, handleless yet graspable, inscrutable yet deep. Would a color by any other name look as sweet? We are the nameless colors--the only colors truly beyond description.
Art expert Joseph H. Krause notes that "In the English language, there are fewer than thirty words whose major function is to designate a specific color. These include auburn, azure, brown, black, blue, cerise, crimson, cyan, dun, ecru, gray, green, indigo, khaki, maroon, mauve, puce, purple, red, russet, scarlet, sepia, taupe, ultramarine, white, and yellow—they are all defined in the dictionary as either a specific location on the spectrum or with the phrase 'as having the color of' or 'being the color' followed by the names of objects bearing the color. . . .
"There are also colors that are named after specific objects—animals, vegetables, or minerals; their names, having been in use for a long time, have come to be regarded, when used in the proper context, primarily as colors. Within this group are such names as beige, buff, lavender, lilac, orange, pink, sienna, umber, rust, turquoise, silver, gold, emerald, sapphire, and fawn. And some of these names have lost their original meaning and now stand for the color alone. However, even with this list, the number of color names remains fairly small. Therefore we use a variety of linguistic devices to extend it.
- Combining names for a single color that has two hue qualities, e.g., yellow-green, blue-violet, yellow-orange
- Limiting names by the use of a modifier denoting lightness, e.g., dark blue, dark red, light red, light blue, light green
- Limiting names by the use of a modifier referring to the degree of color saturation, e.g., dull red, bright red, dull green, bright green
- Adding the suffix ish, e.g., yellowish, greenish, reddish
- Using such descriptive adjectives as mellow, harsh, garish, or subtle
[Read the entire article in my guest blog at ColourLovers.com.]