The Color of Language, the Language of Color

Monday Morning Musings:

“When a name for a color is absent from a language, it is usually blue. When a name for a color is indefinite, it is usually green. Ancient Hebrew, Welsh, Vietnamese, and, until recently, Japanese, lack a word for blue… The Icelandic word for blue and black is the same, one word that fits sea, lava, and raven.

It has been shown that the words for colors enter evolving languages in this order, nearly universally: black, white, and red, then yellow and green (in either order), with green covering blue until blue comes into itself. . .

Within every color lies a story, and stories are the binding agent of culture.”
–Ellen Meloy, quoted on Brainpickings

Sunrise over the Delaware River. West Deptford, NJ. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

I celebrate color, all the hues
of dawning light to grey or blue,
the color of the sky, the gulls that flew
before the morning moon to sparkle bright–
I celebrate delight

in things we name from time and before—
the universe of letters, we’re each a book—and more–
composed of fiery stars and stellar song. And all along
from there to here and back again, there is light—
I celebrate its flight

from stars, bird-winged it soars, beating hearts
twinkling, illuminating the night, and each day
through shadows, there is a glow, a gate, a portal
through which time circles, not black or white—
I celebrate the spotlight

the lens through which I see. My faulty illusions—
still part of me. And everywhere I go, I see Crow—
who sees much more. So, while we count, label, and navigate,
some things remain unseen. But I dream and write—
I celebrate me, color, language, light.

My older child has been a fellow at the Atiq Maker Kollel for the past fifteen weeks. Yesterday they did a Zoom celebration of their art projects. You can find out more about their project here. In a discussion by one of the other participants, there was a mention of the world being created from letters and language, and even our bodies composed of language. I had read the Brainpickings article earlier in the week, which made me think of color and language, and the naming of things.


Memorial Day seems much more than a week ago, but we went to a Lobster and Chardonnay event at a local winery that afternoon. This past weekend, we tasted some of the wine (only got through the whites) from a blind tasting box—a Mother’s Day gift from our children.


Last night we watched the Kennedy Center Honors, which we both enjoyed. The honorees were Debbie Allen, Joan Baez, Dick van Dyke, Midori, and Garth Brooks. I couldn’t name a Garth Brooks song, but I even enjoyed his segment because he was so moved by the performers. Because of Covid restrictions, the TV program combined clips of filmed indoor and outdoor performances instead of the usual formal theater production. Some of the dance numbers worked very well that way.

I’m linking this to dVerse, Open Link Night.