Making the World More Understandable

Tag Archives: synonyms

What Color is Your Language?

What Color is Your Language?

After writing my “Ode to the Thesaurus,” I started to think about how I could write a multitude of such Odes and have a great time. The problem is that I’d probably lose my readership. This left me at a bit of a loss for blog topics.

Crayola's Original 38 Crayon Colors
Crayola’s Original 38 Crayon Colors

Recently, I bought a second pack of colored pencils and started working on my mosaics coloring book. As the type of girl who likes to color between the lines, coloring books are great for me. Mosaics are fun because I try to create a system where I don’t end up with a repeating layout of color. Rarely does that actually work, but I try.

Dealing with two packs of pencils by different brands, I occasionally get caught putting two colors together that are too close in shade – thus ruining my obsessive goal of not having the same color next to itself.

And this is when I started to put the two ideas together. The slightest variation between colors is like the slightest variation in the meaning of synonyms.

Then I started to think about the names of colors. Again, I have my pencils to blame for this. One brand did name their colors. Light Violet is a very loud pink-red while Dark Violet is a seriously deep purple. Neither of which is the light pastel purple I associate with the word “violet.”

Then I started to think of my box of Crayola 64. Talk about a great example of the variations of colors and words alike! (And I’m not going to debate the political correctness of crayon names.) Let’s think about blue. Every color has a ton of variations, but I’m currently looking at the blues on Wikipedia. Three remarkably close shades are Sky Blue, Turquoise Blue, and Aquamarine. You could accurately call all of those shades light blue, but you lose the nuance that the names provide. Oh, and, Light Blue is a different crayon altogether.

TANGENT ALERT: Why isn’t even Crayola Red actually red? Its RGB composition is 237 Red, 10 Green, and 63 Blue. Just goes to show that it is almost impossible to find a true red.

So, what picture are you drawing with your words? Just because Carmine and Violet-Red are close does not mean they are the same color. Similarly, esteem and admiration are not the same. (If you’re wondering, esteem requires thought while admiration is feeling based.)

Are you clearly explaining what is going on, or are you giving a general description? Worse, are you mis-explaining something?

Example: Julia just won the lottery. She is jumping up and down screaming, “I WON THE LOTTERY!”

General Description of Julia: Julia is happy she won the lottery.

Clear Description of Julia: Julia is ecstatic about winning the lottery.

Mis-Description of Julia: Julia is pleased to have won the lottery.

If Julia were already a multi-billionaire and sitting calmly in a chair with a slight smile, then I might describe her as “pleased”; since that’s not the case, “pleased” does not accurately explain the situation.

Just because you could say that Sky Blue, Turquoise Blue, and Aquamarine are all light blues, the specific adjectives do wonders for deciding which one you want to color with.

In short (too late), pick your words – and colors – carefully.

-Lorrie Nicoles