Monday, March 19, 2012

Color Crazy

A short story by Joyce Carol Oates contained an indelible metaphor. She compared the sky’s appearance to that of soiled sheets. Ms Oates has a knack for colorful description. On one page a metaphor fills the reader’s mind with a string of colors, like all the disgusting discoloration of filthy, stained bedsheets. On another, she will name the color itself, and with that one word brighten or darken the mood of an entire scene.   

How many such words can be dabbed on a writer’s palette? According to a sticky note in my flip dictionary, 267 colors in the United States of America, have official names set by the National Bureau of Standards. Strange how information generates more questions: is azure, aka sky-blue or cerulean, the same in all English speaking countries, or do the Aussies and Brits have their own special word to depict the sky on a pleasant day?

How many color-related words do you own? The following is a list of words that either name or relate to color. Print it so you can put a smiley face beside those you recognize, and take a second look at those you don’t. Chances are, words once studied, will grab your attention if you meet them again. And you might memorize a few for the next time a ten-year-old challenges you to a game of hangman.

1.   Albinism (denotes a condition marked by a deficiency in pigmentation; adj: albinic)

2. Anthocyanins (red, to purple pigments in fruits and flowers; also fruits and vegetables so colored)

3. Aposematic (or warning coloration describes defensive coloration of certain animals that makes them look poisonous to prey)

4. Atramentous, atramental (inky; black as ink)

5. Atroceruleous (adj., n. describes or having a deep blue-black color or the color itself.

6. Atrous (intensely black; substitute it for “black as coal”)

7. Bisque, bisk (color name for a color of a creamed soup; also the soup; name of an ice cream)

8. Bister (grayish to yellowish brown; adj.: bistered)

9. Carotene, carotin (yellow to orange plant pigment, especially carrots, used by the liver to make vitamin A.

10. Cerise (cherry-red)

11. Cerulean (sky-blue, azure)

12. Chartreuse (color of yellowish-green; proper noun: a type of liquor)

13. Chlorophyll, chlorophyl (green pigment plants use to produce nutrients through photosynthesis.

14. Chromatics (n. takes singular verb: the study or science of color; also chromatology)

15. Chromatophores (of squids, cuttlefish and others, cells, containing tiny melanin particles, that can change in size, thus giving the animal a change in color.)

16. Colorway (range or set of colors, as colors available for a certain product, as car, garments, etc.)

17. Cyan (deep greenish blue)

18. Cyanic (blue or bluish or greenish-blue color)

19. Cyanopathic (cyanosis)

20. Cyanosis (condition in which skin takes on a bluish tinge due to lack of oxygen in blood. Adj: cyanotic)

21. Dun (drab grayish brown; also a horse of a dun color; adj.: drab, dull, gloomy)

22. Etiolate (to become pale, as plant growing without enough sunlight)

23. Fuchsin ( a substance used to make fuchsia or magenta, a dark pink-red purplish color.)

24. Gamboge (yellow or maize -colored pigment obtained from the resin of an Asian tree)

25. Gilding (an attractive finish; veneer; golden covering or paint)

26. Griseous (grayish, mottled or streaked or grissled with gray, )

27. Grizzled (to make gray, to become gray, adj: gray, roan)

28. Grizzly (grayish or flecked with gray)

29. Hoary (gray or white, as if with age, also ancient.)

30. Iridescent (like shimmering light of a rainbow or shining through a prism)

31. Livid (color of bruise, ashen, unnaturally pale, bluish; also means anger)

32. Lividity (state of being livid)

33. Loden (flat or dull grayish-green; also a textile used for outerwear)

34. Local color (particular features of a place or region, usu that make it interesting)

35. Magenta (a coal-tar dye fuchsin; purplish red, dark reddish purple, after battle of Magenta, Italy)

36. Matte (describes a finish or color that is not glossy or lustrous; in paints, synonymous with flat).

37. Melanin (pigment in human and animal skin, hair and eyes; also present in plants)

38. Maize (light yellow to yellow-orange)

39. Mulberry (dark grayish purple)

40. Murrey (mulberry or grayish purple to purplish black)

41. Nuance (slight or subtle differences in color shades)

42. Ocher (an earthen substance used to make pigments; as a color deep yellow to yellowish-orange

43. Opaque (also described as dense, a surface or material a person cannot see through; Ant: transparent)

44. Pavonine (resembling a peacock, esp tail or colors, design or iridescence of tail)

45. Primary colors (red, green, blue—main colors from which all other colors can be made.)

46. Puce (dark red to purplish brown)

47. Reseda (grayish green color)

48. Roan (generally describes the hair or coat of animals—dogs, horses, cattle in which white hair is interspersed with a base color, but unlike humans, the base color doesn't gray with age) 

49. Rubescent (turning red or reddish, as in blushing)

50. Rufus (a shade of red; also a given or Christian name)

51. Sable (black; also a mammal or its fur; also, adj., a coat of sable fur)

52. Sallow (unnaturally yellow or pale yellowish; is also a tree)

53. Sepia (medium brown to dark greenish brown; also “ink” secreted by the cuttlefish)

54. Sloe-eyed (very dark eyes or almond-shaped eyes; sloe gin is flavored with sloes, a blue-black fruit)

55. Sorrel (reddish brown; also a reddish brown horse; also a plant)

56. Stramineous (of or like straw; straw colored)

57. Tawny (tanned, light brown, sandy color)

58. Vermilion (a bright orange-red)

59. Vivid (adj. describes a strong color; also sharp or intense memory, dream, and so forth)

60. Wan (generally, weak or sickly, therefore, pallid, pale, ashen, whitish, anemic)

Note: Word descriptions here are brief. For complete definitions, consult a dictionary. 

(c) 2012, Bernice W. Simpson

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