The people who work with me have pointed out that I’m color blind. Fortunately I can tell my greens from reds, so I’m allowed to drive, but apparently I can’t really see the color blue particularly well. This became particularly obvious after that long, angry weekend I previously described. I invited everyone back into the studio and with great pride showed my team The Grey Room, a new set that I had destroyed and then re-sanctified with buckets of grey paint.
Or, as my team pointed out to me… BLUE paint. I’ll take their word, I guess…
I just found this wonderful two-part article called the The Crayolafication of the World that explores the naming of colors, how we got there, and how it has affected our perception. The author explores how different cultures have come about naming colors. It is not as analogous as you’d expect it to be. A lot of cultures don’t make a distinction between blue and green, for instance.
How many colors can you name? I can probably get to fifteen, but that begins reaching into purely descriptive terms. (Rust? Eggplant? Egg yolk? Those might describe East German hair colors for older ladies…)
Part Two of the article gets into the slightly more scientific aspects of color recognition. Children take comparatively long to acquire a nomenclature for the various colors. I can’t recall whether that was the case… It seemed my three sons figured out colors very early, but one thing that I will remember forever was a particular bonding experience with my first son. I’m not sure whether it was simply because I had more time for him than others that weekend, or whether we’re wired to communicate a certain way – we’re both highly communicative… to a fault! But at that time he was walking around pointing at things and saying “Elmo”, possibly one of his first words. Well, I sussed out that he was only pointing at red objects, and Elmo is a red furry Sesame Street monster… and we just spent the rest of the time walking around the house pointing out Elmo-colored things and saying the word “red.”
The point is that language has a lot to do with perception, because language becomes definition. I am completely bilingual (German and English) and can bullshit my way through a number of other languages. To anyone who speaks more than one language, you realize that straight translation is impossible, that all words are loaded with historic and cultural values, and that they have a distinct etymology. This means that people have different experiences because they don’t just get filtered through a personal matrix of reference points, but that there are distinct cultural aspects that define our experiences.
And maybe that’s why I see the set as grey, and my Berlin teams sees it as blue. People here seem to have more words for grey than eskimos have for snow… which is less than I thought.