Thursday, November 15, 2007


Do you ever wonder how a color gets its name? It never crossed my mind until today when I picked up my dry cleaning. I walked into the shop, my mind working ahead of itself ("...the post office next...will it still be open?...and then groceries..."). I thought I'd hand over my slip of paper, get my jacket and jet out again. The attendant, an older man, balding in shorts and a tie-dyed tank top said, "That'll be $6.50" and then said something to the effect of, "I bet you didn't know, but in the mid-1800s the father of organic chemistry encouraged his students to find a color fast pigment. Everyone wanted a royal blue color, something that could be used to dye natural fibers and would stay the same after every washing. So one student set out to create this dark blue, but was unsuccessful and instead developed a deep red-pink shade that no one had ever used before. At the time the French has just won a significant millitary battle in Italy in the town of Magenta, and so this became the name of the new color." All of this, because on the rack, covered in plastic, was my bright magenta jacket. Fresh and ready to go.

I left the store with a clean jacket and a new perspective on color. I almost can't imagine a color not existing. How is that possible?

1 comment:

Krayon said...

Actually I've always wondered how colours got their names. I mean, seriously, who sits there and decides that this colour should be called what it is called. But then that begs the question of how they got other people, calling that colour, it's given name.

But further delves into the crazy notion that colours are just constructs that the mind creates in order to distinguish objects, and such. So how are you certain that one colour is actually the same colour that everyone else is talking about. I guess that's where the name comes into play?

Good post! I guess there are others out there thinking the same thing.