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Say What You See


SAY WHAT YOU SEE

A gentle reminder of the connection between the words we use and the colours we see

Eleanor Maclure


Introduction

Since we developed the use of language, we have borrowed words from things in the world around us to describe the colours that we see. Even what we now think of as abstract colour terms like ‘black’, originally referred to something else like ‘night’. The word for pink originally came from flowers known as pinks (from the genus Dianthus) due to their frilled petal’s relation to the 14th century verb ‘to pink’, still used today in the term ‘pinking sheers’. Our language has evolved dramatically since then and, as with so many words, the ties to its origin have virtually been lost. Far removed from its beginnings, the word ‘pink’ is now widely understood as referring to the rosy band of hues ranging from salmon to magenta. Of the eleven basic colour terms that we have in English, only orange is still regarded as descriptive, attributed to the hue of a ripe orange. Originally derived from Sanskrit, the word first appeared in English, in the 14th century, after the Persian and Arabic form, nãranj, was adopted by European languages. Compared to the millions of hues our eyes can detect, our colour vocabulary is startlingly limited. Despite appearing to be well defined and understood, our basic colour terms are open to a surprising amount of interpretation and can be painfully imprecise, failing to truly capture the world we see. English has evolved to include thousands of terms for colours, and yet only a tiny percentage of these exist as abstract terms. Most are reappropriated from tangible things like lemons and lavender, as an attempt to articulate even a fraction of the colours we experience. This book does not aim to present a true reproduction of the colours of objects. Rather it is a visual reminder of where some of our words for colours come from, their inherently descriptive nature and their undeniable connection to the often mundane objects in the world around us.


Say What You See


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List of Images

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CREAM ALMOND SAND OATMEAL GINGER CHAMPAGNE SULPHUR PRIMROSE LEMON MUSTARD GOLD HONEY APRICOT AMBER ORANGE RUST MARIGOLD PEACH SHELL EGGSHELL SALMON BRICK COPPER TERRACOTTA PAPRIKA TOMATO MELON RASPBERRY BERRY FUCHSIA ROSE PLUM CHERRY WINE

35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67

THISTLE HEATHER AUBERGINE GRAPE AMETHYST LAVENDER VIOLET BLUEBERRY SLATE TURQUOISE JADE AQUAMARINE SAGE KIWI MINT AVOCADO LIME PISTACHIO MOSS OLIVE STONE BISCUIT CINNAMON WALNUT TOFFEE CARAMEL CHESTNUT CHOCOLATE COCOA COFFEE CHARCOAL MUSHROOM OYSTER


Say What You See  

Still life photographs of objects that share the same name as a colour, or give a colour its name.

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