Alan Kennedy has written here many times before, most recently about the many color-related idioms that people use around the world. Alan has wonderful vantage point for making his observations: he teaches English to adults who have come to Manhattan from all over the world. He has taken a particular and abiding interest in colorful language, and when I offered to support his research on this site, he was happy to take me up on it.
So I am delighted to present a new and permanent installation on this site, Alan Kennedy’s Color/Language Project. There are three parts to it.
First of all, you can read his short article, Linguistic Facts About Color. I found the Berlin/Kay color spectrum especially interesting: languages always add colors in the same order. Any language with words for only three colors will always have names for white, black, and red. Any language with six color words will add green, yellow, and blue. I was surprised to see that leafy green has primacy over the blue of sky and sea. Even yellow outranks blue.
The next resource for the Color Project is an ever-growing spreadsheet, Color Idioms In Different Languages (if you prefer, you can see that same information as a single Google Spreadsheet page). Look at the color distributions by language. The list is far from comprehensive, but it hints at some intriguing possibilities. Is German bluer than most languages? Is Korean redder? And why?
Finally, and perhaps most important of all, you can add your own favorite expression to this resource using this Color Idiom contribution form. The suggested idioms won’t appear instantly on the list; Alan will review them from time to time and they’ll get added to the published spreadsheet.
So there you have it: a new resource, courtesy of Alan (with a little help from his friends here at Star Chamber Headquarters). Help it grow.