1. RiverSong

    RiverSong Member

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    Need some assistance in color names

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by RiverSong, Mar 19, 2018.

    I'm writing a fantasy story. Based on many of the surroundings and items in the story, my editor feels the setting is the middle ages/medieval times. I use the color orange as one of the character's favorite colors. Based on the setting, he advised I use another word for orange. He said back in those times the color orange was not known as orange. I need to call that color something else. Obviously, the color existed as peasants diluted red and thus orange was created. However, my problem is I can't find what they recognized that color to be if the word orange was not yet used. Any ideas of links that will guide me what colors were called in the middle ages/medieval times would be greatly appreciated!
     
  2. izzybot

    izzybot (unspecified) Contributor

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    "Her favorite color was that which the sky turned around the horizon when the sun had nearly set--not quite yellow, not yet black."

    Honestly, I'd just use orange. It's a slight anachronism, but I don't think it's as ostentatious as say, calling something a French braid before the founding of France, or in a fantasy setting where there is no France. It doesn't seem like something that would throw off your average reader.
     
  3. Privateer

    Privateer Senior Member

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    We just call that hairstyle a plait...

    The colour 'orange' was considered a shade of red until fairly recently, so just say 'red, like a...' and then name something orange?

    Not a carrot, though, because they were purple back then.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2018
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  4. RiverSong

    RiverSong Member

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    Thank you, izzybot! Your description (which was beautiful by the way) was sort of the way he told me to say the color. He suggested I use nature to say it. However, she's asked "What's your favorite color?" because someone wants to make her something using her favorite color. When I do a search for names of colors used during that time period, I'm just not getting the actual words used. What I'm finding is more of what the colors represented.

    Since, it's fantasy, what if I made up a word for orange? Then tell the readers what it is when describing it. Would I then have to make up all the other colors used? For example, I create a word for orange, yet I still use real names such as blue, purple, gold - would that be too confusing to the reader to do? Like - why make up a word for one color but not all of them? I just don't know if I make up words for all the colors, then describe them, that it's too much explaining of things that the reader may find irrelevant.
     
  5. Privateer

    Privateer Senior Member

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    If it's a fantasy then just say 'orange' because we're going to assume you're translating their language for our benefit and that they aren't really speaking English (or a language that somehow sounds exactly like it, including loads of loan words from languages that sound exactly like Latin and French) anyway.
     
  6. izzybot

    izzybot (unspecified) Contributor

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    Making up a word for orange seems contrived, to be honest. Then you have to think: why did these people name the color before our civilization did, without the impetus of having oranges to name it after? It causes more questions to pop up than just saying 'orange', imo. And it's a hoop for your reader to jump through towards understanding your setting and enjoying your story that's just unnecessary.

    She could say she likes yellow-red, which is simpler, but would still make me think, "Like ... orange?" and wonder why you didn't just say that.

    I know sienna and ochre were used as pigments way, way back, and they're kinda brownish-yellowish-orangish depending on how they're processed. They're a bit more dingy than the color of the sky, but she could say she likes one of them if she's knowledgeable about dyes.

    Or she could just have an easier favorite color :p
     
  7. RiverSong

    RiverSong Member

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    Because of this dilemma the color orange has put me in, I've definitely considered changing her favorite color :-D. Yet, I run into new challenges because I can't find anything that gives me a specific list of words they used way back then to call certain colors. If I choose a new color, I may run into the same problem.

    Thanks, Privateer, for your suggestion. I've thought of that also with saying "red as in..." However, the MC's hair color is red. And I feel if I say her favorite color is red as in.... and then say the MC's hair color is red that I'm just over using "red".

    Oh how spoiled we are in the current day with the list we have of so many names of colors we recognize...
     
  8. Privateer

    Privateer Senior Member

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    I'm always a bit tickled by the ancient Greeks and their opinion that blue wasn't a colour in its own right but a shade of green.

    'Well, that's obvious, isn't it Dionysius? That's like saying the grass is green or the sky is...um...a different shade of green.'
     
  9. Quanta

    Quanta Senior Member

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  10. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Wikipedia:

    Before the English-speaking world was exposed to the fruit, the color was referred to as "yellow-red" (geoluread in Old English) or "red-yellow".[1]

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orange_(word)

    Also:

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/geoluread
    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/yellowred

    I might also think of the color of flame. If I do a Google image search on 'flame' almost all of the pictures are orange.

    "yellow-red" is kinda boring; "flame" or "flame gold" has some appeal, IMO.

    Edited to add: "Saffron" was used as a color name as early as 1200, though it's admittedly more yellow than orange.

    Edited again to add: Marigold, for the flower rather than the color, is old English, and it seems reasonable to steal it for the color, but apparently it refers to the virgin Mary, which gets you to an historical tie again.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2018
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  11. GrahamLewis

    GrahamLewis Seeking the bigger self Contributor Contest Winner 2022 Contest Winner 2024 Contest Winner 2023

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    Did you ask the editor where they got the information? I'm sure there must be internet sites on this. But I tend to agree with Izzybot, just use orange -- you're not going to have your characters speaking old English, are you? They need to communicate with each other, but the reader also has to know what they're saying.
     
  12. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    Exactly. Is your editor suggesting you change the manuscript to Ye Olde English? I'm guessing not. Why would this single word be an exception?
     
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  13. GrahamLewis

    GrahamLewis Seeking the bigger self Contributor Contest Winner 2022 Contest Winner 2024 Contest Winner 2023

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    Speaking as a former editor, I know that even the best of them get pet peeves, and the worst of them are pretentious twits. I'm hoping yours falls closer to the "best" end of the scale.
     
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  14. RiverSong

    RiverSong Member

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    Oh, he is definitely very good. He's noticed that a lot of the background and tendencies of the characters fall into the setting of the middle ages, and wants to make sure I'm consistent so a reader wouldn't be put off by a mix match of settings. For example, I used the word "butt" and he said it would be better to say "bum" or "behind." Another one he caught was a character asked, "What are you allergic to?" and he said allergies wasn't a known word in that time, it is better to say "What can you not stomach?" He's very helpful beyond just the grammar editing.

    It's just that the color orange has me in a sorts. This character's favorite color is very significant throughout the story, it ties into other things. So, I'm struggling a bit putting the color into a definition such as "it is red like..." because then throughout the story when I say her color again do I keep repeating "it is red like..."?
     
  15. RiverSong

    RiverSong Member

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    Wow, thank you! :bigsmile::bigsmile::bigsmile:
     
  16. Unique

    Unique Member

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    I've been trying to remember where I saw this, but there was some research (psychology? neurology?) that found that peoples perceptions of colour are directly affected by their vocabulary.

    So people with cultures and languages with more names for colours, perceive more colours. eg blue and indigo might be two colours to me, but be perceived as the same colour by someone else.

    If that makes sense - I can't remember where I read the research.
     
  17. surrealscenes

    surrealscenes Senior Member

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    Others are correct about color names.
    A bit off-topic - As countries move up from third world to first world they adopt first world ideas, as they need to do business to grow, and to conduct business you need to adapt to the more powerful countries. I grew up with and have known many people that came to the US as immigrants. One of the things they love about being here is the vast amount of descriptions we have in English.
    An example- A friend from Vietnam grew up with the color Red. Everything with Red was Red. If you broke a Red pot and wanted to replace it, you needed to go back to the village where you got it and hope they still use the same mix, and/or go from village to village with a shard comparing your Red to their Red.
     
  18. Ksenia Tomasheva

    Ksenia Tomasheva Member

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    Ocher or ochre - this pigment was already known at midieval times and gave yellow to deep orange color range, so, probably, something like "red ochre" could work. I'd use that.
     

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