We are surrounded by color: we express ourselves with, and are inspired by, color. Most all of us have our favorite colors and revel in the rich palette of hues and shadings that are everywhere. The many dimensions and meanings of color will become apparent from the following account.
• A nation’s flag is an ongoing source of pride, unifying symbol, and a rallying point. It speaks to people with clarity and conviction; “Three cheers for the red, white and blue.” While designs vary, color patterns have much in common throughout the world. Forty percent of all national flags display three colors, with red, white and blue the most popular combination. Stay away from any black and white flag at sea. You don’t want to be messing with marauding pirates.
• Colors go in and out of fashion. There is a measure of manipulation here as when designers, decorators and fashion gurus declare what is, or about to be, “in” and what has become passe’. Remarkably enough, their “edicts” and predictions largely determine people’s choices. Among the colors currently being advanced are lavender, purple, light green, beige, sage, marigold, burgundy, stone white and crimson. Deviate from this list and you risk the charge of being out of date and out of touch.
• Colors are said to convey mood, emotion, personality and purpose. Red, in addition to signaling danger and violence, is often associated with excitement, passion and aggression. Yellow, on the other hand, suggesting the sun, conveys optimism, joy and happiness. Orange is thought to promote energy, enthusiasm, creativity and health, whereas blue is credited with representing intelligence, trust, loyalty and strength (except for those “down” times when “feeling blue”). Few question green’s connection with nature, the environment, growth and freshness (though there are those “green with envy,” and at times are under the weather, “looking green”). Purple has long spoken to us about royalty, nobility and ceremony. And apparently is a favorite with children. What are your own true colors?
• While athletic teams, college and professional, are often associated with powerful animals (Tigers, Bulls, Lions, Bears, Rams, Eagles, etc.); many incorporate colors into their nicknames, viz., The Big Green (Dartmouth), Black and Gold (Pittsburgh Steelers),
Blue Shirts (NY Rangers), Reds (Cincinnati), Big Blue (NY football Giants), The Red Sox (Boston), the White Sox (Chicago), Crimson (Harvard), Blue and Gold (Notre Dame) and the Scarlet Knights (Rutgers). You wouldn’t imagine cheering for a color would inspire the faithful, but of course it does.
• Predictably, colors have entered our language in ways quite familiar. Most writers take care to avoid purple prose. No one wishes to get caught red handed or pursue what turns out to be a red herring. The black sheep of the family cannot be pleased at that characterization, or worse, be charged with having a yellow streak. Who among us has not been told white lies or at some point deliberately sought brownie points? Having a green thumb is all to the good; less so is being accused of having been born with a silver spoon in your mouth. Talking a blue streak may not endear you to others, but if you have blue blood you may get away with it, or if you’re feeling in the pink you may not care what others think.
• Those partial to history will surely remember the devastating Black Death of the 14thCentury. Death tolls were also catastrophic when the Blue and the Grey had at each other in America’s Civil War. In yet another Civil War, this time in Russia after World War I, the Reds defeated the Whites. Periodically the U.S. has experienced Red Scares, fearing Communist infiltration and the perfidy of those allegedly sympathetic to these leftists dismissed as Pinkoes. More recently the outcome of political contests in the U.S. rested upon the relative balance of Red and Blue states. Less controversial were the yellow ribbons affixed to trees during the Iran hostage crises. For some time now, pink ribbons have been employed as a show of support for those afflicted with breast cancer.
What’s your favorite color? Who doesn’t love a rainbow? Color counts.