To return briefly to the theme of last week’s blog (no flies on me) I couldn’t help thinking about what we used to say in Scotland to make it clear that we were not easily fooled: ‘I’m not as green as I’m cabbage-looking’. ‘Green’ means inexperienced or gullible. Nowadays, if you say someone is ‘green’, you mean they have a small carbon footprint. As Kermit sang: it’s not easy being green. Of course, green is also a verb these days (one I just can’t force myself to use!).
We all know about the many Inuit words for ‘snow’ but two days ago, the Dutch newspaper, De Volkskrant, ran an article on the fact that there are languages which have no word for the colour ‘blue’. The people who speak these languages use the same word for ‘blue’ as they do for ‘green’, a lexical gap referred to by linguists with the portmanteau ‘grue’. One possible reason could be damage to the eyes due to excessive exposure to UV rays. Researchers have found that one of the factors common to all the places those languages are spoken is the high amount of sunlight present.
According to a study back in 1969, distinct terms for brown, purple, pink, orange, and grey will only appear in a language when that language has made a distinction between green and blue.