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Colour Words

Vitali Ashkinazi, Elena Severinova, Saint Petersburg, Russia

It is probably useless to prove that vocabulary is an important part of language and hence its importance for any student of English be it EAP, EFL, or ESP. Our work deals with words and expressions denominating colours, therefore the term colour words is used. Due to their nature knowledge of such words and some stores to look for them are essential for advertising, art students and other. One of ESP branches we are concerned with is English for teachers, and future teachers should be forearmed with colourful, strong and tender words that colour words definitely are. Nowadays more and more people get access to different types of texts written in English. Understanding of fiction of different types, advertisements, names of food-stuffs and other goods, appearing both in typographic print and in the Internet become a professional and everyday need of more and more people.

While reading a text in English readers face a certain number of problems. One of such problems is to understand and to translation/interpret colour words. To interpret here means not only to translate orally, but to reveal the underlying meaning. Colour words are freely used by the authors to describe different things, such as features of the characters faces, clothes, jewellery, make-up, cars, landscapes and seascape, pieces of art etc. Look at the sky in Blue Eys by T.Hardy: the sky gray of the purest melancholy; a lemon-hued expanse of western sky; the pale glow of the sky; it was a familiar September sunset, dark-blue fragments of cloud upon an orange-yellow sky; a violet sky; rich indigo hue of a midnight sky; a rosy sky; in a sky of ashen hue.

In eager wish to express their thoughts and ideas most precisely, authors hunt for more suitable and most unusual words.

W. Somerset Maugham in Theatre describing Julias bedroom uses Nattier blue, the colour that connects Julia with the world of arts and artists, hints at her French origin and reveals her bright vivid nature.

Oscar Wilde in Portrait of Dorian Gray wishing to express the brightness of the June day and of Dorians beauty, uses rose, pink, vermilion, purple, lilac, yellow, green and coal-black. He paints the portraits of his characters with ivory, scarlet, rose-red, rose-white, white and olive; he finds pink and scarlet on their lips, and blue, black, amethyst in their eyes. Sometimes colour words become main characteristics of a famous character, we find such characters in Grimms Fairy Tales: Little Red Riding-Hood, Bluebeard, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Goldilocks and the Three Bears. And the Fairy with blue hair proves it.

Colours are widely used to describe clothes. J.K.Rowling clothes her superficial character Gilderoy Lockhart in robes in forget-me-not-blue, aquamarine, turquoise, deep, plum, jade-green, lilac and midnight blue, demonstrating his love for outstanding looks. Her characters also wear green, purple and black robes. To give more examples of such words in clothes, lets recall of Robin Hood and his merry men, clad in Lincoln green, Black Cloak and Little Red Riding Hood.

Colour and words of colour became the moving power of stories. In Rouge we learn about a servant, whose deadly paleness so much disturbed her mistress, that the latter ordered the poor maid put some rouge on her cheeks. The colour words used to subscribe the shades of skin and complexion are really diverse. Characters blush, grow red, go scarlet and pink, glow and even get black eyes! A yellow face was not only the title but also the starter of a story by A.C.Doyle.

The descriptions of pieces of art require accuracy as well as poetical way of thinking. Such descriptions are generously used by different authors Maugham (The Moon and the Sixpence), Wilde (Picture of Dorian Gray), Priestly (Jenny Willers) and many more.

The wide range of colour words causes a certain difficulty in finding them in dictionaries and glossaries. Most of them can be found in some dictionaries, but not all. We should also bear in mind that writers and advertisement designers invent their own colour words, Some of them can be understood easily (forget-me-not-blue, Nattier blue, robins egg blue). Some are really difficult to understand or translate. What colour are such nail varnish colours: Rambling Rose, Country Rose, Porcelain Pink or In the Pink?

Our list of colour words and their explanations in plain English is created to answer these and alike questions. Those reading different types of texts, translating them into/from English have a useful helper now. It consists of two parts.

The first is Index where colour words are listed alphabetically. Each word is matched with the words naming the colours of rainbow for easy finding and understanding.

The second part is divided into sections entitled by the colour words, naming the general colours. There you can find shades of yellow, red, and more colours.

This work can be of use for students and teachers of English, translators, interpreters and all those who are interested in the English language and its peculiarities.

Colour Words

 

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