Posted by: Jack Henry | October 26, 2021

Editor’s Corner: Colors around the world

Good morning, folks!

I recently received an article from Daily Writing Tips about colors and their meanings. I know back in January I talked about “fancy colors,” and in years past I have probably written half a dozen other articles on color, but there is always something new. The Daily Writing Tips article mentioned colors in several literary works, but I noticed they were all Western classics, and the examples were all from English-speaking countries. I did some extra research and found a blog called What Colors Mean in Other Cultures.

Suddenly, I found myself with enough information to start putting a term paper together. But this is supposed to be interesting and fun, not tedious! This is the quote from Daily Writing Tips that piqued my interest:

In Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, our first view of Scarlett O’Hara (her very name conjures up the image of a dangerous woman) emphasizes her green eyes. Because colors can have more than one type of connotation, green in the description of Scarlett has nothing to do with plants. Negative associations with green include envy and deviousness.

“The green eyes in the carefully sweet face were turbulent, willful, lusty with life, distinctly at variance with her decorous demeanor.”

I’m sure many of you have read Gone with the Wind and seen the movie. This description captures so much about Scarlett’s look, personality, and being. The use of colors in descriptions can set a mood. Inspired by the two references on color mentioned above, I would like to delve deeper into the ways different cultures feel about colors. Let’s start this series with the color red.

For those of you who are fully or partially colorblind, I hope you will still find value in this information.

Western Details (from Daily Writing Tips)

Positive: excitement, passion, life
Negative: danger, guilt
Idioms: red light (warning to stop); red flag (a sign of danger); red-handed (in the act); red in the face (embarrassed)

Other Cultures’ Details (from What Colors Mean in Other Cultures)

Red is the most powerful of all colors in Indian culture and holds many important meanings. Among them are fear and fire, wealth and power, purity, fertility, seduction, love, and beauty. Red is also representative of a certain time and place in one’s personal life, including when a woman gets married. A married woman can be identified by the red henna on her hands and the red powder, known as sindoor, worn along her hairline.

In South Africa, red is associated with mourning, and the section of red in the country’s flag symbolizes violence and sacrifices that were made during the struggle for independence.

In Thai tradition, each day of the week is assigned a specific color and is linked with a particular God. Red is the color for Sundays, and it’s associated with Surya, a solar God, who was born on this day. Many Thai people pay their respects to Surya by wearing red on his birthday each year.

In Chinese culture, red is traditionally worn on the New Year, as well as during funerals and weddings. It represents celebration and is meant to bring luck, prosperity, happiness, and a long life to the people.

Next time we’ll have a look at the two other primary colors: yellow and blue.

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her

Technical Editor, Advisory

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