Mukilteo Beacon - Your Hometown News Source

By Mike Gold 

Colors l Off Kilter


Last updated 10/23/2019 at 12:11pm

Most of us are not aware of how deeply ingrained in our daily lives and society colors are.

For example, have you ever been “green with envy?” I’m not certain, but I think envy may be one of the Seven Deadly Sins. In fact, it is number six. I guess it is not considered as bad as the first five. My favorite is number one, lust.

Or, have you looked at a very young child and said, “They are as pure as newly fallen white snow.”

Then, we have the more mundane use of color. For example, traffic lights are red and green. Red seems to be the universal symbol for “stop.” Green, likewise, means “go.” (An interesting aside is that on board a submarine, there are lights to indicate that each compartment is “water tight.” On U.S. subs, that condition is marked by a green light. A red light means there is a problem. On German subs, the green is replaced by white.)

Green has also been adopted by the environmental crowd. When you are conserving energy, you are said to be “going green.”

In medicine, blue has been recognized as calming people down. While red has the opposite effect. In fact, matadors use a red flag to intimidate the bull they are jousting with. (In fact, bulls, like many animals, are color blind.) However, the red banner is meant to get the crowd into the bullfight.

Newborns, at least in this country, are swathed in blue if it is a boy, and pink if it is a girl.

In literature, gray often symbolizes a person who is boring, devoid of emotion and/or character. Hence, “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.” In this case, gray is used to represent a “colorless” person.

Then we have the Devil. Almost always represented in red. And heavenly bodies are most often depicted in pure white.

Halloween is represented in orange and black. Christmas is most often in red and green.

Colors are used extensively in fairy tales. Something is as red as blood, as white as snow, and as black as a crow.

Let us not forget that green is also (at least in the U.S.) the symbol of wealth. Our currency contains a lot of green. Money in slang is called “greenbacks.”

Food colors have significance. Few people like drinking a blue beverage. In fact, Coca Cola’s official color is red. Yellow is used to signify warmth. Hence the Beach Boys hit song, “The Warmth of the Sun.” And lest we forget, hot dogs are red. Would you eat a green hot dog? Probably not. In fact, spoiled food can often turn green. I’ve seen green mold on old cheese.

Some children say, when they don’t get their way, “I’m going to hold my breath until I turn blue.” There is some reality in this expression as human skin can turn a bluish hue when the body is deprived of oxygen.

Then, when adults are not feeling up to snuff, they may say, “I am feeling blue,” meaning not well or sad.

There are certain colors that food manufacturers simply do not use. Chartreuse is one of them. Nothing says “unappetizing” as a chartreuse food stuff. However, walk down the detergent isle and you are blinded by bright colors. The reason is simple: There is nothing especially different about one soap versus another. So Proctor and Gamble, Lever Brothers, etc. all use the absolutely brightest colors (glow in the dark orange, iridescent blue, very bright red, etc.).

Just take a look at some laundry products. There is absolutely no chance you will fall asleep in the detergent isle of your local market.

Lastly, countries use color to signify their standing. Ours is “the old red white and blue.” Surprisingly, many countries use identical colors, in some cases, not all of them. The French flag uses the same colors as we do. Others are Cuba, Cambodia, the U.K., Russia, Panama, Norway, and Chile.

I guess our founding fathers knew what they were doing in giving Betsy Ross her instructions.


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