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No Welsh word for "blue"? Ludicrous

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8653.  Fri Oct 08, 2004 5:36 pm Reply with quote

Steven Fry was quite incorrect to state that there is no word for "blue" in Welsh. Purely and simply, it's "glas".

The related website refers to a "continuum of colours", involving grey, green and some other hues, but this is about 1000 years out of date. Although we still call grass glaswellt ("blue straw") and saliva dwr glas ("blue water"), this is only a historical/etymological matter.

Brown? Now that's another matter. We don't have our own word for that. Gwinau was the word if the brown referred to the colour of a horse, or someone's hair, but the idea of a gwinau car, for example, would be ludicrous.

As, in fact, would be the idea of someone actually owning a brown car.

8654.  Sat Oct 09, 2004 6:42 am Reply with quote


Many thanks for the correction and the new information. You are a scholar and a gentleman.

I shoulder complete responsibility for this appalling error. Sorry.

whips self with knotted leeks

8656.  Sat Oct 09, 2004 8:00 am Reply with quote

That's one for the All Fools' Day QI Retractions Special, anyway. 1000 years? Oops.

8657.  Sat Oct 09, 2004 4:06 pm Reply with quote

There is also no word for Yellow either, to my knowledge..

8658.  Sat Oct 09, 2004 5:03 pm Reply with quote

So we could have made almost any assertion other than the one we actually did? Magnificent.

What do Welsh people describe butter as, then?

8659.  Sat Oct 09, 2004 5:09 pm Reply with quote

Yellow is melyn. Butter is menyn (or ymenyn, if you want to be posh).

8662.  Sat Oct 09, 2004 6:08 pm Reply with quote

Why is ymenyn posher than menyn? Enquiring minds would like to know...

Welcome Gaazy and Phoemail by the way, and please do join in on the other areas of discussion. Somewhere in the almost moribund second and third pages of the list of discussions you'll find a topic called 'Orange', where the subject of colour names and colour perceptions was discussed extensively.


In fact the discussion can be read from the beginning starting with: post 328

Incidentally, don't worry about Jack whipping himself with boiled leeks - he loves it really.

8667.  Sat Oct 09, 2004 8:22 pm Reply with quote

You're right there, Jen.

But I have exhausted them to a pulp now, and have moved on to daffodils.

Incidentally, is that why Welsh persons are nicknamed 'Taffy'?

8671.  Sun Oct 10, 2004 4:11 am Reply with quote

I was told the word for Brown was only introduced to Wales when someone felt like a bit of brown sauce on his sausages and didn't have the faintest idea about how to to go about ordering it. The word Brown was then taken from the Brown sauces label and used to describe a variety of other browny coloured objects, like tree trunks.
Or so some Welsh man has told me.

How could they not have had a word for Brown? How? How did they get by in conversations without it?

8672.  Sun Oct 10, 2004 8:41 am Reply with quote

JumpingJack wrote:
But I have exhausted them to a pulp now, and have moved on to daffodils.

But if you were in Wales presumably you wouldn't be able to describe them as yellow?

8673.  Sun Oct 10, 2004 9:07 am Reply with quote

Would they be melyn or ymenyn?

8676.  Sun Oct 10, 2004 9:47 pm Reply with quote

And while on the subject of colour, I came across another nice little factoid today, which I thought I might share with these threads.

The almost universal colour coding of babies' clothes in western countries, blue for a boy and pink for a girl, has not actually been around that long. In fact, in the early 20th century pink was considered more of a suitable colour for boys, as being a watered-down red, and blue more appropriate for girls.

I read this and then googled to see if I could support it elsewhere, and found this:

Unfortunately, you can't get past the first paragraph or so without a password, so I can't read any more details!

8677.  Mon Oct 11, 2004 12:24 am Reply with quote

I have one to
Guiness although refered to a "the black stuff" is in fact red. If when drinking a pint hold it up to the light and it will show up as red.

Try it and see, ok you'll look stupid but it's true

8678.  Mon Oct 11, 2004 4:30 am Reply with quote

I saw an account of an interesting experiment once, where they got a whole lot of babies and put them in blue and pink outfits at random, then gave them to women (who were not their mothers) to hold, and there was apparently a marked tendency for the women to hold the "pink" babies facing towards them and the "blue" babies facing outwards. The study hypothesised that the women interpreted the colour-coding as denoting sex, and so that boys and girls are maybe given subtly different signals about their roles in life right from the outset.

On the subject of languages not having a word for brown: the landmark study on the subject of the development of colour terminology in languages is Berlin & Kay: Basic Colour Terms - Their Universality and Evolution (1969). This study of twenty different languages concluded that they all developed their colour terminology in the same way. Every language has terms for black and white, and the other colours are recognised in this order: red before green and yellow, green and yellow before blue, blue before brown, and brown before purple, punk, orange and grey. For example (Brackett, you speak Mandarin, don't you? - you may understand this bit better than I) - Japanese is said to have in its vocabulary only about four native color terms; the others have been added from English and Chinese, and behave differently grammatically. So we can tell that early Japanese speakers were like the Welsh in not having their own word for brown, and like the ancient Greeks in not having one for blue either, and the same would have been true for every other language at some point in its development.

8680.  Mon Oct 11, 2004 8:37 am Reply with quote

Now that is Quite Interesting - thanks Flash!


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