Why is pink a color?

I have no idea why I started wondering this, but it is really bugging me now. Why is pink a separate color? Light blue is light blue (or sky blue or whatever). Light green is light green. Light yellow might be called pale yellow. Even when dealing with a color like light purple, which you might call lavender, it is still considered a shade of purple. But go lighten up red and suddenly you have pink – a whole new color! It’s rare to think of pink as light red, you know?

Maybe a dumb question, but it’s stuck in my head.

Russian has a similar phenomenon: light blue is голубой* and dark blue is синий. I saw an article somewhere suggesting that this may affect the perception of the colors, but I don’t know how far I take that. I am curious how it developed in the language(s) though.

*Bonus: This is also the common term for homosexual, probably closest in meaning to the English ‘gay.’

Light Black is Grey.
Light Yellow is Straw.
Dark Green is Emerald.

Lots of colors have names…

OK, this is a WAG, which I know is frowned upon in GQ, so I’ll see if I can find anything to back me up.

One of the common names for a variety of dianthus is “pinks,” which, as I understand it, are not named for their color, but for the “pinked” or zigzag edges of the petals (think pinking sheers). Pinks are indeed pink, so is it possible the color was named for the flower?

ETA: Wikipedia says I have it bass ackwards – that pinking sheers were named for the flower, and perhaps the color, too.

So what you’re saying is, in Soviet Russia, pink is blue!

Why isn’t orange “dark yellow”?

Actually, wiki has a fairly lengthy article on color naming, in which they talk about “pink” as well as other things (such as “orange”), and reference the Kay and Berlin studies that Cecil mentioned as well:


See the problem I have with this line of reasoning is that when I call something Emerald, everyone still thinks of it as a shade of green. Same goes for most of the other colors – straw, sky blue, lime, lilac, rust… They are all thought of as shades of whatever. Pink, however, is not thought of as a shade of red, but as a color in it’s own right.

Think of it this way. If you are wearing a shirt that is maroon, I might say “What a nice red shirt you have on.” That wouldn’t be wrong. However, if you were wearing a pink shirt, it would be incredibly weird for me to say that.

I can see how you can argue Light Black is Grey, but I don’t think so much of that because the whole White—Black color spectrum isn’t on the color wheel in the same way the “big six” are. Brown is like the other major colors too – whether it’s tan or beige or mocha or chocolate, it’s still brown.

I honestly didn’t remember Cecil writing a column on colors. I’m off to look them up, and check wikipedia. And how interesting about Russian! I never even thought of it in terms of language. I’d be interested in knowing how other languages do colors. They would have names for the whole range, same way English does, but when do they have something like Pink, that has taken on it’s own identity as a color.

Because orange has more red in it than dark yellow does.

Yes, but straw is recognized as a shade of yellow, and emerald is recognized as a shade of green, but most Americans don’t recognize pink as a shade of red. If I saw an emerald-colored car, I might say “Look at that green car”, but I would never say that Barbie’s Corvette is red.

I’ll wager there are a whole passel of colorphiliacs who will argue that while mocha or chocolate could be considered “brown” tan and beige wouldn’t be.

Kind of for the same reason we have ice instead of frozen water; it’s just a linguistic thing. No one sat down and created the English language out of whole cloth. If they had, it would a lot more logical. It evolved, like an organism, or an ecosystem. So you have Pandas with false thumbs, and you have words like “pink” and “ice.”

The Perfect Master Speaks

From the Cecil column DSYoungEsq linked to:

What would a speaker of these languages (especially 1 and 2) say if they were shown a blue piece of paper and asked what color it is?
Is it just a matter of them not having a specific word, but they would say something like, “It is like the sky”,?

My guess (and partial memory) is that they don’t really have words for “black” and “white” so much as for “dark” and “light.” Thus, blue would either be “dark” if it was a navy blue, say, or “light” if it was cyan.

Yes, and for languages that contain 4 color terms, red and blue are more like “relative redness”, and “relative blueness”.

Brown is dark orange, in the same way that pink is light red.

Pink and maroon would be considered a variety red to some people and lime a variety of green.

Don’t have much to add, but I was a juror on a trial a couple years ago where one of the witnesses was from Thailand (I think), could only speak that language, and had a translator present for giving testimony. I found the results curious, such as I remember them - when asked what color a car was, the translator responded with roundabout answers, not the answers most any english speaker would use. I believe that a light blue car was indeed described as having the color of the sky, or some such.

It wouldn’t be, IMHO, that the speaker couldn’t see the color, only that there was no abstract standard for saying what the color was - so the speaker could only use analogies, and analogies have their limitations (as do ‘standards’). …Does that make sense?

Don’t know why ‘pink’ is singled out like it is, but would ponder that sky-blue is pretty different than what I would consider ‘pure’ blue. …Maroon is a special color, as is vermillion. Chartreuse probably doesn’t count, since I know that it’s sort of greenish…

…would only point out more of the fairly obvious. Seems that red was a pretty important color from way back. Makes sense, seeing how it would have been a pretty obvious sign of injury, disease, and death. There would have been more time to distinguish between the deep red that’s a sign of trouble (or victory, if it happens to your enemies), and the pinkish red that’s a sign of health and youth.

With such languages, it’s not so much that they don’t recognize blue as a color, as that they would argue that it’s a shade of white, in much the same way that Americans would argue that cerulean is a shade of blue. Well, those Americans who know what “cerulean” is, anyway.

It’s the town where you battle the gym leader misty to get your water badge.

I totally disagree. Pink is absolutely thought of as a shade of red. Sometimes it’s it own color, but then so is lilac or puce or chartreuse or ecru. People use pink however they feel and in many different ways. In my experience, however, pink doesn’t get any more special treatment than any other shade of red.