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PostPosted: Wed Jun 07, 2017 12:23 pm 
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I was at first not quite sure whether this should go in general or NES graphics, but since it ended up as 97% general talk about colours, 3% NES...

Apparently, blue is a very young colour, from a historical perspective. Our eyes can see them, but the word for blue haven't been around for too long, and as such, that particular band of frequency has been categorized and percieved as everything else but what we call blue today. Homeros described the sea as wine-dark, there's descriptions of the sky as white before modern culture dubbed it blue, and so on. Ancient Egypt had a definition for blue like we have today (they imported lapis lazuli from Afghanistan and later invented a blue pigment from grinding, mixing and heating four ingredients). Generally, the first distinction seems to be light/dark, then the colour red, then either yellow or green, depending on the studied culture.

Here's a few articles on the matter, for those interested in reading a bit more about the development of the historical discourse and perception of colours. Science alert, Daily Mail, Clarkesworld. Getting your head around how sheep and steel can be described as violet is entertaining.

So after i recognized this, i started thinking about how blue has become very popular in modern times. It is said to be 'calm' compared to other hues (might be so, and i have a reason to believe it, see below). The first reason is pretty straight-forward: Blue is hard to make without synthetics (though there are a few methods). Very few things in nature (as stated in those articles) are pure blue. As a long-time grower of hardy perennials (part time work in a family business), i can say from experience that very few botanical flowers we haven't tampered with are pure blue (often, they're originally purple and then we've cultivated them to become blue at some relatively recent point in time).

A lot of things in the city and on the web are blue. Non-urgent traffic and street signs (though in some countries the same sort of signs are green), a lot of decor, logotypes, especially ones expressing neutrality. Facebook is blue. Wordpress is blue. Daily Mail is blue. Blue has become a common colour in expressions of authority and offical or business matters. And so on.

I suspect that since the definition of blue is so young, we percieve it as neutral (or calming), it's relatively lightly loaded with cultural significance compared to other colours. Even though colours signify different moods and properties in different cultures, i think it is fair to say they've done so for a longer period and are therefore perhaps more saturated with connotations.

If so, the definition of a new colour (really just the cognitive digitalization of an analog spectrum), especially one as wide as 'blue' would perhaps create a discursive void that needs to be filled with new context, from the mark in time when we were able to reproduce the colour ourselves with sudden ease compared to when just using woad or indigo, or before that. Not in a flash, probably, but by procedure of increasing usage, as we fill in with the current needs of symbolic expression. Early strands of connotations seem to have more or less left the room in european cultures. Roman sources describe blue as the colour of mourning, barbarians, and the proletariat.

This could also perhaps explain on a personal level why i somehow feel/percieve that blue is more somehow connected to and working well with the gray scale, even though, technically, it isn't, and even though i see pure blue just as saturated as any other pure colour.

Edit: The NES part if tl;dr
So, after all that free-form reverie on the colour blue, i thought about how blue (and green) is over-represented in the full palette of the NES. This probably has some technical explanation (i tried to google it using various search queries, but found little of use). But is there an aesthetic design decision involved aswell? Especially as the distinction of blue and green is not wholly the same in Japan, according to sources linked above.

Another thing: The young vs old perspective plays out pretty nice in support for the percieved distance between red vs blue (in games, sports, and politics).

Ps, blue is not my favourite colour. Jade or mint green is. :P

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 07, 2017 1:13 pm 
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The predominance of colors that could be described as blue (2C02 columns C, 1, 2) comes from how much territory on the UV plane of YUV* is allocated to blue-like colors. The southeast quadrant (+U -V) is mostly blue, including hue 2 (at far right), hue 1 (4 o'clock), and hue C (5 o'clock).

Image
Illustration of the UV plane


This is ultimately a consequence of YUV's definition, Y is a weighted sum of R, G, and B, to approximate the apparent luminances of the respective phosphors. Chroma axes represent B-Y and R-Y respectively. I'm guessing the formula's origin is in the eye's greater sensitivity to fine distinctions in green and red. Thus there's a lot of blue territory over which to decrease G and increase R as hue increases counterclockwise.


* Formally, NTSC is defined in terms of YIQ, a YUV plane with axes rotated by 33 degrees, but rotated YUV has the same amount of blue as unrotated YUV.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 07, 2017 2:01 pm 
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Thanks! The fact that there's several CRT-suitable phosphors emitting more or less yellow with a standardization dating the beginning of WW2 (the most iconic being P3, used in amber-toned monochrome screens) makes me wonder why CRT colour TV:s don't have a fourth yellow-coloured cell. Maybe something to do with the placement of cells and fidelity of picture?

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 07, 2017 2:18 pm 
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A few newer displays have played around with adding a 4th yellow phosphor, due to trichromats' increased sensitivity in that band. By and large, it seems to have not really produced a visible improvement.

It's worth pointing out that even in the CIE 1931 color space, green appears over-represented.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 07, 2017 11:35 pm 
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Apparently, blue is a very young colour,

I am terribly sorry, but no, just no. Colours can be described with several qualifications, but it does not make any sense at all to call a colour "young" (or even "old", for that matter). It sounds like those newspaper articles trying to be interesting when there's nothing to say at all.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 07, 2017 11:46 pm 
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I'm going to assume the concept is just lost in translation on you, Bregalad.

The point, however, is that linguistically, "blue" is one of the later colors to be named, chronologically. Hence the concept of blue is young in English.

Read wikipedia:Linguistic relativity and the color naming debate for some background.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2017 12:24 am 
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There's a lot to be said about colours, both in linguistics, and discourse theory. (Discourse here meaning "institutionalized patterns of knowledge (...)", quote from wiki).

It's not just english, either. There seems to be a general pattern in how linguistic distinctions between colours evolved, with local variants.

Perception, cognition and memory are all very susceptible to how we categorize things.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2017 12:45 am 
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Does NTSC being crap with RED help in any way?


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2017 2:35 am 
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lidnariq wrote:
The point, however, is that linguistically, "blue" is one of the later colors to be named, chronologically. Hence the concept of blue is young in English.

Sorry, but colours are just as old as eachother (and probably as old as the universe itself). I have no idea if/whether they used another word for "blue" in old english, but I doubt it since both the german "blau" and the french "bleu" are extremely similar, suggesting a very ancient word dating from before the split of romance and germaninc languages.

Even if the word were new, there's a world between saying 1) "the word "blue" is recent" and saying 2) "blue is a young colour" ; the first being somewhat affirmative, the second being complete bullshit.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2017 3:28 am 
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the title and simmare of the thread was in reference to the movie "blue is the warmest colour".

Of course, the literal band of spectrum we call blue is as primal as light itself. I'm not arguing against the laws of physics.

But we're talking about ancient to antique definitions of colour here. Based on linguistic and archeological evidence, the first definitions of colours tend to be black/white or light/dark, then there's recognition of the colour red, then green or yellow, depending on. If your system of categorization of hue is red and green only, the continuum of what we call blue in modern time is probably split somewhere in the middle, colder colours being labeled green and warmer being labeled red. That split can happen anywhere. To modern sensibility, the mediterranean sea would probably be described as blue, gray, or green depending on weather and light conditions, but to homeros, it was dark wine-coloured, while sheep are always referred to as violet. In other words: definitions change over time.

Here's a non-colour example. How would you categorize animals? Most would say mammals, reptiles, molluscae, and so on (a bit depending on the granularity of the categorization). What sort of animals live in the sea? According to that categorization, fish, birds, molluscae, mammals... Long before modern time, the predominant categorization of animals was not based on darwinian zoology but on a mixed set of criteria, like their function in human life, their behaviour, looks, and habitat. Fish has been a category for animals living in water. You can find beavers categorized as fish in bestiaries. Whales were fish, clams were fish... probably sirens, too. This definition is equally true as the modern day definition, until the culture begins to use the category "fish" as exclusive description for what we call fish today. It only appears false when you measure it with the darwinian definition, which would be an anachronism.

Likewise, definitions of personal age has been more closely tied to social contracts before the exact measurement and documentation of time and events. A disciple was "young" to its master, despite that they may actually be of similar age, and a priest is still called "father" despite that the priest may actually be younger.

In my language, the word for dinner is middag, "middle of the day", but we eat it between somewhere after work and the evening. The practice has changed. The word has not. Its meaning has become discursively distorted, it does not signify "middle of the day" any more even though it's spelled out clearly.


Besides, it's false logic to assume a linguistic split (roman and german) means the speakers of languages don't continue to trade words and definitions with each other. That happened even in the dark ages (especially then, actually). Splits only describe a broad stroke. French (parisian) was a minority language in what we call france until surprisingly late, but i'm mostly sure they shared basic words for colours with lombards, normands, etc.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2017 9:02 am 
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Bregalad wrote:
I have no idea if/whether they used another word for "blue" in old english, but I doubt it since both the german "blau" and the french "bleu" are extremely similar, suggesting a very ancient word dating from before the split of romance and germaninc languages.

Happily, there's no need to guess about this stuff thanks to the Online Etymology Dictionary:
Quote:
c. 1300, bleu, blwe, etc., from Old French blo "pale, pallid, wan, light-colored; blond; discolored; blue, blue-gray," from Frankish *blao or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *blæwaz (source also of Old English blaw, Old Saxon and Old High German blao, Danish blaa, Swedish blå, Old Frisian blau, Middle Dutch bla, Dutch blauw, German blau "blue"), from PIE *bhle-was "light-colored, blue, blond, yellow," from root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn," also "shining white" and forming words for bright colors.

The same PIE root yielded Latin flavus "yellow," Old Spanish blavo "yellowish-gray," Greek phalos "white," Welsh blawr "gray," Old Norse bla "livid" (the meaning in black and blue), showing the usual slippery definition of color words in Indo-European The present spelling is since 16c., from French influence (Modern French bleu).
The exact color to which the Gmc. term applies varies in the older dialects; M.H.G. bla is also 'yellow,' whereas the Scandinavian words may refer esp. to a deep, swarthy black, e.g. O.N. blamaðr, N.Icel. blamaður 'Negro' [Buck]
Few words enter more largely into the composition of slang, and colloquialisms bordering on slang, than does the word BLUE. Expressive alike of the utmost contempt, as of all that men hold dearest and love best, its manifold combinations, in ever varying shades of meaning, greet the philologist at every turn. [John S. Farmer, "Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present," 1890, p.252]

...

Many Indo-European languages seem to have had a word to describe the color of the sea, encompasing blue and green and gray; such as Irish glass (see Chloe); Old English hæwen "blue, gray," related to har (see hoar); Serbo-Croatian sinji "gray-blue, sea-green;" Lithuanian šyvas, Russian sivyj "gray."


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2017 9:03 am 
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FrankenGraphics wrote:
To modern sensibility, the mediterranean sea would probably be described as blue, gray, or green depending on weather and light conditions, but to homeros, it was dark wine-coloured...

I think it's dubious to try to extrapolate ideas about the historical concept of "blue" from Homer's stock adjective for describing the sea. Even the specific English translation wine-dark (which is not the most literal, to my understanding) is from an interpretation that it refers to the darkness of wine and not the colour. There's a dozen other rationalizations you could use too. Here's a few:

  • The sea is full of water, but not clear like a cup of water, it is dark like wine.
  • When the sky is red in the morning or evening, the sea can literally look the colour of wine.
  • A metaphorical allusion between other qualities of the sea, and of wine (e.g. the effect of alcohol, or its pervasive place in culture).

There's some other stranger ideas thrown about like red algae, blue wine, etc. but my point is that I don't think this particular thing is a very good measuring stick for the meaning of "blue" in Ancient Greece.


It's very true that blue pigments for art did not appear until relatively modern times. I'm sure that did have an effect on language in some way, but so do a billion other factors and I don't really see how this can be extrapolated usefully without great difficulty. I'm sure many ancient painters lamented not being able to use the colour in their work, but to me it's kind of a hard sell to believe that people really think of blue differently in a meaningful way in the past. (There's possibilities, but I'd take a lot of convincing.)

The usage and meaning of words shifting over time is interesting though, at least. The history of pigments is, too.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2017 10:26 am 
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Bregalad wrote:
Sorry, but colours are just as old as eachother (and probably as old as the universe itself). I have no idea if/whether they used another word for "blue" in old english, but I doubt it since both the german "blau" and the french "bleu" are extremely similar, suggesting a very ancient word dating from before the split of romance and germaninc languages.

Even if the word were new, there's a world between saying 1) "the word "blue" is recent" and saying 2) "blue is a young colour" ; the first being somewhat affirmative, the second being complete bullshit.
If you want to argue about the wikipedia:Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, you should actually make a cogent argument, rather than just unilaterally saying "that's bullshit".

If you don't want to argue about linguistic relativity, please kindly take your objections elsewhere.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2017 10:49 am 
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rainwarrior wrote:
It's very true that blue pigments for art did not appear until relatively modern times. I'm sure that did have an effect on language in some way, but so do a billion other factors and I don't really see how this can be extrapolated usefully without great difficulty. I'm sure many ancient painters lamented not being able to use the colour in their work, but to me it's kind of a hard sell to believe that people really think of blue differently in a meaningful way in the past. (There's possibilities, but I'd take a lot of convincing.)
If you want a really simple and somewhat reductivist example... take the color "orange".

wikipedia:
Prior to [the word orange] being introduced to the English-speaking world, saffron already existed in the English language. Crog also referred to the saffron colour, so that orange was also referred to as ġeolurēad (yellow-red) for reddish orange, or ġeolucrog (yellow-saffron) for yellowish orange. Alternatively, orange things were sometimes described as red such as red deer, red hair, the Red Planet and robin redbreast.
[...]
Before the late 15th century, the colour orange existed in Europe, but without the name; it was simply called yellow-red. Portuguese merchants brought the first orange trees to Europe from Asia in the late 15th and early 16th century, along with the Sanskrit naranga, which gradually became "orange" in English.


Back then, we were only able to describe the color in terms of a complex descriptor—such as "yellow-red"—rather than having a single word that unambiguously meant it.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2017 10:57 am 
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Sapir-Whorf in a nutshell:
If a language lacks a word for blue, its speakers will pay less attention to whether something is blue because it isn't something they'll need to repeat to someone else.

Image
Sapir-Worf, on the other hand:
Klingon basic color names are orange and blue, with idiomatic use of "more" and "bright" to mean "one or two steps higher in the rainbow".


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