March 2, 2015 @ BusinessInsiderUK & MoC
A friend sent this article from Business Insider.
We read some of these stories which are being circulated in the web, and as native Greek speakers, we’d like to ask and comment the following cause we find these stories misleading and confusing:
One perhaps should inform these people that the term “κυανός” /kianos/ i.e. “cyan” (you know CYAN as in CMYK??) is an Ancient Greek word, originally meaning “dark blue” (in Modern Greek is “light blue”).
Ancient Greeks also used the term “γλαυκός” /γlafkós/ meaning pale blue, mainly sky or sea blue, the color “γlafkó”.
It’s true, we haven’t re-read the Odyssey since we were in high-school (we can go through it any time though if need be), and we haven’t meticulously counted all the color terms in it, but still, the fact that Homer, a poet, used the description mentioned in the article (“sea as dark wine”) in Odyssey, doesn’t really mean that people back then couldn’t perceive the blue color; and Homer was blind anyway. But Homer was a poet, and poets, you know, are free to describe things anyway they wish, that’s what poets are for! Rationalism kills poetry and art and it’s such a poor approach. If one counted on fauvist painters to tell them about the natural world, what would one say then about their black skies, blue suns, purple tree trunks etc?
Also, just because a 1858’s UK scholar counted 200 blacks and 150 whites in Odyssey it doesn’t mean Ancient Greeks “lived in murky and muddy world, devoid of color, mostly black and white and metallic, with occasional flashes of red or yellow”, and it certainly doesn’t make Gladstone an authority to say ancient Greeks lacked color terms for blue.
Last, one should add that the term “sky blue” is one of the most fundamental in many (ancient) languages, for the SKY was (and is) so important to so many (the ancient/tribal) people!
Now, if you go through a (modern) dictionary or vocabulary or list word of some moribund language or dialect (or any other widely spoken language whatsoever) prepared, relatively recently, by some linguist in some remote place (or not), in all chances you won’t find terms like “purple”, “pink”, “orange” etc. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the language/idiom/dialect doesn’t include a term for these meanings, but most probably that the linguist conducting the research didn’t care to include these terms in the dictionary/vocabulary/list word, making future researchers scratch their heads about why these terms are not listed and if people were/are blind to these colors…
We copy/past the following from the Dictionary of Standard Modern Greek
κυανός -ή -ό [kianós] : (λόγ.) γαλάζιος. || (ως ουσ.) το κυανό, το κυανό χρώμα.
kianos-i-o: (adj, masc/fem/neut) galazios-a-o (i.e. bright blue) (adj. cyan)|| (as noun) kiano (neutral): the cyan color
[λόγ. < αρχ. κυαν(οῦς) `σκούρος μπλε΄ μεταπλ. -ός κατά τα άλλα επίθ. για προσαρμ. στη δημοτ. (πρβ. και μσν. κυανός)]
(ancient: kianous : “dark blue”; later : kianos)
γλαυκός -ή -ό [γlafkós] : ανοιχτός γαλάζιος, απόχρωση κυρίως του ουρανού ή της θάλασσας. || (ως ουσ.) το γλαυκό, το γλαυκό χρώμα.
[λόγ. < αρχ. γλαυκός]
glaukos-i-o (γlafkós) (adj. masc/fem/neut): bright “galazio”, mainly the color of the sky or the sea || (as noun) γlafkó: the color γlafkó