Wednesday, September 20, 2006


In Old English there are a number of color words that refer more to the brightness than to whether it is red, blue, yellow, green, brown. This may be because there wasn't a whole lot of color in their lives. Perhaps the spectrum of England ranged from the blue-green of the ocean to the green of the grass to the brown grass on the hills to the rocks to the pale grey sky of a winter rain to the dark abyss that formed their night sky.

I know I already wrote about fall. But the sight outside my back door is sad. Without the least provocation the once green and fully watered grass is fading to brown. Only the edges of the leaves are showing hints of turning. Autumn is usually my favorite time of year. Without the radiant colors, and without the rain and the wind and the smoky smell of the air from all the local chimneys, the world is sad. It needs the bounty of Thanksgiving: apples, squash, pumkins, turkeys, corn to brighten it.

Yes, my world is wan:
from the O.E. wann "dark, lacking luster," later "leaden, pale, gray," of uncertain origin, and not found in other Gmc. languages. The connecting notion is colorlessness.

see also dun:
from the O.E. dunn "dingy brown, dark-colored," perhaps from Celt. (cf. O.Ir. donn "dark"), from PIE *donnos, *dusnos "dark."

It is my suspicion that the phenomenon of old color-words referring to luster and not its hue is not relegated to the British Isles only. During a conversation with a friend who had been a missionary to China for a while, something she said made me wonder if Chinese is not the same. Does anyone know? If I ever find out, I'll be sure to report. Meanwhile, I hope that reading is cheering your day.

Oh, and it is supposed to rain tomorrow, which if it is overcast, it really ought.

To God be all glory.

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