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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Colors: Indigo

Why a post on indigo? I am attempting a post on each of the colors of the rainbow, and that's where I am today. See my previous post, which cites a source which claims that Isaac Newton, himself, reported the colors separated by his prism to be red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. So, if it was good enough for Newton, it's good enough for me.

Indigo, the color, says the Wikipedia, is named for the dye-producing plant, indigo. I am a South Carolinian. Indigo (the plant) was, at one time, a very important crop in my state. Its growth required lots of manual labor, and, unfortunately, encouraged the planters to use slaves. A young woman, not yet twenty years old, is said to have been the person who started indigo growing in South Carolina.

I am sure that you are not surprised to know that the word, indigo, does not appear in the King James Bible. It doesn't appear in a lot of other places, either. I checked all of the color words that I am using with WordCount, which says that someone has figured out the ranking of all commonly used English words (and some uncommon ones). Of those I have used as the subject of a post, and those I plan to use (violet, brown, purple, gold, silver, gray, black and white, God willing) indigo has the lowest rank. It is the 24,266th most common word. Here's part of the list, from the 24,263rd to 24,267th most common: Tactile, Whitelaw, Jonadab, Indigo, Reticent. Jonadab!? Whitelaw!? I know--Jonadab is a Bible name, but am surprised to find it on the list at all, and I confess that I don't even know (yet) what whitelaw means. My point is that indigo isn't a very common word. If WordCount counted use in blogs, this post would probably move the rank of indigo up a little bit.

A web page from the American Psychological Association comments in depth on a report in the December, 2004, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. The researchers studied two groups of children, in two separate cultures, and concluded that the naming of colors was due to the language learned by the children, rather than reflecting the way humans see color. The researchers say that English has 11 basic color terms, which are black, white, gray, red, green, blue, yellow, pink, orange, purple and brown. Note the indigo and violet are not included. Six colors that are not part of the rainbow are basic color terms, namely black, white, gray, pink, purple and brown.

Indigo occurs in a recent science news article. (I wasn't looking for it. C. S. Lewis, in The Silver Chair, wrote that there are no accidents.) A February 15th article in Nature News describes lobsters as indigo in color. That's until they are cooked, when they become red. There's a chemical/physical explanation for the change of color, if you really want to know about this.

Like indigo, my name isn't near the top of some lists. There's no reason that it should be. So what? What would the rainbow be without indigo? Seriously flawed. Perhaps you and I have some importance in God's master plan, even if we are far down on some list.

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Addendum, Feb 26, 2005.

Some writers do not use ROYGBIV for the colors of the rainbow, but ROYGBV, widening blue and violet and dropping the use of indigo.

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