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Friday, March 25, 2005

Colors: Black

Black is the most common color word in English. According to Wordcount, it is the 356th most common word, between "care" and "book," which is the 357th most common word.

There are only 18 verses in the Bible that have this word, considerably less than for some of the color words in previous posts. These include references to the sky when stormy, or when God is angry, to human and horse hair, and to human skin when exposed to the sun.

Easton's Bible Dictionary: "Colour"

The subject of colours holds an important place in the Scriptures. . . .

Black, applied to the hair ( Lev 13:31; Sgs 5:11), the complexion ( Sgs 1:5), and to horses ( Zec 6:2,6). The word rendered "brown" in Gen 30:32 ( R.V., "black") means properly "scorched", i.e., the colour produced by the influence of the sun's rays. "Black" in Job 30:30 means dirty, blackened by sorrow and disease. The word is applied to a mourner's robes ( Jer 8:21; 14:2), to a clouded sky ( 1Ki 18:45), to night ( Mic 3:6; Jer 4:28), and to a brook rendered turbid by melted snow ( Job 6:16). It is used as symbolical of evil in Zec 6:2, 6 and Rev 6:5. It was the emblem of mourning, affliction, calamity ( Jer 14:2; Lam 4:8; 5:10).

A couple of items on color that I haven't gotten in in previous posts:
The Astronomy Picture of the Day for Feb 27, 2005, is a spectrum of the sun, spread out more than we are used to seing.

More on color and fantastic literature:
Jack Vance is one of the great writers of fantastic fiction. He has won two Hugo awards, and has written for over four decades. He is distinguished by his baroque use of words, and by his imagination. Some of his magical realms have colors that human eyes don't normally see. (Of course Vance can't describe them!) One of his novels, Alastor: Marune, is set on a planet with four suns, orange, blue, red and green. Vance wrote that the citizens' moods and behavior changed, depending on which combination of suns were in the sky. A Vance fan, Eric Halsey, has created a free downloadable software program that shows the 16 color combinations of these four suns. (Warning: file is several megabytes in size. The link is to a page that describes the program. It has a link to download it.) (The previous parenthesis, and the sentence preceding it, were modified on Jan 10, 2007, because of a comment by tap (see below). I thank him.)

My post on Indigo mentioned Whitelaw as a word about as common as Indigo (which isn't very common). Turns out Whitelaw is the name of a town in the UK.

Back to black
Black isn't exactly a color, even though there are black crayons, and black paint. Black is the absence of other colors. If all light is absorbed, the result is black. A black hole is a dense space object that has gravity so strong that the resulting bending of space prevents light from escaping. We can't see a black hole with a telescope, because no light comes from it.

No humans, or any other objects we can see, are pure black. They may be dark, but if they were black, we couldn't see them, because they wouldn't reflect any light. Fantastic writer Gene Wolfe invented a fabric, fuligin, used in his Torturer series, that could not be seen. (Note added Jan 9, 2007: Wolfe says that he didn't invent any words in his Torturer series, more commonly known as the Book of the New Sun.)

Black is often used to symbolize death, despair, or sin. I am posting this on the anniversary of a black day for the disciples. Black has quite a few unhappy connotations. (Think Black Death, for example.) In Tolkien's Ring books, the bad characters often were black, or wore black. (Black breath was a sickness produced by the ringwraiths, and Mordor was referred to as the black land. Sauron was the dark lord.) It is unfortunate that some of these negative connotations have been associated with dark-skinned people.

Sin is sometimes described as black, needing the crimson blood of Christ to cleanse, and make us white.

This, so far as I know, ends my series on colors, which began February 14th of 2005, with a post on red. Thanks to anyone who has read this one, or any or all of the others!

Modifications, noted above, were made to this post on January 9th and 10th, 2007. No other changes have been made to the original post, hence I have kept the original date.


Tap said...

Are Jack Vance's stellar bodies moons or suns? You say each once. Also, the link to the program is broken.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, tap!

My fault -- it's suns, not moons. And I checked the link. The link I added on this date, Jan 10, 2007, leads to a downloadable program.