18 September 2014

Colour thesaurus

Translating the names of colours can be challenging. Sometimes a scientific approach is the only way to go, on other occasions, I suspect that Ingrid Sundberg's colour thesaurus could also prove useful. Sundberg's tool considers the subjective nature of color names used in lay contexts.

The ImageMagick and Color conversion links below present scientific approaches to colour coding and naming.
The Wikipedia article Linguistic relativity and the color naming debate gives an excellent overview of the topic and useful historical background. Along the way, it introduces key concepts spanning philosophy, linguistics, scientific method, ethnography and more.

The translator's first job is to work out whether the source text is using subjective lay language or professional terminology from an area where colour naming and coding are arts. Think paint, ink, artists' supplies, dyes, textiles and so forth.
Marketing names given to the colours of colour-sensitive products function as terminological interfaces between colour science, marketing and subjective considerations. See, for example, the discussion here.
Sometimes the translator may also need to know when and where the source text was written and whether it is an original or a translation.

If the context and colour terminology are professional, the translator may need to know which colour coding system is most relevant (links copied from Peter Forret's site):
Many others have, of course, tackled this and related topics as is quickly revealed by a quick Google search for 'translation color names'. Promising links, include:
Peter Forret adds the comment:
Just like language translation, color conversion is not always a straight-forward one-to-one mapping. Specifically, RGB has less degrees of freedom (3) than CMYK (4). Therefore, although one can convert any RGB to CMYK without losing information, the inverse is not the case. When a CMYK color is converted to RGB, some information is lost. When you convert that RGB color back to CMYK, you will in most cases get a different (but similar) color.
For an essay on the famous
But Achilles,
weeping, quickly slipping away from his companions, sat
on the shore of the gray salt sea, and looked out to the wine-dark sea.
—Homer, The Iliad
see A Winelike Sea.
A couple of quotes:
A translator’s task is to render into English both the plain meaning and the sensibility—the felt meaning—of a Homeric phrase or word, and so it is a duty, albeit a perilous one, to plunge deeper into this celebrated sea phrase, and grope for clarity. Impertinent questions must be floated: what does it mean—and is there possibly a better rendering?
Ancient Greek words for color in general are notoriously baffling...
To end on a something relating directly to translating technical journalism on naval defence/defense, note that the French gris moyen corresponds to 'haze grey' (and equivalents 'haze gray', 'hazegrey', etc.).
The meaning of the US Navy expression "haze gray and underway" is given here as shorthand for naval surface warships at sea.
For a discussion of the paint schemes and colour names used by the Royal Australian Navy see Australian Navy to Adapt a New Color Scheme for Surface Vessels.
For a Spanish translation, see Marina australiana nuevo color para buques de superficie.

Something different: 7 interesting language facts about colour.

Update on what was probably the first colour thesaurus

271 years before Pantone, Dutch artist A. Boogert mixed and described every colour imaginable in an 800-page book. For an article by Christopher Jobson, see here.

Update on Does Color Even Exist? (or What you see is only what you see)

Here is where Chirimuuta really excels, and Outside Colorbecomes truly exciting. She poses a new mode of thinking about chromatic perception: color adverbialism. Instead of a brown dog, Chirimuuta wants us to see the dog brown-ly. It sounds silly, but turning color into a process better fits some exceptional cases than the standard model. Color is a mode of interpreting information, and sometimes it tells us more than pigment. It can tell us about motion: a black-and-white wheel set spinning reveals the rainbow. It can tell us about depth: Long distances appear blue because higher wavelength red light scatters less. “Color is not an object of sight but a way of seeing things,” Chirimuuta writes.

Matching colours and names (in English)

Here's a good resource for matching colours and names (in English), assuming, of course, that the colour rendition of your screen and other intermediate processes are performing satisfactorily. See Name Every Shade of the Rainbow With This 'Color Thesaurus' by Michele Debczak, 18 February 2016 on the Mentalfloss site.

An example:

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