Friday, August 18, 2006


I noticed some pink flowers in front of a house near my office yesterday, and I got to thinking about pink. What is "pink"? It is, in fact, "light red".

But that's silly, you say. There's no such thing as "light red". There's "red", and then there's "pink". They are two distinct entities.

But we have "green" and "light green", I counter. Observe, green suffers no similar loss of identity as it fades to white.

Even the palest green belongs unquestionably to the family of green; it does not cease to be green until it is so desaturated that it becomes white. To be sure, catalog copywriters and interior designers have fancy names for each of these shades, but to the layman they are all more or less green. Similarly, we have "blue" and "light blue", "yellow" and "pale yellow", even "purple" and "light purple". Why no "light red" or "pale red"? Interestingly, we do have "dark pink", but it is unquestionably not "red". Although different individuals may disagree on the shade where red stops being red and enters the land of pink, anyone who grew up in America would pretty much agree that such a border exists.

The history of pink is a very interesting one. Pink is the one color, to Americans at least, that unquestionably has gender implications. It is interesting to note that those implications are of very recent origin--see the Wikipedia entry for "Pink" and especially the Google answers post linked therein for more on this.

The part I left out of the story at the top of this post is that when I noticed the pink flowers, I happened to be wearing a pink shirt. This was only the second or third time in my life that I'd ever worn a pink shirt. It is entirely possible that I would have lived to the end of my days without ever wearing a pink shirt had Mrs. Ego not waged a persistent campaign to get me to start wearing pink shirts. I consider myself very secure in my sexuality and not homophobic in the least. So why did that pink shirt hang unworn in my closet for several years before I finally got around to wearing it?


The Modesto Kid said...

I'm pretty sure the color "pink" is distinct from "light red" in that it has a bit of blue in it.

My Alter Ego said...

You are right that pink can and often does have a hint of blue, but I don't think it is strictly necessary. The red-to-white graphic in the post contains no blue whatsoever, and those last three or four shades before white sure look pink to me.

Ruth said...

In Finnish, I was taught that the color is vaaleanpunainen which translates to light red. Other color tints are similarly written as the color name, preceded by light or dark.

I do agree that the color Magenta appears to me to have blue in it.