In nature, the ripening process begins with green
Green is the colour of the centre. As a synesthetic phenomenon, we also experience it via various organs of sense. In the middle, sandwiched between warm red and cool blue, lies comfortable green. Green tastes salady and sour, while red is sweet and fruity. Blue often has a neutral flavour which is why it is seldom found in the kitchen.
Green is the colour of growth and success. The ripening process in nature generally occurs via a colour palette that extends from pale green through mid-green to yellow and orange, then red to blue and finally black-brown. Etymologically, the word green comes from the Middle English and Old English word “grene” which, like the German word “grün”, has the same root as the words grass and grow.
Green has passed into everyday usage in many ways. When someone is said to be “green behind the ears” or just “green”, it is implied in both a real and ironic sense that they are just starting out in life.
Every idiom relating to “freshness” and “nature” is subject to the particular scrutiny of those who watch over the colour green. That goes for those with a “green conscience”, “green thumb” or, in German, the “Grüne Hochzeitler” (those celebrating their wedding day) just as much as “greenhorns” and those espousing an ideological political stance.
The green message as signal and fanfare
Green is not only the colour of hope. Its rise in significance began in the 60s and 70s of the 20th century when it grew and flourished during the youth revolution. It spawned a global desire for a healthier lifestyle that was closely entwined with a growing awareness of the long term need to improve global environmental conditions. A process that is even more important today.
Green, the colour of nature, has since become an iconographic symbol of a fundamentally altruistic position. Growing green plants, preferably useful plants, in front gardens or larger green spaces, on balconies or patios now ranks among the fundamental virtues of an open-minded and intact neighbourhood.
Green and the world of medicine
Shades of green possess chameleon-like properties that become visible in their interaction with other colours. As soon as Ocean green 180 50 50 is combined with pure black, we perceive it as poisonous. We see the same green in combination with white as healthy.
Many branches of industry are increasingly turning knowledge about colours and their meanings to their advantage while others are still novices of the art. An example is the pharma industry, which, surprisingly, still ignores the ample opportunities to use colour to improve the associative and synesthetic qualities of pharmaceutical packaging and its contents.
As a result, many people, and particularly the older generation, complain that the growing array of packages featuring the same colours and shapes is leading to confusion and errors in the administration of medications. Luckily, there are now plenty of competent colour experts showing the pharma industry how it should be done, thereby contributing to improving patients’ wellbeing.
Green – Possessor of the widest colour space
The colour Ocean green RAL 180 50 50 fulfils a desire for distant lands, travel and white sandy beaches, and with them, the desire for solitude and tranquillity. Positioned as it is at the bluer end of the spectrum, the shade also has a reserved frigidity about it and a sense of patience and wisdom – following the eternal cycle of the sea and its currents.
As a symbol of experience, green is not a secondary colour made from yellow and blue. As inferred from its meaning in the colour lexicon, it appears more as a primary colour, similar to yellow, blue and red. The entire colour space in the German language is probably the most significant in terms of the sheer variaty of its names.
At the same time, on the threshold between green and yellow and between green and blue, an astonishingly large number of men demonstrate significant visual impairment. A sizeable 8.4 percent of them are colour blind. They have red-green colour blindness or an impaired ability to distinguish either red or green. By contrast, colour blindness has a prevalence of only 0.4 percent in adult women. Astonishingly, this distribution pattern is the same worldwide, across all ethnicities. It seems as if, from an evolutionary biology standpoint, the need to differentiate between colours was much stronger for women than for men.
Green expertise: Specific to landscape and gender
Differences between the sexes can be seen even more clearly in language than in the ability to see colour. Men get by with less than half of the usual vocabulary employed by women to describe a colour. Empirical studies have repeatedly shown that the quality of the vocabulary used by men across the entire green colour range is often limited – for example in relation to descriptions like “May green”, “ocean green”, “khaki”, or “olive green”. Around a third of the men in the study provided no differentiating descriptor. Words like turquoise were largely foreign to them. They either described the colour as “blue” or “like blue”, or they said it was “green” or “a funny green”. Here, too, the female vocabulary is significantly more comprehensive and better differentiated.
Similar variances can be observed amongst different ethnicities. People who live predominantly in desert landscapes have a significantly less well-developed green vocabulary than some indigenous tribes in Brazil that have as many as 200 different words to describe green in everyday use. This shows clearly the influence of environmental factors on language use and colour perception.
Green bathrooms – A phenomenon of the times?
The question is, why did they happen and when? Brightly coloured shades like Aumor (ruby red), Oasis (deep green), Curry-Orange and Sorrento (ultramarine blue) were developed and sold with matching tiles and accessories, including the much-loved bathroom carpet, with phenomenal success. The market share of brightly coloured bathroom products (including bathroom tiles and every kind of accessory imaginable) exceeded sixty percent. House builders in the 70s and 80s advertised their new properties with the tagline “colourful sanitary ware”. A glance at the trends of yesteryear describes, so to speak, a watershed moment for the green future – “new trends” are often riffs on “old” trends, just with a prettier and more verbose packaging.