Saturday, October 11, 2008

It's All Green To Me

The dictionary defines green as “a color intermediate in the spectrum between yellow and blue, an effect of light with a wavelength between 500 and 570 nm” Of course, that is not the response you’d hear from most people when asked to describe the color green. Should they do so the conversation might be somewhat short lived!

Green is not a primary color (colors that cannot be created by mixing others); rather, it is achieved by mixing two primaries—yellow and blue. On the traditional color wheel its corresponding color is red.

Most people recognize green for what it is: just a color. But it is much more than that. Linguistically, its origins go back to the old English word, growan, “to grow”. It has uses in everyday life, especially in colloquialisms.

When green is good you can cruise through the traffic lights. Should you have a good idea you might get a green light to proceed. Someone with a green thumb is good with plants, which are often green themselves. If you are bored with what you are doing you might want to move to greener pastures, hoping that the grass is greener on the other side.

But when green is bad, watch out for the green-eyed monster lurking in the background. And don’t put your entire faith in someone who is still green, much less go near them if they are green around the gills.

Mixing green: Mix it with blue and it produces echoes of nature – water and forest; with brown it screams “organic”; coupled with red it is festive, the color of Christmas.

Many words are synonymous with green – sage, pine, mint, moss, fir, jade, and many more besides. Emeralds are green and so are some animals, notably frogs and lizards. Some just appear green; others really are. In nature taking on a green hue is good camouflage. Humans, too, have imitated this by wearing green in military and in other fields. Green signifies growth, health, and renewal; though culturally it has contradictory meanings.

Color psychology tells us that green is the easiest color on the eye and can improve vision. It is seen as calm and refreshing. People waiting to appear on stage sit in “green rooms” to relax. Hospitals use green because it relaxes patients.

On a light note green M&Ms are rumored to be an aphrodisiac though this is likely due to the genius of marketing rather than anything else.

In folklore green has traditionally been used to symbolize fertility and rebirth. In Ireland it comes in 40 shades, but in Britain it’s thought to be unlucky, which might explain why you see few green cars on British roads.

It is the symbol of environmentalism. It is also the main color many Islamic countries use on their flags. In fact, the only national flag in the world that has just one color with no design or insignia is green – Libya’s.

Perhaps when historians look back at our age green may come to define it, the age in which we woke up to the “green” earth. As a concept, that might mean taking the focus away from our endless consumption and towards the idea of living a more thoughtful life. Instead of having things, doing things.