I wonder while I wander

…musings about this wild and wonderful world

Green honey, violet sheep and wine-coloured seas… but no blue sky? (thoughts on culture, language and colour )

5 Comments

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How do culture and language effect the way we see and interpret colour? What is the ‘true’ colour of the world around us?

We take for granted that colour is ‘real’, an observable, definable, and objective part of our world. The grass is green and the sky is blue… or are they?

The ancient Greek poet Homer, author of the great epics the Iliad and the Odyssey, described the sea as being the colour of wine, sheep as violet and honey as green, along with many other seemingly strange colour descriptions… and there was no mention of the colour blue in his works at all. This fascinating RADIOLAB podcast delves into the discovery of Homer’s strange world of colour, and the language of colour in cultures past and present.

I find this story particularly interesting because the Iliad and Odyssey are some of my favourite stories of all time. One of my sons is even named after the hero Odysseus (that’s how much I love these stories!), and I’ve visited the ruins of ancient Troy and swam in the very sea that Homer describes in his epic poems. It’s strange and wonderful to have looked over the plains of Troy and the waves of the Aegean sea, to have stood under the same scorching summer sky, just as Homer must have done thousands of years ago, and yet know that we would describe that natural world so differently.

Listen to the podcast here:

RADIOLAB: Why Isn’t the Sky Blue?

Wine-coloured sea? Blue sky? On the Aegean sea, not far from Troy (Truva).

Wine-coloured sea? Blue sky? On the Aegean sea, not far from Troy (Truva).

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Author: Kim

Originally from Midwestern USA, now living in Istanbul, Turkey, with my husband and two boys, and soon to be moving to Ireland. Living simply, continually learning more about the world, and enjoying an amazing life!

5 thoughts on “Green honey, violet sheep and wine-coloured seas… but no blue sky? (thoughts on culture, language and colour )

  1. Mike and I listened to that podcast on our last cross-country road trip! Absolutely one of my favorites. Any discussion about the inherent links between language and culture just fascinates me. πŸ™‚ Also, love your new blog!

    • It is such a cool Radiolab! One of my favourites too. Any others you particularly like? There are a couple others I can remember off the top of my head that I plan to share on here in the future. Such cool stuff. And thanks for checking the blog out! If you would like to share anything or write anything related to your work or deaf culture in the future, that would be really amazing. This blog is meant to be about gaining new perspectives and challenging the norm and all that sort of thing, and I think a glimpse into deaf culture would certainly be eye-opening for many people. Just an idea πŸ™‚

      • Another Radiolab I love is their “Words” show (http://www.radiolab.org/story/91725-words/) – it’s actually the one that got me into their podcasts. It even talks about one of the most amazing projects in Nicaragua researching the birth of a new language.
        Of course I would love to share anything I can about my job or ASL/Deaf culture! Any time feel free to ask me questions, I’m totally biased but it’s an intriguing world. πŸ™‚

  2. References please? Where is the green honey in Homer?

    • Hi, listen to the Radiolab podcast for that, I was referencing it in the post, but since I don’t actually read ancient Greek I can’t verify it. Hope that helps!

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