rose by any other name

'...when Zeus had blasted and shattered his swift ship with a bright lightning bolt, out on the wine-dark sea...'


...And if some god should strike me, out on the wine-dark sea, I will endure it...


...and cast it far out onto the wine-dark sea...

Homer, "Odyssey"

why did homer describe the sea as 'wine dark' not once, not thrice, but dozens of times in the greek classic. isn't the sea obviously blue?

this simple question leads to thoughts on the role of language itself and how it shapes a society. could it be possible that our ability to perceive itself is molded by language? if we lack a word that encompasses a concept, can we become blind to the concept all together?

the visible spectrum

the visible spectrum is a...well, a spectrum. where we choose to say one color (yellow) and another (orange) begin is arbitrary. one culture can decide on a "larger" area as a singular color and another may differentiate and split regions into two (orange AND yellow). from a young age, we are taught to spot the difference. in essence, one culture could see "deeper" shades of red vs another.

in kay and berlin's work "basic color terms" (1969), the two researchers noticed that human cultures developed colors in a similar progression.

first comes the colors of black and white (all cultures have this).

once those two down, cultures acquire 'red' (probably for biological reasons).

then, if they have red, they can graduate to green or yellow.

next up, is blue for a lucky few societies.

then comes brown.

and off we go to purple, pink, gray...

it makes one wonder. if the greeks 'missed' a color so obvious as blue for the sky and sea, what obvious color/concept could we be missing?


this subject reminds me of a scene in KieĊ›lowski's Decalogue tv series wherein a college professor lectures his class on words and language. the only public video is spanish subtitled from polish. sorry (but so meta).