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Color Part 4 Yellow Fever

Updated on October 21, 2011

“Red and yellow, rowdy fellow” used to sing the girls of my kidhood, when skipping rope. And the Beatles sang “The Yellow Submarine.”

Yellow is the sun and sunflowers for artists, topaz for gem lovers, sulphur for chemistry nerds, bananas for fruit freaks, jaundice for hypochondriacs, eggs for breakfast, and kakka for harassed mums.

Did you know that y used to be the colour of jealousy before green took over? Colloquially, Yellow now means cowardly custard. Yellow also used to stand for betrayal and infidelity, the opposite of what blue stands for. Judas Iscariot is painted in yellow robes. But, to balance things, St Peter is shown wearing golden yellow robes. The French used to paint the doors of traitors yellow.

Yellowbacks were cheap, sensational novels of the 19th century but Yellow Pages are useful additons to modern phone books. Both yellow press and yellow journalism mean newspapers cheap in both senses of the word. Forget all that: for me, yellow is a bright and cheerful colour and I love it like Van Gogh and Vermeer and other arty dudes. And my favourite flowers, marigold and sunflower, are yellow.

So there, jaundiced prudes!

Yellow is the amateur artist’s favourite colour because y being so close to white, is the only colour that appears uniform on application. A smooth and professional finish. Try it with wax crayons.

Indian Yellow is the bright yellow of Mughal miniatures. Apparently this colour was produced by the urine of cows fed on mango leaves and subsequently banned. The yellow balls of pigment also smelled horribly. Of course, they would! But I appreciate their art of recycling waste and creating art from cow pee!

Artists speak of Cadmium Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Lemon Yellow. Print Designers say 20 Magenta-100 Yellow instead of saying Deep Yellow. Fashion gurus talk of Vibrant Yellow, Lemon or Butter Yellow, while Ice-cream vendors ask “Mango or Butter Scotch?Mustard is a dark yellow. Yellow Ochre is a dark brown-yellow. Lemon Yellow is mellow. Gold is strictly not a separate colour but yellow shining. When I paint a simulation of gold, I use yellow with orange, brown, red, black and white to simulate the shininess of Gold. For cruciverbalists, or crossword puzzle fans, ‘Au’ means ‘gold,’ Au being the chemical symbol of g, from the Latin Aurum – gold. Gold doesn’t mean cowardliness or betrayal; it has a grand symbolism of its own: wealth, responsibility, commerce, class, exclusiveness, costliness, royalty.

Back to yellow: Photographers use yellow filters if they want to show dramatic clouds in a b&w photo. The yellow filter darkens the blue of the sky and exaggerates the cloudy effect.

Have you ever wondered why there’s so much yellow on Indian roads? Autorickshaws, taxicabs, signs, lines… makes us almost jaundiced. Pots of yellow are used because that is the colour with maximum visibility. And yellow and black is the most visible combo. Yellow has been used to mean safety, as in the yellow line on factory floors, or signs for radioactive hazards. In car races, yellow flags are signals of caution. Yellow flags were also hoisted by ships in quarantine. In traffic, dear jaywalker, you should bear in mind that a yellow automobile appears closer than it really is and a blue one farther than it is.

Someone in the USA, neurotic about loads of Chinese and other Asian immigrants landing up there and taking over the country, labelled the incoming orientals, ‘The Yellow Peril.” The Yellow River is in China. The Chinese emperors wore yellow, a noble colour for them while their subjects could wear their yellow skin under clothes of specific colours, the colour worn denoting their station in life. The royal family wore imperial yellow; royal concubines wore violet; high officials were blue; the lower rank were red; and everybody else had to be content with black or some dark shade. Now I understand colours in kungfu movies better! Somebody give Jackie Chan a robe of imperial yellow, please! Once upon a time in China, rebels wore yellow caps in defiance. They were called the …hold your breath…yellow caps!

Yellow is a popular signboard or shopfront colour in India.

Yellow boys are gold coins. Or bankrupt men. Yellow Metal refers to Gold, and sometimes to an alloy of 60% Copper and 40% Zinc.

Somebody found that babies cry more in a room painted yellow. Something to do with the ‘yell’ and ‘ow’ in ‘yellow’ (my theory) or does yellow (your theory?) attract more mosquitoes? Dunno. Some secrets about yellow we are not meant to know, my dear fellow.

Astrologically, yellow is the colour of Jupiter and Thursday. And as old Jupes stands for wisdom, honours, progeny, gurus, gold… if you want to be given a gold (gold) medal (honour) for training (guru) mothers-to-be (progeny), start that on a Thursday and wear yellow! In a recent colour symbolism concept which is splashed everywhere on the internet, your preference for yellow could mean you’re gay or more feminine than most men. That’s pure yellow kakka! With green spots. Our next colour.



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    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      7 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, Christin! :)

    • ChristinCordle12 profile image


      7 years ago

      Great color.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      11 years ago from Chennai

      Folks, take note of the latest addition to my trivia. Thanks, Isabella, we are richer for that.

    • Isabella Snow profile image

      Isabella Snow 

      11 years ago

      The Yellow Rose is a famous strip club in Texas. :)

    • compu-smart profile image


      11 years ago from London UK

      Just being honest;)

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      11 years ago from Chennai

      Compu-smart, you say the kindest things! My art teacher was the first to give me some confidence, thank you!

    • compu-smart profile image


      11 years ago from London UK

      Another colorful, educational Hub Kenny.

      I was thinking , your art teacher must have loved you, That's if you were you as creative now, as you were at school!!?

      Good job.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      11 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, early bird of sunshine! One for the comment, and two, for the extra facts.

    • SunSeven profile image


      11 years ago from Singapore / India

      Yellow is sunshine too. Also, yellow ribbons were worn as a sign of hope as women waited for their men to come home after wars.

      And, mellow yellow and bad yellow!

      Best Regards


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