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Color Part 7 - Black, White and Gray

Updated on October 25, 2011

Neutral Policies

“People can have the Model T in any colour--so long as it's black.” – Henry Ford.

Why does Santa Claus come down chimneys? Because it soots him.

Black is the colour of night, mystery, death, grief, charcoal, absence of light, printed text and 50% of a zebra. Black is beautiful. Black is scientifically neutral but fashionably seductive. Light was good and holy and black used to be bad and evil, as in ‘black deeds,’ or ‘black heart’ but this usage isn’t politically correct anymore. Black Diamond means coal; both are Carbon, and also meant a clever chap of the working classes. Then I can call a fool of the lazing classes a white coal, can’t I?

Black is the colour of mourning in the West, but also that of elegance at a cocktail party. Black holes are to be avoided when you travel in outer space. Football referees used to always wear black. Black Monday is the reopening day of school after a vacation. Black Monday’s also the Monday after Easter.Black is the most popular colour of disco-going girls. Black is the colour of Indian hair.BTW, 'brunette' literally means 'little brown-haired girl.'The phrase ‘black and white’ as in “I must have it in black and white!” originates from days when ink was b and paper was w. Means to put things clearly in writing. Black Acts were the acts of the Scottish Parliament of the 16th century; called that because they were printed in black characters.

Black Magic is the witch’s craft; sorcerers were thought to have dealings with the devil. Astrologically, black is Saturn’s colour. As black as ink, as black as coal; as black as a crow – all are Saturn’s and the Hindu Lord of Saturn, Sani has a crowas his vehicle.

Clubs used to vote when candidates were proposed for membership. Those in favour dropped a white or red ball into the ballot box; those who weren’t, black-balled the candidate. That’s the origin of black balling. Not what your dirty mind thought!

Black books revealed secrets and scandals. ‘To be in his black books’ is to be out of his favour, the opposite of ‘to be in his good books.’ This is also the origin of the phrase ‘black-list.’ These lists were originally much like our credit-rating lists: lists on who is broke and defaulting circulated among the business community. But now, to be in the black is to be out of debt, and not in the red. Black looks you get from people you displease. Same as dirty looks but it’s more Brit. The Brits didn’t like the rain, and a black cloud meant a cancelled garden party. Like cold looks, which ought to be welcome in warmer climes!

Black flags, ‘Jolly Rogers,’ were hoisted by pirate ships. Jolly for them, not for the victims.Blackguards were the cooks, serving boys and other civilians who traveled with an army, slowing the speed of the march considerably. Blackmail was originally not “How much will you give if I don’t show it to your wife/husband/father/priest/children?” It was protection money paid by landowners. The word ‘mail’ is from Scottish ‘mal,’ meaning ‘rent.’Black sheep were not as valuable as white ones: a disgrace to the flock. The term was applied to workmen who didn’t participate in a strike. The ‘b sheep of the family’ idiom was a later development. Blacking is shoe polish. A black belt is fashionable and also adds prestige in martial art circles. A black widow is a spider that devours its mate or means someone who really meant it when she told Hubby, “I’ll kill you!” May be identified by the orange hour-glass mark on the lower abdomen. Of the spider I mean, not the deadly lady. Black swans lay green eggs.

White is no colour and all colours. It is a colour when we speak, say, of a tricolor flag like India's, where the white stands for purity. White is light, summer clouds, truth, purity, innocence, virginity, “She’s as white/pure as the driven snow.” Cotton, paper, doves, Monday uniform, doctors, nurses, sugar, salt, rice, polar bears and the front of a penguin. White is the colour of mourning in the Orient and the c of bridal gowns in the West. Saracen brides wore orange blossoms that in flower language meant fruitfulness; this was adopted by European brides later. To gather orange blossoms meant looking for a bride, but why am I saying this when I’m yakking about white? Because orange trees yield orange-coloured fruit, but its flower is white.

A white flag is a sign of peace or surrender. A white knight is one of the two horse-headed white men in chess and also someone who comes to the rescue of a pretty damsel in distress. If the damsel is not very pretty, but the knight still helps, he is really white! White hot is hotter than red-hot. White sale is a sale of towels, sheets and stuff like that. White revolution is a plan for more and better milk in the country. Pearly whites are what you have after the dentist has cleaned out the nicotine stains. White lightning’s illegal whiskey.The white temples and marble sculptures of the ancient Greeks stood for purity in architecture for many centuries till recent archaeologists found that they weren’t meant to be white: their paint had fallen off!

Amateur artists and great painters, both run off white first; it is the most used colour in their palettes. Some manufacturers package longer tubes of white and black in their boxes of watercolours or oil paint. Usually Titanium White.

Jesus is portrayed draped in white after the Resurrection. It is the symbol of truth, hope and peace, in art. Astrologically it’s the moon’s colour, whose stone is the pearl or moonstone. Priests, magi and druids who were the holy men of the west wore white. Priests of Ancient Egypt and Persian divinities were supposed to wear w. White Elephants are sacred in the East. Indra’s pachyderm, Airavata, was a white one with eight tusks. For those in the don't know, Indra is the chief of the Hindu demigods and the god of thunder. The Siamese king gifted a white jumbo to the courtier whose life he wanted to ruin. A white elephant is something you maintain for snob value but costs a fortune in upkeep. No, you can’t call your hubby a white jumbo, dumbo.

A white feather is a sign of cowardice or peace. ‘White horses’ is a poetic description of foaming waves. White house is where the P of the US lives. White lies are lies told for convention’s sake or for a good reason. “You were the prettiest girl of the party, dear.”

Ivory, Chalk and Cream are off-whites. And off to grey. . .

Grey hair is not grey: there’s black hair and white hair; we optically mix them to perceive grey.

Child asked Pa, “Why do you have grey hair, Pa?” “Whenever you do something naughty, Papa gains one grey hair.” “Grandpa must have had a set of very naughty kids!”

The phrase ‘pepper and salt’ referring to grey hair, originally referred to a light grey colour, especially applied to cloth for dresses. Kids with moral values thrust on them by teachers and parents grow up thinking everything’s black and white, good and bad. As they grow up, they come to terms with grey areas.

Grey is the colour of rainy skies, of winter, smoke, middle age, sadness, aluminium, steel, concrete and shirts before usage of branded detergents. Passive smokers should dread the blue-grey smoke from the end of a cigarette more than the yellow-grey smoke from the mouths of smokers.

The brain is composed of grey cells or grey matter. Americans spell grey ‘gray.’ The English used to have both spellings before till they froze on g with an ‘e.’

Grey is its own complementary colour. Means that if you have nothing better to do, stare at a bright red picture for some time, and quickly look at a white wall or piece of white paper. You will see an afterimage of the shape in green, red’s complementary colour. The second colour seen by this optical illusion, red in this case, is called ‘accidental’ colour. Green will give you a red afterimage. But grey will give you only grey.

Speech is silvern, but silence is golden. Not for me, so here are some golden words about Silver. Silver is not a colour; it is the name given to an optical hybrid of white and grey and black, or it’s a glamourised grey, just as gold is glamourised yellow. Silver is cool and classy while gold is warm and classy. And S gives a more modern look. It’s the colour of industrial machines and metals or future empires in outer space. ‘Silver Lining’ is a British idiom and is not relevant to tropical climes where rain is welcome. This alludes to the proverb, “Every cloud has a silver lining,” meaning “If troubles loom over your emotional scape, can solutions be far behind?” For them, clouds portended unwanted rain and the sun-formed lining was a sign of hope.

Siver Screen is where we watch highly emotional people dressed in all the colours of the rainbow. A silver-tongued person is a yakker who has the gift of the gab. And I once thought it was someone dying of mercury poisoning. Silvering a glass is to make it a mirror by applying mercury to one side. ‘Born with a silver spoon in his mouth’ is your jealous comment on people who are born into riches as opposed to poor slogging you. ‘Silver’ is coins as in the ‘thirty pieces of silver’ given to Judas for turning traitor.

Thanks to SunSeven:

Albinism is a genetic disorder caused by a lack of melanin, the pigment that is responsible for the colour of skin, eyes and hair. In connection to that, a white tiger can be born to normal ones. But a white peacock is not an albino.

Pearls are born of the tissue of molluscs. But edible oysters are not pearl oysters, fyi.


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    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      11 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, Zsuzsy!

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      11 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Great Hub!

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      11 years ago from Chennai

      Oh, okay, and I was confused about Magnolia, which seems to have a range of hues!

    • SunSeven profile image


      11 years ago from Singapore / India

      I thought they were all 'shades' of white! :)

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      11 years ago from Chennai

      Gimme some time to research, and thanks!

    • SunSeven profile image


      11 years ago from Singapore / India




      and Magnolia?

      Best Regards


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