I love the color blue. I always have, even as a young girl. My room was mostly blue when I was growing up. This was unusual back in those days because blue was always considered masculine. Imagine my mother’s consternation when I insisted I wanted blue with navy accents. When she asked me for a second color, I agreed to have white. ”Ayyah!” she must have muttered under her breath each time.
In English, blue is just blue. But in other languages, there are many words to describe the nuances of blue. In Russian, for example, the different blues are distinct in their language and culture to the extent that each is a distinct color, as green and blue are two different colors in the English language. This is important because language shapes our thinking just as thinking shapes how we express ourselves.
Historically, blue has been used by the religious, as in the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary or the mosaic glass windows of churches.It has been used on porcelain vases and other wares from China, England, France, the Netherlands, and Russia. In ancient times, blue was a difficult color to obtain, until it was mined as lapis lazuli from Afghanistan.
Blue has been used in many expressions, as in the French expletive, “Sacre Bleu,” which has its origins in the reference to the “sacred blue,” a reference to Mary, the mother of Jesus. People say they are “blue” when they feel sad, despondent, melancholic. But in German, to say you’re blue (blau sein), you are drunk.
With the progress in technologies, sharing of information in the global markets, the spectrum of blue has expanded. Here are some shades, hues, variations:
- Azure Blue – a blue that comes from the weathering of copper
- Lapis Lazuli – mined in Afghanistan for 3000 years. It was used in Egypt and all over the ancient world.
- Ultramarine – derived from lapis lazuli
- Aquamarine – greenish blue
- Cerulean – a lighter blue, results from copper and cobalt
- Cobalt Blue – this is the blue used to paint on porcelain, stained glass, even paint used by painters
- Prussian blue – with darker tones, synthetic, used in blue print ink
- Indigo – plant derived; used as a dye for denim and jeans
- Sapphire – rich blue. Did you know that the best sapphires are not the deep dark ones? The best ones are described as cornflower blue.
- Turquoise – a rich bright blue used in a lot of mosques
In music, there is also much allusion to blue. There’s the Rhythm & Blues, the Blues, a Blue note (used in jazz when a piece is placed in a lower note for emphasis), or Bluegrass music (American country music), the British band Moody Blues.
Through history, blue has been worn by soldiers, royal armies, and it is still used in business attire today. In sports, it is a favored color, as in many national flags.
I remember reading Nick Joaquin‘s “Verde, Yo Te Quiero Verde,” thinking, how can he say that “blue whips, and
blue is thought, despair; the ink-stain
time prints on all matter; the cold
vague melancholy eyes retain
of voyages long perished from importance.
I realize it was during the war and he longed for the green of freedom. And when you read the poem (written in 1939, by the way), it’s quite anguished and hopeful.
I beg to differ about blue. For me, blue is a bright clear morning sky heralding the promise of a new day. Of countless possibilities. Of second chances. Of serendipity. Of something new and exciting.
Blue is calm, quiet, with defenses lowered. There is a Tagalog expression, “malamig sa mata.” I guess the closest translation is that blue to me, is very cool or pleasant to the eyes. Blue brings the promise of pleasant times to come.
I was blue, just as blue as I could be
Ev’ry day was a cloudy day for me
Then good luck came a-knocking at my door
Skies were gray but they’re not gray anymore
Smiling at me
Nothing but blue skies
Do I see
Singing a song
Nothing but bluebirds
All day long
Never saw the sun shining so bright
Never saw things going so right
Noticing the days hurrying by
When you’re in love, my how they fly
All of them gone
Nothing but blue skies
From now on
I should care if the wind blows east or west
I should fret if the worst looks like the best
I should mind if they say it can’t be true
I should smile, that’s exactly what I do