Letters to the Editor

Letter: It’s not so easy finding a name for a new thing

In a little lab in my garage I play with chemicals. Recently in mixing pigments I came up with a new color, one that has never been seen before. But what to call it?

The world has gotten word fanatical, so my first thought was to just go to the word police and let them tell me. No luck. That group exists only in our imaginations. Ditto a Word National Clearing House. There is no “controlling legal authority” for the use of words.

I know, Webster and all that. But the dictionary plays clean up, after the fact: It doesn’t control words, just reports them after they get into our lexicon. And the ones concerning color have been there for a long time. One reference said artists have used color for more than 30,000 years. Sir Isaac Newton did much study on it in the 1600s.

The problem is that I don’t want some new word that might not ever have any real meaning, or that would take thousands of years to come into common use. I want a name of substance and stature. A name with great power, that evokes primacy.

So after careful consideration, I have decided on “red” for the name of my new color. After all, we all know and respect “red”: Not only is it one of the three primary colors, but it supposedly the first color perceived by man. So it could be said that it is the primary primary color. Brain-injured persons suffering from temporary color-blindness start to perceive red before they can see any other colors. Neolithic cave painters ascribed magic powers to red. The word “magic” translates, through German/Old Norse/Anglo-Saxon, to “red-ochre.”

What? I can’t do that, you say? Red has always been red, you say? Thousands of years of usage should mean something, you say? Words mean things, you say?

Well, someone should tell that to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is considering whether to use the word “marriage” to mean a whole new thing.

Sorry, Supreme Court, but the word “marriage” has been taken. Just like “red,” it has a specific meaning.

Pick something else.

I. Grey Brendle