Is Your Purple My Black?

There are countless ways people use color to describe feelings and emotions, talents, scenery and activities. However, it is unlikely that each colorful idiom resonates the same across different cultures and languages. What if your red is actually my blue? If we take a look at the color spectrum, how much do we have in common across languages?

This blog post by the experts at Oxford Dictionaries explores colors in international idioms—from red to blue to orange—and how one person’s red may actually be another person’s blue. Here are a few of the colorful idioms across languages. For the full post, click here.

Green with envy? Think of green, and money or jealousy comes to mind. Unsurprisingly, green also crops up in expressions related to plants and produce (“Eat your greens!”). In French, someone with horticultural talents has la main verte (a green hand), whereas in German you might want to buy your organic tomatoes from someone with einem grünen Daumen (a green thumb).

Is violet violent? This color is often associated with bruises: in Spanish, you might get a ‘purple eye’ (un ojo morado) rather than a ‘black eye,’ as in English. In Vietnamese, ‘purple’ (tím) is also used to mean ‘bruise’ (similar to the French word for a bruise, un bleu; literally ‘a blue’). Violet isn’t the most peaceful of colors: natives of Holland have been known to ‘turn purple with rage’ (paars aanlopen van woede), as have Portuguese speakers (ficar roxo de raiva).

Contact us if you’re in need of translation services, including transcreation and localization of your global marketing messages.