For example, the boxes below consist of varying shades of crimson, scarlet, vermillion, and fuchsia. Yet an Israeli will simply refer to them all as "adom."
(And yes, I know that pink is just a much lightened red. But I guess you know what I mean.)
And sure, color perception is subjective to a certain degree. One person's mauve might be another person's lavender. But magenta and scarlet simply are not both "red."
Furthermore, Hebrew-speakers acknowledge the existence of “bordeaux” (borrowed from French, I’m sure), but bordeaux can mean anything from the reddish-purple color older Sephardi ladies color their hair to maroon (which is definitely leaning into the brown spectrum of red).
"Red" by Any Other Name...
“What color is this?” I asked, holding up the fuchsia (or maybe magenta?) object.
“Okay,” I said. “And what color is this?” I held up the tomato-red object.
“Also adom,” came the answer.
“But these are very different,” I noted. “Is this the same adom as this?”
“What’s the difference between them?”
At this point, my linguistic guinea pig starts to roll his eyes and laugh and squirm.
“How can you call them both red when they are clearly so different from each other?”
At that point, he tries to escape.
Why? Because Modern Hebrew has no vocabulary for the different gradients in color. Instead, they need to borrow words. But some words are newer and still not well-known.
For example, when my husband calls saying he wants to bring home, say, a new towel and I ask what it looks like, he might say, “It’s white with red stripes.”
“What kind of red?” I’ve learned to ask.
“Mmmm…red. A nice red. Really nice.”
“Red like a tomato?”
“No, no…not a tomato exactly…”
“Is it dark?”
“It’s not dark…it’s vibrant. It’s really nice. I think you’ll like it.”
Now I get stuck. I think he means magenta. But I’m not sure how to ask. How do you describe magenta? I know from past experience that asking if it’s a bright pink-red only generates confusion accompanied by: “No, it’s definitely not pink at all. Why do you think pink when I told you it’s red?”
“Ah,” he says. “You know the geraniums growing on the side of the yard?”
“Near the wall?” I ask. They are a bright scarlet color.
“No,” he says. “The ones growing near the rail. That! That’s the kind of red on the towel.”
Now I understand. Those geraniums are magenta.
What Israelis have ended up doing is to borrow words from English. They say “beige” and “off-white” and “turquoise” in Israeli accents. Recently, I saw different yarns for sale with their color written underneath. The fuchsia-colored yarn (or was it magenta?) was labeled: fooksiya zoher—bright fuchsia.
(Interestingly, a definitely purple yarn was labeled fooksiya chatzil...eggplant fuchsia.)
And while those in industries that demand a thorough knowledge of color (like interior decorators and avid knitters) would know this word, I’ve tried saying fooksiya to my family members and they have no idea what I’m talking about. They even accuse me of making up words. Fooksiya is just not in wide enough use yet.
While we’re on the subject, “periwinkle” also causes confusion. I say it’s a combination of purple and blue while being neither purple nor blue, but Israelis just call it “blue.”
Fuchsia isn't Red
Introducing Jewish concepts to the uninitiated prove to be a big challenge. I’ve been on both sides of this because I was once the newbie and now I’m someone who sometimes finds herself in the position of explaining something that isn’t easily explainable. I’ve also realized that I still have a lot to learn and beyond that, there are things I’ll never grasp in this lifetime.
Part of the problem when trying to prove the existence of a Creator or the validity of Torah is that the vocabulary is often just not there.
I read and discussed and pondered tons of information, but at the end of the day, it took time to discern that, metaphorically speaking, there are fuchsia, magenta, vermillion, crimson, scarlet, brick, tomato, and cherry...and not just "red."
(Images courtesy of Pixabay.)