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Mazzuca: Color codes

Do you recall when you first became consciously aware of color? I do. My awareness of color was accompanied by my first box of Binney & Smith Crayola crayons — all eight of them.

But that was a millennia ago. Today, crayons come in at least 124 colors including inchworm, fuzzy-wuzzy brown, raw sienna, and macaroni & cheese — not to mention carnation pink, ultra-pink, shocking pink, tickle-me-pink, brink pink, hot pink, pig pink, pink flamingo and fuchsia.

Color has significance in every aspect of our lives. In academia, colors denote specific fields of study. Economics is copper, arts and humanities is white, engineering is orange, journalism is crimson, law is purple (purple is also the color of royalty and was said to have been Cleopatra’s favorite color), philosophy is dark blue and public administration is peacock blue — hmm, public officials and peacocks, now that’s an interesting connection.



Meanwhile, the color blue in particular has numerous contextual meanings. In ancient Rome, public servants wore blue — today, police and many other public servants wear blue. The pharaohs of ancient Egypt wore blue for protection against evil, as did people in medieval times for protection against witches who were believed to abhor the color.

“Feeling blue” is feeling sad. “Blue devils” are feelings of depression. Something “out of the blue” is from an unknown source at an unexpected time. A blue book is a register of socially prominent people. First prize always gets the blue ribbon, and a blue blood is a person of noble descent.

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A blue moon is the name given to an extra full moon during a year. Most years have 12 full moons, which occur approximately monthly; however, each calendar year contains those 12 full lunar cycles plus about eleven days to spare. The extra days accumulate, so that every 2.72 years there is an extra full moon, hence the phrase, “Once in a blue moon” indicating something that happens rarely.

Into the blue means into the unknown. A bluenose is a strict, puritanical person. A bluestocking used to be a scholarly or highly knowledgeable woman. The blues is a style of music derived from southern African American secular songs. Blue laws are used to enforce moral standards. A blue-ribbon panel is a group of especially qualified people and, of course, the finest ski and snowboard instructors in the world wear blue.

If you are true blue, you are loyal and faithful. Brides carry or wear something blue on her wedding day. A room painted blue is said to be relaxing, nevertheless, green is the easiest color on the eye and causes people to relax, which is why hospital rooms are often painted green, as are waiting rooms for guests appearing on TV, the so-called “green rooms.”

Your neighborhood diner may have a blue plate special, but at the same time, blue is the most unappetizing color (blue M&Ms are excepted of course) so, if you want to lose weight by decreasing your food intake, try using blue dishes or add blue food coloring to your fare and watch your appetite disappear,

But other colors also carry various meanings. Yellow is considered an optimistic color, nevertheless people lose their tempers more often and babies will cry more frequently in yellow rooms. Yellow is the most difficult color for the eye to take in, so it can be overpowering if overused (yellow power ties?). Yellow also enhances concentration, hence its use for legal pads.

Did you know that the color of the earth, brown, indicates genuineness? Nonetheless, it’s wise to refrain from wearing brown when conducting business with Jewish people because of its negative psychological intonations to that demographic. Likewise, while green is a relaxing color, green business suits carry with them psychological undertones of dishonesty and untrustworthiness.

Red is the most emotionally intense color; it stimulates faster heartbeats and breathing and is the color of love. Red clothing gets noticed but makes the wearer appear heavier, and red cars are popular targets for both thieves and traffic police. In decorating, red is usually used as an accent color and many decorators feel that red furniture should be both simple and flawless since it will attract attention.

There are thousands of examples of how color affects our daily lives, but for the life of me, I have yet to figure out the psychological implications of Crayola crayon colors such as atomic tangerine, bittersweet, and razzamatazz. For that, I may have to sit next to my 8-year-old grandson and observe his reactions as he fills in his coloring book.

Quote of the day: “To succeed in life, you need just three things, a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.” — Reba McEntire


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