tortipede (tortipede) wrote in linguaphiles,

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Picturesque colour words/phrases

My girlfriend recently introduced me to a picturesque (Brazilian) Portuguese term for a colour: cor de burro que fugiu (fleeing donkey colour). I believe it's a sort of pale brownish/dun colour -- apparently the allusion is to the dust kicked up by the fleeing equid, not to being donkey-bottom-coloured, although my SO said she always used to think that it must be a kind of indeterminate colour, one that you couldn't quite make out because it was running away!

(As an aside -- following a slightly bizarre trail of links (no, honestly!) led me to the wikipedia article on the word arse, which happens to mention that the actual English word 'donkey' is quite modern, having developed possibly from the colour-word 'dun' and probably as a way of avoiding the word 'ass'. See the start of the 'Modern Semantics' subsection.)

So: apparently the Portuguese phrase refers to a sufficiently well-defined colour that, in my SO's words, "Dulux could put it on a colour chart." As a fairly neutral colour, it actually sounds quite nice: you could have student rooms painted 'fleeing donkey' instead of magnolia. This reminded me, though, that my parents' attic in France used to be painted a bright, strong yellow that I believe is known as jaune cocu -- 'cuckold yellow'.

So my question is this: purely out of idle interest/linguaphilia, can anyone think of any other particularly allusive/imaginative colour names, in any languages?

Tags: colors, phrases

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