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  • These days, orange is the new black, pink is the old floyd, and white is having a major PR crisis.

  • But in Japan, green is the new blueand, also the old blue.

  • Well, really green is just the blue.

  • Let me explain.

  • You see, the Japanese word for blue is ao.

  • This blue car is called an aoi kuruma, the Blue Man Group is called aoi mangurupu, and if you were describing the color of the hottest muppet, you'd say he's aoi.

  • But here's where things get weird: what we'd call a granny smith apple, or green apple, or bad-tasting apple, they in Japan call an ao ringo: a blue apple.

  • And these, what we'd call green vegetables, ormy food's food,” they in Japan call ao yasai: blue vegetables.

  • So, why do Japanese people see green differently?

  • Well, it has nothing to do with eyeballs, eyes, or balls.

  • Instead, Japanese folk have a tendency to call green things blue because of the different ways that languages describe the very same colors we all see every day.

  • well, except for our colorblind friends, this episode could get a little dull for you if you can't differentiate blue and green, but I've kept this from you just about long enough for YouTube to count this as a view.

  • Okay, so the ability for human's eyes to see and differentiate colors doesn't differ by culturepretty much across the board human eyes can distinguish about 7 million different color variations.

  • But, no language has yet to come up with a name for all 7 million—I mean come on, English uses the same word for traffic issues, playing music, and melty fruit, you think we're gonna have different words for this color and this color?

  • Now, here in the US, we've essentially leaned on ROYGBIV to organize our basic color names for quite a while, ever since we lost the great American patriot Royland Grindlewald Biverston Jr. in the Rainbow Warsplus, of course, black and white, which we kept in good practice through old movies and racism.

  • These basic colorsred, orange, yogurt, green, blue, indiegogo, viola, black, and whitehave given us, at least in our minds, a pretty standard set of distinct colors to describe the world around us.

  • But Japan never had a war hero like ROYGBIV, and despite more than one war trying to change this, Japanese is not English, so the language developed its own unique method of describing colors.

  • Way back in the day, when the Japanese language was just a tyke, it decided that, so as not to get too far ahead of itself, the language would begin with only four color words: white, black, red, and blue.

  • With only four words to describe the 7 million different visible shades of color, these four options had to do some heavy lifting.

  • With no other words to do the trick, ao or blue, served as a catchall for all shades from green, through blue, and to indigo.

  • So, in function, blue was also green because blue was the best option to describe what we'd call green.

  • In addition to making Power Ranger meetings very confusing, this system eventually became untenable, and the Japanese language added a word for green, which you can see in the comments section, courtesy of people who decided to well actually me before they made it to this part of the video.

  • This word for green, midori, has actually been around for quite a while.

  • That's because as Japanese got older, it got more complicated, and with more words came more colors… a lot more colors, five hundred more colors in fact—I mean just look at this Wikipedia list of traditional Japanese colors.

  • These new colors didn't replace the four OGs though, but rather served as more accurate names for shades derived from the founding four.

  • Thus, while Japanese technically had a new term in their vocab quiver to more precisely identify something as green and not blue, speakers still referred to green things as ao well into the 1900s until the US war-crimed them into thinking about colors like a 'Murican.

  • The transition began the same way all American imperialist propaganda does: with crayons, which first came to Japan in 1917.

  • Add in a cheeky American occupation after World War II, and Japan started to get on board with the western style of color thinkingthat it'd be handy to just have a handful of distinct color names, ROYGBIV-style, rather than hundreds of slightly different shades deriving from the fab four.

  • Because of this, demarcation between blue and green has become more commonplace, but still, there's a long-lasting legacy of titles of green things that are identified as blue.

  • Whether it be calling inexperienced people blue horns, green apples blue apples, well-watered front yards blue lawns, using ao-ao not as a catcall but a description of lush greenery,

  • or the fact that despite a nearly global standard of green for go on traffic lights, Japan's green lights are more blue M&M than green M&M, if you follow my metaphor.

  • But having different methods of interpreting color and describing it through language isn't unique to Japanese or English.

  • If you were to head to the Ivory Coast and offer the riddle, “what's black, white, and red all over?” to some Wobé speakers,

  • they'd look at you weird for a second and then sayeverything,”

  • and you'd be left friendless because you didn't recognize that this culture only has three basic color names in their language, and because everybody hates guys who ask riddles.

  • Just ask Batman, or anybody who watched my trivia show.

  • In Russia, on the other hand, you, as an English speaker, would be thought of as a color simpleton, because while we just have onebluethat covers everything from sky blue to dark blue, they have two separate blues in their lexicon of primary colors.

  • So, in conclusion, in Japan green is blue, in the Ivory Coast blue is red, in Russia some blue isn't blue at all, and in the US blue is just blue.

  • But these color-name quirks are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the important differences in how languages work, and if you want to learn more then follow this link to start your thirty day free trial at Audible where you can explore countless audiobooks and entire courses on linguistics.

  • Or, if you're looking for more on green, I suggest checking out Matthew McConoughey's new audiobook, Greenlights, which won't actually teach you much about the color green, but will, through engaging story-telling and McConoughey's silky narration, provide insights on how to live a full, engaged, and inspired lifeand the ratings say it's pretty good.

  • You can listen to Greenlights or absolutely any audiobook for free when you sign up for a 30-day trial of Audible Premium Plus at audible.com/HAI or by texting HAI to 500-500, but, for those hardcore audio entertainment consumers, there's now a new option.

  • Audible Plus, which is included in Audible Premium Plus, gives you unlimited access to the Plus catalogue of Audiobooks, podcasts, Audible originals, and more so you can really fill up your days with learning and entertainment through your ears.

  • So, once again, to get a 30-day free trial of either Audible Plus or Premium Plus, head to audible.com/HAI or text HAI to 500-500, and you'll be helping support the channel while you're at it.

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Why Blue in Japan Looks Like Green to Americans

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    Miho Ishii posted on 2021/01/25
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