Saturday, August 10, 2013

Black and white and read all over

(Nubian woman, circa 1900)

Black is the color of coal, ebony, and of outer space. It is the darkest color, the result of the absence of or complete absorption of light. It is the opposite of white and often represents darkness in contrast with light.

In the Roman Empire, black became the color of mourning, and over the centuries it was frequently associated with death, evil, witches and magic. In the fourteenth century, it began to be worn by royalty, the clergy, judges, and government officials in much of Europe. It became the color worn by English romantic poets, businessmen, and statesmen in the nineteenth century, and a high fashion color in the twentieth century. In the Western World today, it is the color most commonly associated with mourning, the end, secrets, magic, power, violence, evil, and elegance.

Common connotations of black include power, death, elegance, evil, darkness, mystery, Nubians, Halloween, coal, petroleum, sin, outer space, anarchism, profit, night, bad luck, crime, and sophistication.

Here is an example of the black of outer space: A photograph taken by NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, settled in for an evening of stargazing, of the two moons of Mars -- Deimos and Phobos -- as they travel across the night sky in front of the constellation Sagittarius. Phobos is the brighter object on the right; Deimos is on the left. Spirit acquired these enhanced-brightness images with the panoramic camera on the night of sol 585 (Aug. 26, 2005). Scientists will use images of the two moons to better map their orbital positions, learn more about their composition, and monitor the presence of nighttime clouds or haze. (For Adrian and other photography buffs, Spirit took the image using the camera’s broadband filter, which was designed specifically for acquiring images under low-light conditions.)

(Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/Texas A&M)

According to jazz singer/pianist Nina Simone, black is the color of her true love’s hair (7:04).

White, on the other hand, is the color of fresh milk and snow. It is the color the human eye sees when it looks at light which contains all the wavelengths of the visible spectrum, at full brightness and without absorption. It does not have any hue.

As a symbol, white is the opposite of black, and often represents light in contrast with darkness. According to surveys in Europe and the United States, white is the color most often associated with innocence, perfection, the good, honesty, cleanliness, the beginning, the new, neutrality, lightness, and exactitude.

Common connotations of white include purity, nobility, softness, emptiness, ghosts, snow, ice, heaven, Caucasian, peace, clean, light, life, surrender, clouds, frost, milk, good, cotton, angels, winter, innocence, sterility, and coldness.

Here is a white horse, and (just to confuse you) a man dressed in black, and a woman dressed in red who is riding a black horse:

Here is a white house and a glass of milk:

The images are not to scale.

I thought you should know.

Since it has recently come to my attention that (a) someone has already written at length about many shades of grey and (b) a drink called “Black and Tan” purportedly contains alcohol, I have decided not to write about either grey or tan. I wouldn’t want to bore you or to lead you any further astray than you already are.


  1. Interesting reflections on black and white. All colours seem to have connotations that are absorbed into particular cultures so not all of us see them in the same way. In other words, not everything is black and white!

  2. Yorkshire Pudding, exactly!

    (P.S. - In the comments section of my post "Introducing Mr. Roy G. Biv" you will find an answer to your question, "Who is Neil Theasby?")

  3. "The images are not to scale.I thought you should know." - Ahh so the Whitehouse isn't full of pin-heads then after all. Hahaha. Here is a joke (poor as it is) to fit in with your title - What's Black and White and Red all over? An embarrassed Zebra. - ker-tish! It's rubbsih I know, but the wages here are awful. You get what you pay for.

  4. I missed this post a few days ago Sir Robert. For some reason my blog feeds are not feeding for some blogs. Hmm, now that I have written that it is such a strange sentence ~ but I am sure you understand my Austraaaaalian. I am reading into your post that you intend to work your way through the aforementioned colour spectrum ~ or color spectrum in your speak.

  5. Oh, BTW, Sir YP ~ that is a very deep insight you have made about colour and how we all interpret them in different ways from where we hail. I mentioned to Sir Robert the other day that we call red haired lads in AUS Bluey, which then inspired me to write the Melting Pot blog post about other Aussie blues. And just to think you started all this when you were feeling blue. Talk about sharing the love ~ so to speak.

  6. You chose great photos! Love the contrast of the red/white/black in the horse picture. Thank you for your efforts on our behalf.

  7. Ms Nubia would be a hit in Eugene today, and would give the locals inspiration for their own body ornaments. Except for me, of course.

  8. Carol in Cairns, I am feeling sad today that I will no longer have the opportunity to understand your Austraaaaalian, if I'm reading your private email correctly. Your family's gain will be Blogland's loss.

    LightExpectations, you're most welcome. We aim to please.

    Snowbrush, Blogworld is dying to know. Please indicate which of the following describes you most nearly:

    Ms. Nubia would not give me inspiration for my own body ornaments because:

    A. I do not believe in having body ornagments. Just having a body is enough. Body ornaments are of the devil, and I myself am pure as the driven snow, er, slush.
    B. I once had several body ornaments of my own but saw the light and had them all surgically removed. I now go about the countryside warning others about the dangers of having body ornaments.
    C. I already have that particular body ornament.

  9. All Consuming, I didn't mean to leave you out. I have a riddle too, a kind of very sick riddle:

    Q. What is black and white and black and white and black and white and black and white and red all over?

    A. A wounded nun rolling down a hill.

    I told you it was kind of very sick.

  10. "I myself am pure as the driven snow, er, slush."

    Please note my name. It's not Slushbrush.

    The answer to your thoughtfully provided multiple choice quiz is A. Anything beyond a single piercing in each of a WOMAN'S ears is of the devil. This leaves out nose rings, private's rings, eyebrow rings, nipple rings, etc.

  11. A reprise blog post for you Sir RWP with a purple twist.
    Still reading everyone's blog posts as they come through.