I don’t know if you have heard, but rumour has it that the Japanese sometimes mix up the colours green and blue. Well, it’s a theory I have more recently found proof of since living here. And, let me tell you, at first, I was… confused, xD.
Example 1: So, it was my first day of language school and I walked into the empty girl’s toilets and stopped, hesitating, looking at the toilet cubicles in confusion. All the doors were closed and where I would expect the colours green or red to indicate whether the toilets were occupied or not, I was met with red and blue… ummmm… what does that mean?
If there’s blue, maybe the meaning for red, being occupied, is also different??? I timidly pushed on one of the cubicle doors with a blue colour indicator, hoping that red still meant what I thought it did. It swung open easily, *phew*.
Example 2: It was bedtime, and I had just finished my shower and evening facial routine that had me walk out the bathroom with a very green Lush face mask cleanser on. Passing by the living room, where my host parents sat watching TV, I said goodnight. My host mum turned to respond when she caught sight of my face, “blue,” she exclaimed, pointing at my face and laughing to herself.
I didn’t think much of those incidences at the time, thinking they might just have been flukes, (almost said freaks of nature, haha). But then, one day in class, my Japanese teacher directly addressed the fact that Japanese call some things blue when they’re actually green. “We’re not blind,” he said indicating to a picture of a green apple he brought up on the TV, “for Japanese, it’s “blue apple””, *double eyebrow raise initiated*.
So, I did some research on this. And before you start calling the Japanese colour blind, check this out; many languages (just not English), don’t distinguish between the colours blue and green and just have a term that spans both.
In fact, there is this one African tribe that only has 3-4 colour labels spanning all the colours we know of, likely colour groups based on their natural environment. When I first discovered this, I was like, they can see… right? But it’s not biological, it’s cultural. The tribesmen and women can see as much as we can, but just have a completely different way of grouping those colours together.
The Japanese, for example, see green as just a different shade of blue, in the same way we see light purple as just one of the shades of purple (evident in how it’s called light purple). Though they have a word for green now, it’s relatively new, it’s consistent use dating back only until WII.
I’m now starting to understand that whole thing about “language shapes how we see the world”, haha.
Until next time,
P.S. They also call a green traffic light, blue xD.