Niles: What color is the new carpet?
Frasier: I’m going up a shade… to “Harvest Wheat.”
Niles: I thought the next shade up was “Buff.”
Frasier: It used to be, but they’ve discovered a whole new color in between.
Niles: So now it’s “Tofu, Putty, Oatmeal”…
Both: “Almond, Harvest Wheat”…
Frasier: “and Buff.”
Niles: That’s going to be hard to get used to.
Frasier, Season 9 Episode 7 “Bla-Z-Boy” (2001)
As a BATIQuE sufferer, my wife has an obsession with colour. You know how the start of Wizard of Oz is in black-and-white and then suddenly the world comes into glorious technicolour…? Well, my wife would have you believe that before she was able to let me into her chromatic wonderland, I lived in a greyscale Kansas. In fact, I only owned a black-and-white laser printer until after we got married and she refused to cope with the limitations of only two colours (although she would argue that since the paper was already white, it was only one colour, and since that was black, it didn’t even count as a colour at all!). But of course, her condition makes her unaware of the chaotic madness that characterises the PANTONE® 108C brick road to the PANTONE® 17-5641 city (which was, as I’m sure YOU will all remember, was colour of the year in 2013!).
In a momentary lapse of judgement, she one day accepted my invitation to assist her with a large box of fabric that needed to be sorted to be photographed. She was on her way out the door, and I offered to sort them for her.
“OK. Just sort them by colour. You know… just warm to cool, neutrals?”
“Yeah, no worries. I can do that.” I said, reassured that having been able to see in colour all my life, this task was well within my remit.
“Oh, and ombré.”
“No thanks, I’m not really in the mood for Mexican tonight.” I called out to her as she closed the door behind her.
It made sense to start with the neutrals. So, naturally I pulled out all the red and white fabrics and made a nice little pile, bringing back fond memories of my brief stopover in Zurich when flying with Swissair (who really do make the best hot chocolate).
“OK… OK… warm to cool”
Well, everyone knows that most things at room temperature do not glow (that’s because they emit radiation only in the infrared spectrum which is not visible to the naked eye), but they start to glow red when they are heated (the coolest colour). As they are heated further, they go from yellow through to ‘white hot’. Ultimately, at temperatures above 8000 kelvin they would glow blue (the hottest colour), but since that puts them in the ‘heart of the sun’ temperature range, we don’t often encounter them (except for melted cheese stuck to the roof of your mouth). So, with this scheme in mind, I sorted the remaining reds and whites, yellows and blues into what I considered to be a rather neat spectrum.
But, at this point, I realised that more than half of the remaining fabric was in some shade of green. Now, I’ve never really had much time for green. Here in Japan they have a single word that covers both blue and green, which has always seemed a much more efficient classification. But, I know that because of her syndrome, my wife is under the delusion that greens are like the Star Wars films, whereby the number of them is inevitably growing without foreseeable end. She has whole charts of ‘greens’ which are really the same colour repeated over and over again but with different names, but like the Emperor’s New Clothes, it seems embarrassing to point this out to her. I actually made an effort on her birthday and bought her 20 copic markers, all in shades of blue and green (and the aptly named bluey-greens and greeny-blues). I had to suppress the frugal shoppers’ anxiety that I was buying essentially the same colour over and over again, and trust that my ‘enabling’ would be rewarded. Well, as it turns out, she was impressed with my choice of gift, but was disappointed that I had omitted several key greens that she ‘needed’ and thus was presenting her with a metaphorical ‘bikini’ of greens rather than the fluffy bath robe of green-ness which she truly wanted. But, I digress.
Quickly losing confidence in my ability to correctly sort the greens, I turned to the internet.
The BATIQuE crowd had obviously already been here and instituted their reign of colorimetric terror. I was quickly faced with multiple ‘colour spaces’ which are essentially alternate universes where your crayons would have to be sorted into cylinders of infinite dimensions. RGB, HSV, HSB, PANTONE… never mind gamma correction. I tried to make sense of it all, but could feel myself getting nauseous and about to pass out. So, I decided to stick to what I know.
Saturated colours seemed to be all the rage. Well, I know that saturated fats are one of the no-no fats we are supposed to avoid, so I figure that the same principle applies to saturated colours. So, the browns, oranges, purples and pinks went into the saturated pile.
Next came the ‘low volume’ colours (I know what you’re thinking, but no it turns out it doesn’t have anything to do with shampoo and conditioner; go figure?). So, I got up and turned off all the appliances, closed all the windows and came and sat down in front of the fabrics. I sat in silence and just listened. Since none of the colours seemed to be emitting any particular sound, I was able to simply place all the remaining single-coloured fabrics into the low volume pile. Easy!
Now, obviously the remaining fabrics that had more than one colour could be put into more than one group. The only rational way to deal with this was to cut these fabrics, and divide the pieces so that each one went into the representative piles. Done!
Standing back and looking at my handiwork, I was really quite proud of what I’d achieved.
But, something wasn’t quite right…
“Of course!” I exclaimed, laughing and realising my embarrassing error. My training in genetics should have reminded me that a proportion of the population experience a different perception of colour. The term ‘colour-blindness’ is not particularly accurate, and it is difficult to explain what a colour looks like without referring to other colours or coloured-things; but ultimately, these individuals experience what most people would consider as two different colours as different levels or intensities of the same ‘colour’ (rather than not being able to tell the difference or mixing them up).
To accommodate those with deuteranomaly (the most common form of colour-blindness) I moved the greens and the reds together, and the blues and reds together. Now, my sorting was complete. I couldn’t wait for my wife to get home and reward me for all my hard work.
Let’s just say that she was ‘over the rainbow’!