Until relatively recently in human history nobody saw the color ‘blue’….

from the article linked below


Until relatively recently in human history nobody saw the color ‘blue.’ “ and  “the evidence for people not seeing blue dates all the way back to the 1800s.” Um, I don’t quite understand these statements. If they couldn’t see blue, what did they see when they looked up at the sky on a clear summer day? What did they see when they looked at someone we’d say had blue eyes? And why does Merriam-Webster says the oldest use of the word blue, as in the colour blue, is 1a: of the color blue First Known Use: 13th century (sense 1a) They cite as examples <blue violets>and <as blue as a sapphire> Well, that’s blue enough for me.

This article says that on reading Homer’s The Odyssey, William Gladstone, who later became Chancellor of the Exchequer then Prime Minister of Great Britain, noticed that Homer described the colour of the sea as “wine-dark”.

Later, philosopher and philologist Lazarus Geiger continued Gladstone’s observations, inspecting ancient Icelandic sagas, the Koran, Hindu, Chinese folklore, Arabic, and an ancient Hebrew version of the Bible. And there is apparently no occurrence of blue anywhere in Greek literature. Blue is just….not there. But that’s only applicable if all other colours were mentioned. Is that not so? Are said other colours to be found?

Yet the Ancient Egyptians invented a blue dye thousands of years ago. Didn’t they see anything when they used it? And what of the Ancient Britons when they daubed themselves with woad? And when it comes to all those beautiful sapphires, well, they were clearly not blue at all, but something else. And yes, I know sapphires aren’t all blue, but the vast majority are. So, you could have sapphires before you, mostly blue, but you’d only see the few that weren’t? Or did you just see the blue ones as something nondescript and colourless?

So I have to confess that even after reading this article, I’m not sure what it’s actually saying. The word blue was certainly known way back, so what was meant by it? According to the article, it can’t have meant blue! Sorry, but I can’t go along with this. And anyway, what did the Ancient Greeks ever do for us? 😆 Apparently they didn’t tell us about blue! What a monumental blunder! (OK, I do know the Monty Python joke was about the Romans.)

And what on earth were the men wearing in the medieval scene below? The Emperor’s New Clothes?


  1. Good arguments to support your point! Is it possible that they meant that ordinary people did not see blue or did not know a name for it? Without much education, the lack of such a word might in fact result in not seeing it–in its naturally transparent form, such as pale sky and running water.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ancient Egyptians used the same word (wꜣḏ) to describe the color of an object whether we would call it Blue, Blue-Green (turquoise), or Green. The understanding is that blue wasn’t distinguished from green with a separate word until later.

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  3. Another possibility is the alternative use of the word “azure”. It’s really an Etymological argument rather than a Physiological one. We could SEE it but not necessarily have a separate word for it…So I agree, the linked article makes a daft claim in order to be noticed and grab the headlines.

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  4. Ah, yes. The best scientific minds of the 19th century reasoned that ‘primitive’ people were not evolved enough to see the color ‘blue.’ When actual scientific tests were done, – e.g. by showing paint chips of various colors to ‘primitive’ trimeseople – they could clearly distinguish the color, in all its shades , whether they had a word for it or not.
    I have heard that Hebrew has no separate word for ‘elbow’. No one would argue from that, that the arms of Israelis are made differently from everybody else.

    Liked by 1 person

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