An eclectic blog about beads, beading and beyond

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

50 ways to say 'Red' for beaders, Donavan and dead beetles

It’s a stunning spring morning here in southern Australia – the sun is shining and the air is full of the perfume of mid spring flowers. From my breakfast table I can see bright red tulips in flower around a small pond that was created this winter. We were delighted to find tadpoles in the pond at the weekend. The tulips show lots of beautiful variations of red as the petals open and their colours dance in the sunlight. How can I best describe the wonderful red tonal variations of those tulips? Scarlet? Burgundy? Pomegranate?. There is a bluish-red tone that I'm struggling to name. So, off to ‘Google’ for help. After discovering hundreds of ways to say ‘Red’ via Google I’ve created a list of my favourite 50. Now I have a wonderful set of words to inspire and describe 'red' in my beadwork.

My favourite new word for red is Alizarin – it’s apparently a vivid crimson red. It was produced from the madder root plant in the 1800s but it’s now synthetically recreated. Alizarin had some short-lived fame in the 1960s when Donovan mentioned it in his 1967 song "Wear Your Love Like Heaven"(Lyrics now correct thanks to Patrick!)

The words from the second chorus went like this:
Wear my love like heaven
Wear my love like heaven
Wear my love like heaven

Color sky havana lake
Color sky rose carthemene
Alizarin crimson

I love the ‘red' words ‘Crimson’ and ‘Carmine’ as well – they evoke such vivid rich reds that seem to capture the dominant reds in our tulips. However, it’s hard to reconcile such beautiful colours with dead insect bodies but I've learnt that crimson dye is created from the dried bodies of the kermes insect that live on the Mediterranean Kermes oak tree and carmine dye is created from the dried bodies of the female cochineal beetle which is a parasite on cactus plants.(See photo on the right of Prickly Pear plants with traps for collecting cochineal beetles).

The cochineal industry has had a rather murky history in Australia. Captain Phillip attempted to start it in the early days of the colony (1700s) by importing cochineal-infested prickly pear plants into Australia from Brazil in order to break the monopoly on cochineal dyes Spain and Portugal had at that time. Amongst other uses, the British used the cochineal to dye their colonial soldier's coats red. The cochineal insects quickly died in Australia but the Prickly Pear planted thrived and became a noxious weed covering over 100,o00 miles of southern Australia. You can still see remnants of the Prickly Pear where I live but it was officially brought under control in the 1920s. Tulips have also been imported into Australia but with less devastating impact - mind you I'm now drawn to research the history of their impact in Australia. So, whilst I enjoy the tulips they have a very small and special spot in the garden where they can be controlled. The remainder of our large garden is slowly being planted with indigenous plants whose reds are just as beautiful as those of the tulips and whose presence is much more important to the wildlife of the area. That wildlife includes the beautiful Australian rosella parrot whose red feathers inspired the beadwork that brought me my first sale on Etsy (see bracelet below) and it's red is still one of my favourite reds.

What is your favourite red? What’s missing from my list? I'd love to read about your reds.

50 favourite ways to say red
Dyes from the natural world
1. Alizarin
2. Carmine
3. Crimson

4. Amaranth
5. Burgundy
6. Sangria (color)

Food plants
7. Candy apple red
8. Cerise (or Cherry)
9. Persimmon
10. Raspberry
11. Strawberry
12. Pomegranate
13. Chilli
14. Paprika
15. Radish
16. Beetroot red

17. Rose
18. Rose madder
19. Fuchsia
20. Poppy red

21. Carnelian
23. Ruby
24. Garnet
25. Red jasper

Natural world
26. Lava
27. Flame
28. Rust
29. Terracotta
30. Blood
22. Coral

Built world
31. Fire engine red

Various other origins of ‘red’
32. Burnt sienna (an iron oxide pigment)
33. Cardinal (there is a red Finnish granite with this name)
34. Cinnabar (from the Greek "kinnabari" it is applied to red mercury)
35. Cochineal (from the beetle with the same name)
36. Falu red (Swedish name for deep brownish red paint)
37. Fulvous (brownish red found on the Whistling Duck)
38. Gules (means red in the world of Heraldry)
39. Magenta (a dye discovered shortly after the 1859 Battle of Magenta near Magenta, Italy)
40. Maroon (derived from French marron for "chestnut")
41. Persian red (deep reddish orange pigment from soils in the Persian Gulf)
42. Puce (French word that means "flea" as flea coloration is either dark reddish-brown or dark purplish-brown).
43. Rosella (vivid crimson red found in the Rosella parrots of Australia)
44. Rosso corsa (the red international motor racing colour of cars entered by teams from Italy.)
45. Rouge (Red in French)
46. Rufous (various and diverse origins but lots of birds with some brownish red feathers are given this name)
47. Scarlet (from the Persian säqirlāt)
48. Upsdell red (deep medium red created for Reverend G Upsdell, the first headmaster for the new site of King George V School in Hong Kong after World War II)
49. Venetian red (obtained from iron ore deposits in the Veneto region, Italy).
50. Vermilion (naturally occurring opaque orangish red pigment derived from the powdered mineral cinnabar).

  • Finlay, Victoria (2002) Colour, London, The Folio Society, 2009


planettreasures said...

that's a pretty comprehensive list of 'reds', Glenda!

Patrick Hughes said...

Alizarin's roots (!) are deeper than 1800s Madder plants, although that's the first written record of its use in English. The word comes from the Arabic "al-'asarah" (the juice), itself derived from "'asarah" (to squeeze.

And talking of the English ... from Victorian times, post boxes or 'pillar boxes' have been painted a particular red known as - you guessed - 'pillar box red'. as the British empire expanded, pillar box red post boxes spread throughout the world!

Rose Works Jewelry said...

Thanks for this wonderful post about red! I've always loved the color red and you can see my hispanic roots much more clearly when I wear it :P

Patricia C Vener said...

Excellent post! I wish I'd thought of this. :)

Marsha Wiest-Hines said...

Delightful post. Carmine was on the list of ingredients in the first blusher (then called "rouge") I used 4o years ago. Have always loved the name. And while I am at it, you could add rouge to your list!

Marsha Wiest-Hines said...

Oh, there it is... #45!!! Rouge.

Glenda of Dax Designs said...

Marsha - I remember rouge as well... colours do carry memories, don't they?

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