Originally posted 3 November 2011
So what came first, orange or the orange. Such are the questions that plague me as I’m falling to sleep.
A quick Google search reveals that as the name of the citrus fruit, orange has been around since the 1300s, but the first recorded use of the word to describe the colour was in 1512. (If you are curious Wikipedia says the word was first used in a will!)
Before 1512 we apparently used geoluread, meaning quite literally yellow-red.
But I digress, what led me down this path was our tendency to name colours after fruit – plum, peach, tangerine, aubergine (I looked it up it is a fruit), cherry – at the expense of vegetables.
Yes, beetroot is sometimes uttered in connection to a deep purple colour, but when did you last glance through a spring fashion catalogue and see a celery blouse paired with off-potato culottes?
As everyone knows, deep down inside, vegetables are not tasty. We have been conditioned to like them for their nutritional value but the reaction of any two year old when a plate of spinach is served compared to a bowl of strawberries is a sure sign of our primal instinct in this regard.
Perhaps that’s the reason. Perhaps it’s just because vegetables, by and large, look like they taste – bland.
- You can find a detailed etymology of the word orange at etymonline