I would be interested to see all the vietnamese colours laid out on a spectrum with bars indicating how far each colour covers approximately. I know sometimes people from different parts of the world make different distictions as to what constitutes blue, green, red, etc. It just like with any word, they're not necessarily 100% equivalent.
Here's a crude comparison between the "English" and "Vietnamese" colour spectrum:
|----- PURPLE -----|------ BLUE ------|----- GREEN -----|---- YELLOW ----|
|---------- TÍM ----------|---------- XANH -----------|------- VÀNG -------- |
So basically, that spectrum is divided into three colours instead of four. Purple is always tím, yellow is always vàng; blue is usually xanh but purplish shades of blue are called tím, and green is also usually xanh but yellowish shades of green are called vàng.
Where you place the "borders" between one colour and the next is, of course, purely arbitrary. Over time, most Western cultures have pretty much agreed upon where purple ends and blue starts, where blue ends and green starts, etc. But historically, that has also been different. There are old Irish texts, for example, that describe grass as being "blue", and ancient Greek texts that speak of "the wine-coloured sea". Pink was for a long time just considered to be "light red" and an appropriate colour for boys to wear since red is a masculine colour, while light blue was a perfect colour for girls because it's the colour of the Virgin Mary. Around the end of the 19th century, that suddenly got swapped around, and pink became a girl's colour while (light) blue became a boy's colour. It's all in the eye of the beholder.
Thanks for the informative explanation. This reminds me of Kentucky, known as the "Bluegrass State" of the USA and also the Chinese word 青 (qīng) which means:
- blue as in blue sky 青天 (Thanh thiên - Trời xanh)
- green as in green grass 青草 (Thanh thảo - Cỏ xanh)
- black as in black cloth 青布 (Thanh bố - Vải đen)
True. I also agree with you. I have trouble sometimes distinguish blue, dark blue, light blue, teal, indigo, sapphire etc. And sometimes people see orange, I see yellow; people see red, I see pink.
By the way, we Vietnamese usually use "purple" to mean "màu tím". "Violet" is rarely used for this color shade.
"we Vietnamese usually use "purple" to mean "màu tím". "Violet" is rarely used for this color shade."
-> That's true. Technically, "purple" is "màu tía" and "violet" is "màu tím" in Vietnamese. But in general, people usually use these words jumbly maybe because it's quite difficult to differentiate these two colors. In this course, we teach "violet" for "màu tím" but "purple" is still accepted. To know the difference between "violet" ("màu tím") and "purple" ("màu tía", usually be confused with "màu tím"), you guys can refer this.
In my mind, violet is just another word for purple. In the same way that sky blue and peacock blue are just other kind of blue. Unless i'm writing poetry or describing a painting. I don't see the need for deeper distinction. :) But it is good to know they are there just in case the need arises.
To me, purple is the far more common word for the color, violet is used to refer to the flower or someone named after the flower. It's weird to see it used for the color, like "oh la di da look at me being all fancy and calling it violet instead of purple." Maybe it's my American English?