The Dark Blond

Given European peoples’ hair darkens and lightens to varying degrees (sun bleaching, bleaching hair with honey or citric juice), as much as the semantics and words for dirty blond/light brown varies I have the feeling that those with dirty blond/light brown hair are one of the lucky ones in that their hair didn’t darken much.

(Curious why almost nobody calls it wine blond, given it doesn’t darken that badly.)

If I’m not mistaken, a good number of people do colour their hair a different colour and since that colour seems somewhere in the middle and can even appear kind of dull (to some), that I recall a forum with users talking about how and why such a hair colour gets a bad rap.

Right down to the unkind names. (Westerners do have a similar dilemma regarding their natural hair, not just with the wavy hair but also with the dark blond/light brown hair thing.) Though I highly suspect these might be pretty common in Germanic and Slavic speaking countries.

(Spain and Portugal might not be exempt though.) So far only Russian, French and Italian languages, to my knowledge, have a specific word to describe light brown/dark blond hair. It’s not necessarily that odd as I think a good number of Europeans do have that hair colour.

But it’s also highly stigmatised to the point where whilst some do dye it another colour, others keep it as it is. (Though it may be that they’re either more daring or more accepting of themselves or whatever.)

Westernised Japan

Though not to the same extent, I get the impression that a good number of Japanese and Japan in general might be somewhat more Westernised than one realises. To me, the red flag’s that Japanese language does have a word to describe red hair which even encompasses the dull orange variety. (Language contact, people.) Some may even get influenced by Western stereotypes of people with certain hair colours.

As far as I’ve been to Japanese websites (there are also Japanese people concerned about paedophilia). Maybe not as much as I made it out to be. But I still get the impression that Japan might be somewhat more Westernised than one realises even if it’s not greatly so compared to let’s say Hong Kong and Singapore. The fact that even the Japanese enjoy American programmes make me think they’re not entirely immune.

The more I realise from hanging out at Japanese websites, the more I think the Japanese are far from being that isolated.

Redder than red hair in this story

I sometimes think when it comes to depicting redheads, at least in Anglophone comics (and to a lesser extent, their Francophone counterparts) the colour runs the gamut from bright red to a duller orange (as in real life though there are people who dye their hair a red so bright it’s practically pink). In fact, just a few characters that I can think of (Starfire and Strawberry Shortcake) are redheads who sometimes sport pink hair.

Another problem’s that in the French language, though not always the case, the colour of red hair’s often that differentiated from red in general going by old dictionaries. (You’d get the same thing in Irish, Russian, Polish, Belarussian, Ukrainian and Scottish Gaelic.) Again not always the case (though it may be that some are mistranslated). But it does make sense.

Especially if some languages can differentiate the colour of red hair from red better than others then it makes sense that it would be generally that distinct from red. (Actually if I’m not mistaken, some old French dictionaries describe roux as the colour between red and yellow and often associate it with mammalian hairs.)

Psycholinguistics, people

Like I said in another post that language can affect one’s mind and sensibilities. This might not always nor be consistently so but it does make sense. It’s like how whenever redheads do show up in Anglophone comics, the gamut ranges from bright ruby red to dull orange-brown but in at least some Francophone comics like La Patrouille des Castors redheads are almost always shown to have orange hair.

Again not always the case with some Francophone sources (especially the ones I’ve read) but if French can readily distinguish roux (dull red) from rouge (focal red/red proper) which you can encounter the same thing in Irish, Russian, Polish and to some extent, Portuguese, it does explain things. (Another amusing one’s that both French, Russian and to some extent, Italian can readily distinguish light brown/dark blond hair from dark brown.)

Some languages can readily distinguish certain colours, some don’t but that’s what you get from learning a new language especially with all the curious nuances abound.

When is red not red?

I sometimes think when it comes to linguistic relativity, I get the impression that some languages (especially French, Irish, Russian, Polish, Belarussian, Ukrainian and Scottish Gaelic and to some extent, Catalan and Portuguese) do treat the word for red hair as separate from the word for red proper. Let’s say if I speak in French, I’d say that Asuka est une rousse or Asuka a les cheveux roux.

But the same can’t be said of Kakyoin where I’d say il a les cheveux rouges. (You’d get the same thing in Ukrainian, Polish, Irish and Russian really.) His hair’s such a bright shade of red that it’s practically pink and sometimes so in some fan art. I think I recall going to a fansite in French where one character‘s said to have red hair (cheveux roux) but the other redhead has a bright red shade that she’s considered to have pink hair (cheveux roses).

Many languages historically didn’t seem to differentiate the dull red of red hair from bright red. But some languages do and I recall this one 17th century French dictionary where the word for red hair’s separate from the word for red. This may not always be nor consistently the case but I do get the impression that some languages do treat the colour of red hair as separate from red proper.

Red Alert, people

If I’m not mistaken, some languages really do have oddly separate words to describe red hair as distinct from focal red. It’s like in French, Portuguese, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Polish and Russian, there’s an oddly separate word for red hair as to be distinguished from focal red. In French, this would be the difference between roux and rouge. Similar things can be said about Portuguese, Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Polish.

Some languages like Italian, French and Russian may have oddly separate/specific words used to describe light brown/dark blond hair. If it sounds nauseating, such a hair colour that’s in-between brown and blond proper would be hard to describe on paper. Let alone without derogatory or unflattering descriptors like mousy, dishwater, ash and the like. It’s that complicated. Some languages may historically have not much of words for brown and blond hair.

That’s other than comparing it to metals and that’s still saying. Sometimes in some languages, you need a very specific word to describe a hair colour. If I speak in Irish, red hair is rua (roux) but the dress is dearg (rouge). Ad infinitum, et cetera.