Colourful opportunity in grammar | Bangkok Post: learning

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Colourful opportunity in grammar

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Colour is a powerful and important communication tool, and can mean many things to people of different cultures. 

Colour can symbolise feelings, people, countries, social influences, cultures, religions, spiritualism and health.

Connotations to colour can vary dramatically between cultures around the world. For example, in Thailand there is a daily Buddhist colour to represent each day of the week. In Chinese culture, white is considered the colour of mourning, and in Japanese culture the colour yellow signifies courage, whereas in many Western countries yellow signifies cowardliness.

Colour can also be a powerful tool in language expression. The English language is a vibrant and expressive language that contains a great number of phrases that use colour words and descriptions to communicate thinking or ideas in a more creative manner.

Popular English phrases that include colour references are:

Once in a blue moon: An infrequent event;

Feeling blue: Downhearted;

Green with envy: Jealous or envious;

Grey area: A spot between two opposing views;

Red flag: A warning of danger;

Seeing red: A state of irritation;

Tickled pink: To be happy;

Born to the purple: A person who is born into a noble or royal family;

White lie: A harmless untruth, usually told out of politeness;

Black sheep: A bad character in an otherwise respectable group; andSilver lining: A brighter side of a situation.

Urban legend: Drivers of red cars pay higher car insurance rates not specifically because of the colour of their car, but because it is said that Western vehicle owners who gravitate toward red are more aggressive and take more risks and therefore encounter more accidents on the road, thereby raising their insurance rates.

Heather Vlach is an English-language specialist and Intensive Studies educator at International School Bangkok in Nonthaburi. She can be reached at

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