Men and women have both known for a long time that the two sexes see colors differently. Women often wonder why men just say “blue” when we see things like the sky, the ocean, Facebook, every Ford Focus, and so on. And men wonder why women have silly colors like azure, cobalt, sapphire, iris, teal, midnight, ultramarine, and so on. I thought I would take a few minutes to explain an aspect of why we men are the way we are.
It’s going to start by sounding a little technical, but stay with me. The part of the male brain that processes color has been reallocated over the course of male evolution towards things we consider more worthy of our thoughts. Breasts, tanks, barbecue, jet fighters, video games, breasts, beer, etc. Very little is left over for things like color, and we’ve been left what amounts to a 4-bit palette. Basically just a few brain cells in series that either fire or don’t fire when when information from the eyes goes through them. This all results in a visible range of about 16 colors. This world looks much like a 1990s video game to men. Note that early game programmers were mostly men, which is why early video games looked this way. That’s enough tech speak for now, check out the table below:
|16-color male palette|
|3||ugly blue||11||pretty blue|
As you can see, we men do in fact recognize four shades of blue: Blue, light blue, ugly blue, and pretty blue. We just don’t use two of them very often. We don’t use “ugly blue” much because it’s ugly and we don’t like it. We don’t often use “pretty blue” because you tend to hit us we use it in a sentence beginning with “Honey I wish your eyes were a …”, and besides it just sounds funny when men say it. Some of the color names have changed over time. “Other red” used to be known simply as “bricks” (or “bacon” in some regions), and in these more civil times what was known as “gay purple” is now called “pink”. Brown used to be “beer”, but it was discovered that things other than beer were this color so a more general term was needed. I should note that ugly blue and pretty blue have recently been renamed “cyan” and “light cyan” because men wanted to prove we could come up with silly names for colors too, but these names are seldom heard in actual conversation.
So next time you want to badger us men for not knowing “burnt umber” from “other red” or “fuchsia” from “pink”, please keep in mind we’re not savages. When we blankly stare at color swatches at Home Depo, or can’t find anything else to point out during your favorite interior design show (that we lovingly sit through) except the ambiguous nature of some of the contestants, we’re not trying your patience. Our brains are just wired a little different. Besides, “The White Mountains” has a better ring to it than “The Isabelline Mountains”. Renaming traffic colors from red, yellow, and green to carmine, aureolin, and chartreuse would just make driving students cry. And the last time they tried to change “Brown Bear” to “Chocolate Bear”, the resulting misunderstandings were unfortunate.