Shades of Orange #FridayRecommends

Friday Recommends

A question my mother consistently asked throughout her life was, “How do we know you see the same color I’m seeing? Like, I see something and I call it orange, and you see the same thing and you call it orange, but how do we know the color I call ‘orange’ is the same color you call ‘orange’?”

Well, because blah blah blah rods and cones blah blah. TL;DR: wavelengths.

Contrary to what all the online tests show (that I have normal color vision), I apparently can’t tell the difference between some shades of brown/green, blue/green, and pink/orange.

But wait! Maybe the tests are right, and a lifetime of anecdotal evidence is also right. Maybe my eyes perceive the same colors as everybody around me, but my brain doesn’t.

Is that even possible?

Well, yes. Yes, it is. Turns out, color perception is part wavelength, part interpretation, part cultural indoctrination, part imagination.


Color perception varies across cultures.

Day-yum, Mom. Way to be brilliant.

So what about orange? Well, I’ve been on an Orange Blossom Special kick lately. Not the one Dan would like. That’s a train that ran from New York to Florida. And, one hoped, back.

No, I’ve been listening to variations of this one. Now you can, too. You’re welcome.

What–You thought the Soggy Bottom Boys came out of nowhere?

A WRITING PROMPT FROM ME TO YOU: Write about a difference in color perception.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Shades of Orange #FridayRecommends

  1. Alan K

    June 14, 2019 at 2:28pm

    My wife and I constantly argue over colors (well, not argue, just have differing viewpoints).
    I see Red, she sees a shade of red: Burgundy, Rose, Cherry.
    I see Purple, she sees Lavender, Violet, or some other such nonsense.
    I blame it on two facts: 1. I am a Man and she is a Woman – guys typically are simple creatures.
    And 2. She is a Makeup Artist and has to work in shades of colors all the time.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      June 14, 2019 at 4:55pm

      From what I’ve been reading this week, I’d say you’re right: You don’t distinguish as many gradations of color because you don’t want or need to. My husband doesn’t distinguish between different computer programs, because he doesn’t want or need to.

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  2. Daniel Antion

    June 14, 2019 at 5:12pm

    I like this OBSpecial too! Good version. I’m right with you on color, too. I see colors. Maybe not the ones your mom saw, but I’m good.

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  3. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

    June 14, 2019 at 10:22pm

    It is easily solved. Whoever you’re comparing with, look at the color, match it to a color spectrum, and see where you each place the same color. If it’s more than a few percent off, you’re seeing different colors. If it’s approximately in the same place, you may be naming it differently, but you’re seeing it the same.

    Make sure it’s in the same light (not each of you at home on a different monitor).

    Any other easily answered physics questions?

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      June 15, 2019 at 7:49am

      Hee Hee! Actually, “wavelengths” is the simple answer to the specific question Mom was asking, because she would have answered you by saying, “But how do we know that the color you see as blue isn’t the color I see as yellow? How do we know that every time I see blue, you don’t see what everybody else calls yellow and have been trained to call that color yellow because that’s what everybody else calls that color?” “Wavelengths, Mom.” Is it POSSIBLE someone could have enough distortion in the rods and cones that wavelengths would register incorrectly?

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  4. Joey

    June 16, 2019 at 12:27pm

    Sassy and The Mister both have some color issues. Didn’t know about Sassy until high school.
    Moo and I definitely see colors the same way and she helps me with choosing colors because Lawd, Marian, these other people have no idea what color the walls, couches, curtains actually are.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      June 16, 2019 at 1:34pm

      Yeah, I really miss having Sara around to check me on colors. Charlie is in no way colorblind, but he has the stereotypical male attitude toward color: anything goes.

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  5. Joanne sisco

    June 17, 2019 at 1:07pm

    I’m afraid I’m the one who sees – or interprets – colours a bit differently. I used to blame it on my husband and said he was the problem, not me …. until I took a course in interior design. More than a few times the prof looked a little perplexed at my colour interpretations.
    When I started taking art classes last fall, the instructor finally suggested that I shouldn’t get hung up on what other people think a colour is and focus on my own interpretations. I liked her a lot ?

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      June 17, 2019 at 2:04pm

      Oh, I love that teacher! I’ll bet it makes your art more interesting, too.

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      • Joanne Sisco

        June 17, 2019 at 2:31pm

        She certainly does. She encourages personal expression which makes everything more fun ?

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