Among English words terms of color make up a group of words that are particular in cultural associations .For example, red, yellow, blue, green, white, black, purple. etc . The creative words play an important part in our daily life. The color language also has the meaning of warning .For instance, red means “stop”, while green is a sign of
“safety ”. People usually form an idea or the judgment according to there own national culture. Cultural differences exist because of different groups of people in the world with different inhabits and customs, religious belief, geographical conditions, mode of thinking, etc .So color has its cultural differences in sense of value, and its associative meanings are different, so is its usage in language .Now, we will discuss it from the following aspects to better understand the difference of the color words.
1. The Cultural Differences in the View of Value
1.1，Different Nations Have Different Aesthetics View
For example, there is a custom to “paint” the teeth black in the western part of the
Vietnam and the guys and the girls are more beautiful if their tooth are blacker In America., people regard white as a sign of beauty. The white people consider themselves as more superior to the other nations, especially compared to the black people, there exists racial discrimination in this country. In South African, racial apartheid policy is widely existed. For the women, white skin is a tradition in China, while in America and Australia people are fond of having their shin sun-tanned. 1.2，The Cultural Differences of the Color can be Reflected in the Taboo
There exist certain taboos for the people because of the different cultural background. The Japanese regard green as unlucky. In Belgium, blue is unpopular because it reminds people of sadness. In France, the yellow flower is considered to be an unloyal symbol. White isn’t accepted by the Indian people. In European countries, black is a symbol of dignity and can’t be used in the bedroom.
1.3，The Cultural Differences of the Color Can be Reflected in the Mode of Thinking
Political belief element
Red stands for the communism in Sri Lanka The member in this party often wear the red clothes in different occasions.
Religions belief element
The feudal rulers are fond of yellow in our feudalist dynasty. The governors were dressed in yellow or purple which means power in Christian. So “to be raised to
the purple” has the meaning of “getting a high position or popular.” It is well-known
that the Christian culture produced a profound effect on the Western world. The clear feature in the costume is that the bride dressing in white, while the bride-groom dressing in black. Because white is closely related to the purity and innocence and black is associated with dignity.
In England, females wearing different color words to show their marriage attitude.Yellow stand the half-hope. Green is a sign of agreement .While red means disagree. There is a custom of “new, old, borrow, blue” for the wedding. “New” means
the bride’s new dress, which. Symbolizes the beginning of the new life. “Old” refers to
the white dress which should be used by her mother to show the deep emotion of her mother “Borrow” means the bride’s white handkerchief which shows the intimate
friendship of her good friends. “Blue” refers to the ribbon which symbolizes the loyalty
of their love.
Each occupation has its own clothes in the world and the color of the clothes is
thclosely concerned. Green is popular in the army .There was a war in the late 19 century.
British started a war with the South African .The percentage was 5:1.At first, the south
African failed, but later they found that the British were dressed in red which was easy to be found, while green looked the same with the grass , so it was not to be found and they painted their clothes and weapon green .Finally , they won the war . In some countries, people don not like green; if you want to do business with them successfully, you have to pay special attention to your address, especially the color of the dress. Green is offensive.
2. The Cultural Differences in the Application of the Color Terms
Color words are usually rich in associative meanings and the associative meanings are influenced by the nation’s customs, geographical conditions ,religious belief ,
cultural background , etc .The American linguist-Pamol says “color has a great
psychological result”. Black is a sign of sadness or unfortunate when something sad or disastrous happens. Sometimes color words have the same or the similar meaning both
in China and western world. For example, red is often associated with “enthusiasm”
Black is closely connected with sadness, unfortunate or dignity .Green is largely concerned with being vigorous . But sometimes there exist great differences in the associative meaning. The following examples are examples that display the application of the color words in Chinese and English culture.
2.1 Red and its symbol meaning
The red is usually associated with celebrations and joyful occasions .This is true
both in English speaking countries and in China .In English we find such expressions as “a red letter day” , “paint the town red” and “the red carpet” “A red letter day” refers to
a day specially looked forward to, or remembered, when something remarkable and usually pleasurable will happen ,or happened , as in “My father said the day I was born
was a red letter day ”.This expression is from calendars that have days printed in red and other days printed in black . “The red carpet” is a symbol of respectful reception
or attention, as in “They needn’t expect to be given the red carpet treatment ’’. In China,
“双喜” is either written in red or written on a piece of red paper to symbolize an event of special joy, such as a wedding or opening a business. “红喜事” specially refers to
weddings. “披红挂i” is a traditional way to celebrate an event of happiness. Similarly, in 开门红,the red color is a symbol of good fortune.
The red color is not always associated with something joyful. In English the red light district refers to a district within a town or city where there are brothels, as in“ She spent the past 30 years helping the prostitutes in the red light district”.
“Running a business in the red” means running it at a loss. This expression came from
the color of the ink used in keeping accounts: figures indicating loss are customarily written in red. “Red tape” means the rigid application and observation of rules and regulations in all their minute details without regard for the end they are designed to achieve, as in “Beaverbrook simply wanted to get things done. He hated red tape”. This
expression came from lawyers and government official’s former practice of keeping
their papers and records in bundles tied with red tape.
Red is also associated with certain emotions in both English and Chinese. In English, “to become red- faced” or “her face turned red” shows embarrassment or
shyness, as “脸红” does in Chinese. But some English expressions involving the color red may not be so readily understood by Chinese, see red, wave a red flag, red rag etc are associated with anger or excitement. “See red” means “to get extremely angry” as in
“It’s just that I see red when I think anyone is trying to muscle in on my property”
“waving a red flag” means “doing something that could cause quick anger in other
people”. “Red meat” is simply beef and mutton, in contrast with “white meat” which
refers to chicken and other fowls, while “red caps” refer to potters in American English
or military policemen in British English.
In both English and Chinese, red is associated with revolution and communism. In English, the word “Red” with a capital “R” is often used as a synonym for a communist,
usually in a derogatory sense. For example, the English expression “Reds under the
bed” refers to communists or left-wing activists. In contrast, red is the color that the Chinese people like. It is perhaps, the most widely used Chinese character in Chinese person names. Sometimes red is a sign of “danger or urgency,” “red alert” is associated
with dangerous. In English, “Red guard” refers to British Royal Army.
2.2 Yellow and its symbol meaning
Yellow is “黄” in Chinese. It appears in many pejorative expressions such as “黄
色电影” (obscene films), “黄色书刊”，filthy publication( “黄色音乐” (vulgar music),
etc. which mean contain obscene or pornographic materials. And traditionally, “黄”
was associated with the royal family in China. However, yellow does not carry these associations in English. The word “yellow” originated from America of the
th19.centuries There were two capitalists, in order to enlarge their business, they put some unhealthy pictures on the newspaper in which there was an article naming Yellow Kid. So, people regarded yellow as a symbol of obscene and this kind of paper was regarded yellow paper. But “yellow journalism” refers to a kind of journalism with
heavy emphasis on scandals or presenting ordinary news in a sensational effect. And “Yellow pages” is a book with the telephone numbers of different shops, restaurants, business, organizations, etc. its pages are yellow, but it is not a “黄书” in the Chinese
sense of the expression. Besides its basic meaning yellow has the meaning of “jealous,
suspicious, and timid”. Person who is “yellow” has no courage. In ancient China, the
yellow word symbolized the imperial power. The common people were prohibit from wearing the clothes with color yellow, because only the emperor wore the yellow clothes, which symbolized the emperor had high power and could rule all people. When visiting the palace in China, you will know the yellow word is dignified and powerful. While in Western countries, people admire purple. The kings were dressed in purple. In China , if people go to some place or having important things to do who always choose lucky day which is used in Chinese language. But there is not this expression in English. In addition, there is yellow announcement in ancient China, while is used to register in
examination, successful people also express lucky.
2.3 White word’s symbol meaning and its usage in idioms