A warm and sunshiney day to you, dear listener, and thank you for joining me once again! Today, we’re thinking sunflowers, we’re thinking lemons, we’re thinking rubber ducks, taxis and bananas! Have you guess it? Today’s word is: yellow.
Believe it or not, the word for the colour yellow has a long and tangled evolution. Hope you’re wearing your best yellow boots, because here comes the etymology of ‘yellow’: from Middle English ‘yelwe’ or ‘yelou’, from Old English ‘ġeolwe’, which is an oblique form of of Old English ‘ġeolu’, which is in turn from Proto-West Germanic ‘*gelu’, which itself is from the Proto-Germanic ‘*gelwaz’, which, in turn, is from the Proto-Indo-European ‘*ǵʰelh₃wos’ meaning ‘gleam or yellow’. Still with me? There’s more! You can compare the origins of yellow to: the Welsh ‘gwelw’ meaning ‘pale’, Latin ‘helvus’ meaning ‘dull yellow’, the Irish ‘geal’ meaning ‘white or bright’, the Ancient Greek ‘khlōrós’ meaning ‘light green’, and the German ‘gelb’, meaning, of course, yellow. These words can be traced back to a few different ideas or meanings, including gold and shining.
The word yellow can also be used to describe a coward, or someone weak or scared. The origins of this are debated, and rather unclear. Some surmise that it comes from yellow-bellied birds such as the sapsucker, or even eels or fish. Some say it goes back to a derogatory slang for certain races, or as a way to describe people living in remote areas with a pale or sickly complexion. Another guess is that it refers to a gut related illness or even jaundice, describing the colour of...well, certain biles or bodily fluids. It’s anyone’s guess, really.
Yellow can also be used in conjunction with journalism, to describe a kind of false storytelling, usually bundled with sensational headlines, exaggerated facts, rumours, and even scare tactics.
Isn’t language wonderful?
Written by Taylor Davidson, Read by Zane C Weber
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