Friday, March 6, 2015


We are at the rainbow’s end – the end of the spectrum –
the ultimate ultraviolet.

For a wee bit of not too purple prose, I wrote about that color when I was in a purple state of mind. I’ve decided to bypass indigo on the ROY G. BIV color chart.  Really, I think they threw in the indigo to make Roy G. Biv readable and memorable as a mnemonic. Indigo is really a blue.

Purple as an ecclesiastical color is used in Advent and Lent, and in the last century or so, for funerals. Purple is the color of royalty. It was once prohibitively expensive, and only the rich could afford it. In ancient times, the dye was painstakingly manufactured from the shells of a Mediterranean type of spiny murex. Byzantine emperors always wore purple, and Roman officials edged their togas in that color. Kings and queens the world over wear purple robes for coronations and other regal occasions.  
Though purple pigment was available from manganese which was used widely in arts and crafts, along with a mixture of red and blue pigments, the color, in the shade of mauve, was synthesized as an aniline dye for fabric only in the late 19th century, after which the general populace could afford purple clothing.

Her Majesty - Born to the Purple
Purple prose is, and I quote Wikipedia, “extravagant, ornate or flowery.” Not too many authors resort to purple prose these days, but I’m thinking that the folks who want to lengthen a very basic boy-meets-girl story, or who get paid by the word for their fiction, do indulge in a modern day version of gimcrackery.  Instead of “he looked at his watch”, “he looked at his gold Patek Philippe watch” or, to expand on “her balance was precarious in her new high heels,” we read “her balance was precarious in her new red-soled Louboutin heels.”  In each one the author added three precious words to the cash count.

To my distress, purple, along with other unsuitable colors, has become a favorite color of nail polish. I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and not every woman can have model-worthy hands, but why do those with less than perfect fingernails insist on decorating them in strange (to me!) colors. Just saying…

The Purple Heart, “Purple mountain majesties”, Purple People Eater, Riders of the Purple Sage, The Color Purple, Purple Rain, Harold and the Purple Crayon: these are all singularities. There are very few general expressions for purple, except that one could be in a purple haze or perhaps be a shy violet.

The V in Roy G. Biv is violet, but must people usually just call it purple. Rom blue-purple to purple-red, the colors go back around the spectrum. Lavender, lilac, mauve, orchid, - there are just a few names for the various shades in the purple family, unless you throw in the magentas and pinks.

Finally, everyone of an age similar to mine knows about
Jenny Joseph’s “When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

I am already an old woman and sometimes I do wear purple, but I am past ‘practice’, past rehearsal: I am live and in person

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