cultural difference 5: colors

April 11, 2010

No, the colors themselves are not different in Germany. But in some idioms, we use different colors or the colors have different meanings. For example, “to be blue” means to be sad in English, but in German, it means to be drunk! “Blau machen” (to “make blue”) means to skip work, usually due to being hung over. And apparently, bruises have a different color in the US 🙂

Here’s a list of color idioms:

English German translation
bruised = black and blue grün und blau green and blue
green with envy gelb/blass vor Neid yellow/pale with envy
black eye blaues Auge blue eye
until you’re blue in the face bis du schwarz wirst until you turn black
pink slip blauer Brief blue letter
to see pink elephants weiße Mäuse sehen to see white mice
green about the gills blass um die Nase pale about the nose

When I was writing Second Nature, I also noticed that there are many different ways to refer to the color of a cat’s coat. Will, one of the cats in Second Nature, looks like this:

I would personally refer to him as a red cat, but most of my US test readers said he’s an orange tabby or a ginger tabby. Or they used the term “Marmalade.”

So, what would you call him? Other than “cute,” that is 🙂



  1. I am just fascinated with all this information and interesting differences. I would call your cat orange (and “cute”) by the way

  2. I’ll go with “adorable” :-).

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