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Alphabe Thursday R is for Red

March 20, 2014

Red, (crimson or scarlet)  is one of the ancient dyes in the Middle ages it was called kermes from the Sanskrit kirmidja meaning derived from a worm.The Hebrew word for it was tola’at shani for worm scarlet. The red compound is extracted from a wingless insect , Kermes vermilio, that lives in the scarlet oak Quercus coccifera that grows in the Near East, Spain, southern France and southern Italy.  The dye is obtained by crushing the insect and boiling them in lye.

Kermes is the linguistic root of the English crimson and carmine and the French cramoise; but because the kermes insects encrusted on a branch looked like a cluster of berries, the ancient  Greek   writers referred to them as kokkos meaning berry. However, another writer of the time thought the insects had a more vegetative appearance and preferred to call the red dye granum meaning grain.

Because of the long lasting nature of the dye the phrase was used to mean deeply or permanently red from this comes the English in grained.

In the 4th century St Jerome confused by all this decided to use the term vermiculum meaning little worm.  From this came the vermilion a synthetic red pigment made from sulphur and mercury not the juice of berries or crushed insects … I am in debt to Philip Ball in Bright Earth.

alphabet thursday

10 Comments leave one →
  1. March 20, 2014 1:59 pm

    Lovely photos for Red ~ elegant ~ xxx

    artmusedog and carol
    (A Creative Harbor)

  2. March 20, 2014 7:25 pm

    I love red. Didn’t know much about it’s history until now. Thank you.

    • March 20, 2014 7:36 pm

      Yes me too I liked it as child but have taken to wearing it more lately 🙂

  3. March 20, 2014 10:10 pm

    I do love red! It always makes me feel a little more energetic

  4. March 20, 2014 11:30 pm

    the roots of words are so interesting. Thanks for the lesson! {:-Deb

  5. March 23, 2014 2:19 am

    I’ve just been taking red for granted. Very interesting.

    • March 23, 2014 8:10 am

      Yes I agree … was just a colour but it is so ancient and rich … !

  6. March 26, 2014 9:27 pm

    That is really interesting.

    I would never have know that was bugs. Kind of makes me shiver a little bit.

    And I am, in fact, wearing a red t-shirt right now!

    Thanks for a really interesting link for the letter “R”.


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