Exercise 1

A. Listen to a podcast about colour. Which colour does the speaker say…?

1   can be seen clearly in most types of weather

2   isn’t used to describe a hair colour

3   originally meant ‘to shine’

4   might be seen more strongly by someone who has a certain illness

5   is not a good colour to wear outside on a summer evening

6   could once only be worn by a very powerful person

7   is a lucky colour in some countries

8   might be a good colour to use in a hospital

9   is the colour of something found in South Africa in 1985

10   certain types of animals can’t see


1 white   2 orange   3 black   4 yellow   5 blue   6 purple

7 red   8 pink   9 brown   10 green


Look around you. Colour is everywhere in our lives. Did you know that, according to some experts, there are as many as ten million possible colours in our world, though many are too complex for the human eye? So how much do you really know about colour? Here are some fascinating facts.

Research shows that the world’s most popular colour is blue, followed by purple, red, and green, while white, orange, and yellow are our least favourite colours.

Works of art using the colour red tend to be more expensive. This is because it’s a powerful colour, which is considered lucky in many countries, such as China. The most expensive works by the artist Mark Rothko, for example, whose paintings are mainly just blocks of colour, are his two red paintings.

The word orange didn’t describe a specific colour in English until the sixteenth century, when it was named after the fruit. Instead, people used the old English word geoluhread, which meant ‘yellow-red’. This is why we have the word redhead for people with this colour of hair. Pink has a calming effect and reduces anger and anxiety. Many prisons and hospitals paint their walls pink, to make prisoners and patients less anxious.

In Imperial Rome, the colour purple was produced with an extremely expensive dye made from thousands of seashells. The colour symbolized the power and wealth of the Roman Empire, and by the fourth century AD, only the emperor was allowed to wear it. Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours, especially blue. So, if you’re planning to be outside in the evening in an area with a lot of mosquitoes, be careful what colour clothes you wear.

There is no such thing as a green mammal, even though it’s a perfectly common colour for birds, reptiles, fish, and insects. One reason might be that most mammals can’t see this colour, so it doesn’t help with camouflage.

Van Gogh said that yellow was the colour of happiness, and it’s the main colour of many of his paintings between eighteen eighty and eighteen ninety. The Dutch painter suffered from epilepsy, and doctors may have given him the drug digitalis, which can cause people to see this colour very strongly.

The safest colour for a car is white. Studies show that it is the most visible colour in all driving conditions except snow.

Most diamonds in their natural state are brown. These are used in industry as cutting tools, rather than in jewellery. The largest cut diamond in the world is this colour. It was found in nineteen eighty-five in South Africa and weighs one hundred and nine grams.

The name for the colour black hasn’t always meant ‘dark’. It comes from the root word bhleg-, which meant ‘to burn, gleam, or shine’. This may explain why in languages like French and Spanish, blanc or blanco are actually the words for white.

These are just a few of the fascinating facts I discovered when I was researching colour. The next time you make a choice about colour, for example, for a new car, do some research first to find out exactly what it means.

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