Roy G. Biv Speaks

Bloomsbury Publishing

Bloomsbury Publishing

Blue blood. Purple carrots. What rhymes with silver? Ever seen a gray flamingo?

These topics are among the many Jude Stewart explores in her new book, Roy G. Biv. It’s a compact, yet lively volume about color and its significance in our lives. Each chapter focuses on one color of the spectrum and opens with a graphic connecting various ideas about that particular part of the spectrum. (You could call this a shade, or a hue, or a tint, but none of these words mean exactly the same thing, and I’ll let you consult the book to learn why.) Roy G. Biv also has an unorthodox system of footnotes that allow a reader to “surf” related topics the book in much the same way one might jump from one topic to the next online.

A quick read will enlighten you on why British warships were painted pink during World War II, why Chinese men won’t wear green hats, and the historic use of urine in clothing dyes.

A note: there’s a reason British warships are no longer painted pink. Sure, they’re hard to see from the air at dawn and at dusk, but for the rest of the day they’re just big pink targets in a big blue sea. All the better to drop a bomb on you, my dear.

Stewart is a freelance writer who specializes in culture and design in pieces for Slate and Fast Company. She blogs twice monthly about design and pattern as a contributing editor for PRINT magazine. She and her husband are based in Chicago, Ill., where they are learning to deal with rainbow-colored poop and the challenges of life with a new redhead.

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