Monday, October 10, 2011

Canary Yellow

The color named after a bird named after an island named after a dog

From Dog to Island

(fr) Situation de Mauritanie (en) Mauritania L...Image via Wikipedia
Mauritania is in red; the Canary Islands are directly north of it.
As the story goes, Jube, a first-century-B.C. chief of Mauritania, explored a group of islands far off his coast. The largest island was inhabited by packs of wild dogs, so he name it Canaria, "Island of Dogs," from the Latin canis. Over time, the name was applied to the entire island group, which in English were known as the Canary Islands.

From Island to Bird

Visitors to the island were enchanted by a species of yellow-green songbird that they hadn't seen before. The these finches of the Canary Islands were eventually just called canaries. Breeders started doing their thing and breeding canaries of different colors, including green, red, and yellow. (Solid-colored canaries are all domestic canaries — wild canaries are yellow-green with some white spots and dark streaks.)

From Bird to Color

Yellow canaries were a favorite. They became so common and so popular that the word canary came to be used to refer to a shade of yellow — canary yellow. You might know it from your Post-It notes.

There is little consensus on exactly what color canary yellow is. While I was researching this post, I found a number of RGB codes for canary yellow, plus a spectrum of shades of canary yellow ranging from (233, 191, 0) [hex: #E9BF00] to (255, 239, 0) [hex: #E9BF00]. In general, though, the colors used a fully saturated red channel (255), a green channel greater than 210 but less than 240, and no or very little blue.

A Range of Canary Yellows
RGB(233, 191, 0) Hex: #E9BF00
RGB(244, 215, 0) Hex: #F4D700
RGB(255, 239, 0) Hex: #FFEF00

The most famous canary-yellow canary is, of course, Tweety Bird. One wonders what might have been if green canaries had been more popular than yellow ones.
Original image via Wikipedia

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