Black: The Color

Black: The [Absence of] Color

Is black a color? The official definition of black is the absence of color, but the question really isn’t that simple. Think of the little black dress or black tie worn on special occasions. Black lace is sexy and seductive; black sackcloth is for mourning. If the black sheep of the family wants to join an exclusive club s/he might well be blackballed. Black ops are secret military operations; black magic is practiced by evil witches.

Black velvet is elegant — unless painted with Elvis, poker-playing dogs, or saucer-eyed waifs. Picture Victorian ladies clothed in rustling black silk ornamented with black jet mourning brooches. Black is the romance of midnight — clandestine meetings amid the deep shadows. Black is truffles and caviar, squid-ink pasta, and shiny black mussels. Black is lacy, wrought-iron balconies and shiny marble floors; glowing ropes of Tahitian pearls; and Lightning Ridge opals, rich, swirling color against a deep, mysterious backdrop.  What do you think? Is black a color?

Black by any other name.

Black by any other name.

Here is a small sampling of the many black animals to be found: horse, Javanese Ayam Cemani chicken, swan, butterfly, jaguar, zebras.

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Tasty black foods: licorice, black tagliatelle pasta, caviar, blackberries, truffles, mussels, garlic, olives, grapes.

While black flowers are not common there are a few, although technically they are very deep purple. Shown here: taca (aka bat flower), rose, and iris.

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Naturally-occurring black gems and minerals are mysterious and often breathtakingly beautiful. Here are a few examples. I confess that I had to add a couple of less showy examples that I really like: a chunk of black lava and a small grouping of black rocks from my favorite San Diego beach.

Some terms that incorporate the color black:

  • BLACKBALL: Vote against; deny membership
  • BLACK OPS: Covert operation
  • BLACK MAGIC: Dark or evil magic
  • BLACK HOLE: Empty [outer] space
  • BLACK COMEDY: The humor found in dark topics
  • BLACKMAIL: Extort money to keep secrets
  • BLACK BELT: Expert status in martial arts
  • BLACK SHEEP: Odd person out (often: disreputable)

More Colors:
Yellow: The Color
colored pencils


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