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Hello

I found in a grammar site online a description like below:

Gradable adjectives can be modified by degree adverbs like 'very' or 'so'. They can also be made into comparatives and superlatives, e.g. 'taller/tallest', 'better/best'. Technically, non-gradable adjectives cannot be modified in this way, because they denote absolutes, e.g. *'more unique'; however, in informal speech absolutes are sometimes graded for emphasis.
The qualities expressed by non-gradable adjectives tend to be absolute, and they often fall into pairs, e.g. 'male/female', 'married/single', 'black/white', 'true/false'. When such adjectives are modified by degree adverbs like 'very', the effect is sometimes to give emphasis rather than to express the degree of the characteristic expressed, e.g. "That's very true", "It was a very black day". Alternatively, the nature of the adjective is changed: compare "I'm Scottish" (= nationality) with "I'm very Scottish" (= I have many Scottish characteristics).


What I get stuck to here is they say that 'black' and 'white' are non-gradable. Is it true? Does it sound weird if I say "Her skin is very white. It's much whiter than mine"?

paco
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Hi Paco,

What I get stuck to here is they say that 'black' and 'white' are non-gradable. Is it true? Does it sound weird if I say "Her skin is very white. It's much whiter than mine"? No, it sounds fine, very natural.

Clive
Clive

Thank you for the quick answer. Can we say every color adjective is gradable? How about "azure" for example? "They sky is getting azurer". Is it correct?

paco
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Hi,

Can we say every color adjective is gradable? Generally speaking, yes.

How about "azure" for example? "The sky is getting azurer". Is it correct? Yes. It does sound slightly odd, but that's because the word 'azurer' is a bit difficult for me to pronounce, because of the similarity of the last two syllables.

I think colours are an interesting subject. Let me try to generalize, although others may disagree with me. In my experience, women have a better sense of colours and probably more interest in grades (or 'shades') of colour. This is reflected in language. Most men speak mainly of the primary colours, while women will use many different names for different shades.

I would never think of 'azure', I'd just naturally call it 'blue'. My wife sometimes speaks of colours by names that I don't understand at all.

I'd be interested to know if this is true of other cultures. How about in Japan?

Clive
Hello Clive

I too am a person indifferent about colors. I don't know how much my wife knows about colors, but I believe here in Japan too women are more sensitive to colors than men. They use not only Japanese color names but also English color names in their conversations. So it's tough for me to know what color they are talking about. Take 'blue-to-purplish colors' for example. They say green indigo, indigo twice, rusty closet blue, cyan, aquamarine blue, marine blue, porcelain blue, azure blue, water blue, cerulean blue, fake-purple, sapphire blue, jay blue, cobalt blue, wisteria blue, spiderwort blue, cobalt blue, garter blue, lavender, lapis-lazuli, Persian blue, flower blue, navy blue, gentian blue, midnight blue, fake-purple, real purple, crimson, discolored purple, grape purple, Shinbashi blue, eggplant purple, Kyoto purple, Yedo-purple, heliotrope, iris purple, royal purple, peony, magenta, marrow, azalea, bourdeaux purple, old-rose purple, wet-craw purple, tyrian purple, etc…. How can I know what colors they mean exactly by using so many color names?

paco
WET-CRAW PURPLE???

Paco, are you making some of these up?
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KhoffWET-CRAW PURPLE???
Oops! I made a mis-spelling. It should be "wet crow purple". Maybe it corresponds to the color you call as "jet black".

paco
Have you ever gone to a paint store and asked for yellow, or white paint? Some paint companies have a distinct name for each of the hundreds of colors they manufacture, all of which are gradations of the colors universally recognized as red, blue, yellow, green, purple, orange, black, and white. Do you imagine it is only women sitting around the company table giving each of these colors a unique name? I doubt the suggestion that there is a female/male difference in the ability to perceive color subtleties. That's simply one more gender stereotype.

Nothing can technically be whiter than white, or greener than green, but 'moon white' can be whiter than 'bone white', and 'emerald green' can be greener than 'bean green'. And everybody knows that the green of the grass on one side of the fence can be greener than the green of the grass on the other side of the fence.
DavkettAnd everybody knows that the green of the grass on one side of the fence can be greener than the green of the grass on the other side of the fence.
It's truely true, and much truer is that every male person thinks that any woman standing outside of the fence is cuter than the woman standing inside of the fence.

paco
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