Out of the blue
Blue is a colour it’s a pleasure to discover in Paris. Perhaps because of its prevalence in the language, in which it indicates countless different moods and expressions, one starts seeing it everywhere.
The blues of the dictionary are just a starting point: steel blue, sky blue, navy blue, Royal blue. Within the world of fashion and furnishings, innumerable artists, creators and makers find their own – from the “lapis blue” and “celestial blue” that made 18th century Sevrès porcelain the envy of Europe to Yves Klein Blue. L’heure bleue is a time of day, the ambiance of Paris on the even of the First World War…and the name of a famous fragrance by Guerlain.
In fact, blue is most French people’s favourite colour. Or, at least, that is the claim of the Academie de la Couleur (created in January 2009). The Academy came out of a 1965 French initiative that helped to establish the World Congress of Colour. At this event, held every four years, physicists, scientists, industrialists and every sort of colour expert meet to compare opinions and research.
The Academy dedicated the year 2010 to blue. In doing so, they noted that France embraces the colour because blue “evokes ideas of night, of sky, of the Baltic sea and the Pacific Ocean…it titillates the memory and the imagination.”
In French, of course, “blue” is “bleu”. In capital letters, this also stands for BLEU: Bilingual Evaluation Understudy. BLEU is an algorithm designed to evaluate texts that have been machine-translated between different languages. It considers the “correspondence” between the machine’s version and natural human expression. Compared with human evaluations of quality, BLEU achieves high marks and it remains one of the most popular of such metrics.
Passing the seasons in Paris provides its own lessons in how colour is understood between languages, especially blue. Every year, every month, every day, brings a new perception. Collecting all the permutations easily becomes a passion.