Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Colourful Names: Indigo

File:Monet - Seine-Arm bei Giverny.jpg

Another name from Saffy's Angel. Today is the turn of another main character from the book, Indigo.

Indigo 'Indie' - I often think of Indigo as Blue's cooler, more stylish brother. Add the nickname Indie and you have the name of a rockstar, or maybe a really chilled out artist. Its history has many similarities with Saffron's, such as its use in medicine, cosmetics and as a dye. The best and most expensive indigo dye came from India, which goes a long way to explain why ancient Greeks referred to indigo as indikon, meaning 'from India'.

The plant from which indigo dye is taken from is mentioned in documents dating back to the 4th Century, but its history can be traced back to its use in Egypt, where fragments of the colour survive in ancient artifacts. As a colour it has been extremely important and was usually reserved for the powerful and wealthy. During the Elizabethan era only royals and members of the aristocracy were allowed to wear indigo coloured clothing, usually to distinguish themselves as belonging to the upper crust. In medieval art, you'll often see that indigo, or indeed blue, was reserved for the clothing of divine figures, persons of religious importance and monarchs. It is therefore clear why it has connotations of majesty, power, and divinity. Not to mention that it borrows many of the qualities we associate with all types of blue, such as calmness, tranquillity and peace.

Although in Western culture blue is often linked with masculinity, Indigo is being used more for girls than boys, both in the US and in England & Wales. Maybe it has something to do with indigo's violet hues. Likely it has nothing to do with that at all. Still, I think Indigo would make a rather dashing name for a boy.

Image: Branch of the Seine near Giverny by Claude Monet.