All the Colors in That Dress Go Back to the Same Etymological Source

Last night a picture of a dress launched a thousand arguments. Is it black and blue, or white and gold? Some people are completely convinced it’s one or the other. Others experience a flip back and forth between the two perceptions, seemingly at random. Vision scientists, and computer graphics programs have weighed in on the controversy, but what, you ask (as you always should), do linguists have to say? Well, as it turns out, something important. Something that may unite us all. You see, all the colors in that dress go back to the same Proto-Indo-European root, *bhel-.

Yes, *bhel-, which had the sense of “bright, shining” gave rise to various words for white. Blanche, blanco, and bianco in the Romance languages, belyi, bjal, and bialy in Slavic languages, blank, bleach, and pale in English.

What else is bright and shining? Fire. Blaze and flame also go back to *bhel-, and what color are things have been through a blazing flame? Black. Black also goes back to *bhel-.

Through the concept of brightness, *bhel- also went down various paths to emerge as blond and the Latin flavus, meaning golden yellow.

And finally, blue was handed down from Old French bleu which went way back to the *bhel- of whiteness and also meant pale, wan, or bruised. If skin is pale and bruised, what color is it? Blue.

So there you have it. The dress is not only an accidental exercise in the relativity of color perception, but a split mirror reflecting back to us 6000 years of language history. Black, blue? White, gold? As a matter of human cultural concept-making they are, when viewed at very long range (okay, very, very, very long range), one and the same. No need to fight about it. The dress is *bhel-.

Don’t Fall For This Trick Used by Hotel Booking Sites

Hotel booking sites can be useful tools when comparing prices, locations, and amenities, but some services use deceptive tactics to get you to click “book.”

A new report spotted by Travel + Leisure determined that those “one room left” alerts you sometimes see while perusing hotels can’t always be trusted. Led by the UK-based Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the eight-month investigation concluded that many sites use “pressure selling” to create a false sense of urgency in hopes that customers will book a room more quickly than usual. Similar notices about how many people are looking at a particular room or how long a deal will last are some of the other tactics travel booking websites employed.

The CMA also found that some discount claims had either expired or weren’t relevant to the customer’s search criteria, and hidden fees—like the much-maligned "resort fees"—are sometimes tacked on at the end of the booking process. (To be fair, many hotels are also guilty of this practice.)

The report didn’t drop any company names, but the consumer agency said it warned the sites that legal action would be taken if their concerns weren't addressed. The companies could be breaking consumer protection law, the CMA notes.

“Booking sites can make it so much easier to choose your holiday, but only if people are able to trust them,” Andrea Coscelli, the CMA's chief executive, said in a statement. “Holidaymakers must feel sure they’re getting the deal they expected … It’s also important that no one feels pressured by misleading statements into making a booking.”

Still, booking sites remain a convenient option, so if you decide to use one, just take your time and be cognizant that some of the claims you're seeing may not be entirely truthful.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

The Internet Archive's Billions of Web Pages Inspired a New Art Exhibition

The Internet Archive, a digital library based out of San Francisco, contains books, movies, music, and roughly 332 billion web pages saved from internet history. The nonprofit's collection is an invaluable tool for researchers, but for the past two years, it has also provided some inspiration to artists. As Fast Company reports, the Internet Archive’s 2018 artist in residence exhibition opens in San Francisco on Saturday, July 14.

For its second annual visual arts residency, the Internet Archive invited artists Chris Sollars, Taravat Talepasand, and Mieke Marple to refer to its web archive (a.k.a. the Wayback Machine) as well as its media archive while building a body of work over the course of a year.

Marple, an artist from Palo Alto, California, created a series of illustrations based on a Facebook quiz titled “What Abomination from the Garden of Earthly Delights Are You?” She found images that inspired the project's visual style from books in the archive's library.

San Francisco artist Chris Sollars built a multimedia exhibition meant to evoke the Bay Area in the 1960s. It includes retro screen savers, literature on psychedelic drugs, and live recordings of the Grateful Dead.

The third artist, Taravat Talepasand, the daughter of Iranian immigrants, was born in the U.S. during the Iranian Revolution. She used the archive to build a mini archive containing magazines, propaganda, and posters from pre-revolutionary Iran. From that, she drew inspiration to make an accompanying series of paintings and drawings.

After launching July 14, the exhibition will be available to view at 1275 Minnesota Street, Suite 105, in San Francisco through August 11. If you're looking for inspiration of your own, artists and non-artists alike can search the Internet Archive for rare materials anytime for free.

[h/t Fast Company]


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