Why “violet” wins in the battle of violet vs. purple

I often fight, and lose, the uphill battle to have the academic vocabulary I teach incorporated into the “regular” classroom. Take for example “coil”.  My kindergartener’s will be or have been making coil pots. They love playing with and rolling play-doh and clay so this is a natural next step for them. I liken academic words to familiar objects frequently. In the case of “coil” I have a preference for likening coils to snakes. Kids like the idea of a harmless snake and especially one they have control over! However, I refuse to accept “snake” as a satisfactory substitute for “coil”. Unfortunately it is assumed that children can only relate to simple ideas and terms and “snake” is generally the only term taught to them. It is a personal mission of mine to eliminate this thinking.

This brings me to the title of this post. How can “violet” win? Why should it win? Why even bring it up? Oddly enough this does fit into my previous conversation. Violet is one of my 300-odd vocabulary words and one that is often ignored in the classroom. It is overlooked for the ease of “purple”. Well, color is an integral part of the discussion of Art and it should be informed from the beginning. Starting in Kindergarten I try to eliminate purple from academic discussion. This may seem excessive but give it a minute. There are scientific reasons for ousting purple and nostalgia can’t be a buffer. I can’t explain the full science of color theory and light to my little ones but I can to you, my unwitting readers!

The science is actually really simple and fascinating. Color is a derivative of the spectrum of light. The spectrum is composed of wavelengths of energy. Single wavelengths are what we perceive as pure color. Of course there are varying spectral combinations but it is this pure color, produced of single wavelengths, that was originally observed by Newton and has come to be known as the color wheel. Violet (as named by Newton) is a pure color. This is a scientific absolute. Purple is a combination of blue and red wavelengths. It is a generic term and refers to any combination of the hues red and blue. Violet is not considered a purple in the terms of color theory but only in English general usage. Haven’t you noticed that violet is the color indicated on Crayola products? Purple is either placed in parenthesis or excluded all together.

So, reasons for the win: 1.) Violet is a pure color, purple is a hybrid. 2.) Violet is a scientific absolute and purple is a generalization. 3.) Crayola doesn’t even use it anymore people! Enough said. These are reasons enough to fully incorporate “violet” into all academic areas, not just mine.

And then there is the curious matter of Indigo. It is sad to say but it has gone the way of our beloved Pluto. Indigo is on the very low side of violet wavelength intervals and the high side of blue wavelength intervals and is therefore no longer accepted as a separate color. When teaching rainbow order I utilize the pneumonic ROYGBV. Obviously the “I” is excluded (sadness right?!) and my little ones never realize the omission.

Now wasn’t that fun? Don’t you feel enlightened? I hope so. Now enjoy this beautiful violet flower, and Iris.

A beautiful example of natural violet.


About repletewithclass

wife. art teacher. whirlwind.
This entry was posted in General Arts, School Art and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Why “violet” wins in the battle of violet vs. purple

  1. 36x37 says:

    I like your approach to teaching vocabulary in the classroom. If kids are exposed to a wide range of words, chances are they’ll absorb them and learn to use them accurately, without much difficulty at all. My 3 and 5 year old boys use words like “abundant” and “cheerful” and “quest” because those are words they’ve heard me say or we’ve read in books. Smart teachers like you know our kids are up to the challenge.

    BTW, your roadside shoe picture is on 36×37 today! Thanks so much for passing it along!

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