|A fat and happy Tabby cat|
It raises the question of why we call those with Ron Weasley-hued tresses redheads (roodharingen) and not orangeheads.
Well, wonder no more, because Gretchen McCulloch of All Things Linguistic has dug down into the annals of etymology to come up with an answer. It’s a rather detailed one that you can read here, but basically…
As with many languages, the first color terms to originate in the English language were black and white, with red not far behind. The word orange didn’t come into play until the fruit of the same name arrived in England somewhere around 1300. Oranje(orange) began to be used as a color name in Dutch around the same time (1282).
Of course, there are more orange foods than just the orange. Why don’t we describe hair color as being “pumpkin” or “carrot” ?
For starters, pumpkins were a North American thing. Europeans didn’t know what they were until sometime after Columbus’s famous sailing jaunt in 1492. Etymonline has the word pumpkin cropping up in the English language in the 1640s and the Etymologie has the word pompoen appearing in the Dutch language in the late 1500s. Besides, pumpkins – much like melons – come in more than one color, so naming a color after either fruit just didn’t seem practical.
As for carrots, they got there too late. About 200 years after the orange. That and the fact that carrots weren’t orange. Not at first, anyway. Purple carrots were the norm, but you could also get them in red and yellow.
We didn’t get orange carrots until the 1600s. And, what do you know, it was the Dutch who began cultivating them!
Orange it is, then.
In short, the reason we call them redheads is because, at the time the terms were coined, there was no other color option.
Perhaps it has to do with the advent of the word tabby to describe striped felines. According to Etymonline, the use of the phrase tabby cat was first recorded in the 1690s, which would have given the English plenty of time to adopt orange as a color.
So what do you think? What color does your native language use to describe our pretty friend above?