B is for Blue and Big Bytes

posted in: Language, Reading, Reflections | 0
This post is part of the A-Z Blogging Challenge.

People are always blaming social media for wasting their time and helping them procrastinate, but the truth is, it’s not just social media. Today I happened to be translating a piece that required me to double-check some terms, and I found myself on the Arabic version of Wikipedia. Once the terms were confirmed, I was distracted by the little blue links that led me to the discovery of two fascinating pieces of information about IT: the yottabyte and the zettabyte. (Yes, those two are actual words in English, even though Chrome’s spell-check refuses to acknowledge them. My iPhone’s word-suggestion feature acknowledged them, though. iOS > Chrome)

So what exactly is a yottabyte or a zettabyte, you ask? Well, they both are multiples of byte, the unit for digital information. One yottabyte is a septillion bytes (that’s 1, followed by 24 zeros), while a zettabyte is a sextillion bytes (that’s 1, followed by 21 zeros). No one has invented a word for one octillion bytes yet, and maybe that might take a while before we need it.

Some fun facts:

  • In 2013, the entirety of information contained on the World Wide Web was 4.4 zettabytes.
  • If one were to upload a YouTube video of the Earth from its creation until today (an estimated 4.5 billion years), it would take 210 copies of that video to make up one yottabyte.
  • It’s expected that the amount of digital data will reach 44 zettabytes by 2020.

That’s a lot of information, in my opinion. And to think that I’m contributing simply by writing this blog post!

Anyway. Leaving the big bytes aside, let’s discuss the color blue. It’s one of the most popular colors, right? I mean, Facebook, Twitter, Windows 7’s default color scheme, the sky, the sea, they all use some shade of blue, right? What if I told you that there are people out there who have no word for blue in their language?

Shocking, right? I mean, how can it possibly be that there are languages with no word for blue? And where am I coming up with this information, anyway?

Let me explain. Today I was reading a book called Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages by Guy Deutscher, which discusses, among other things, the linguistic evolution of terms used to describe color. He first mentions the ancient Greeks, specifically Homer, who in his works has described clearly blue things, such as the sea and the sky, as black, in some instances. Homer also never used a word to distinguish the color blue from other colors. Then the book goes on to discuss some Polynesian languages in which blue is grouped together with either green or black.

One interesting observation that was made along with this was that these people weren’t colorblind, they simply didn’t see a point for distinguishing blue from green or black, because they weren’t exposed to many blue things, save the sky and sea, in their natural habitat. And since language is influenced both by nature and culture, they never needed a separate word for blue. If someone to ask them the difference between the green of the grass or the blue of the sky, they would say, grass-green or sky-green, just like we say navy-blue and sky-blue in English!

Pretty interesting and fascinating. In fact, the book mentions that it’s the same with most languages. They start out having a very limited number of words to distinguish colors from each other, and end up growing their color-vocabulary over time. However, the book focuses mainly on European languages and hardly mentions Arabic with regards to color, so I was wondering, is it the same with Arabic? I decided that I would set aside some time to find out the answer to this question on my own. I expect I’ll come up with an answer sometime in the next few days, so stay tuned!

Total Words Translated: 318/50,000