What do pink, orange, and the alphabet have in common?
Answer: They’ve changed.
All three of these are examples of language changes in recent years, at least in Spanish. Thus, they’re the three biggest changes we made in our recent rather significant update to Calico Spanish Classic for Schools, our beginner level for elementary Spanish teachers.
In 2010, the RAE made some changes to the alphabet. This concept is a bit foreign, to be punny, to English speakers, because we don’t have an academic body that meets to decide what is English and what is not, or whether it’s time for the alphabet to change. But Spanish does. And in 2010, the Real Academia Española decided to make the following changes to the official Spanish alphabet:
- The letters ch and ll were removed, because they are digraphs (a pair of letters that represent a single sound, like th and ph in English). Rr, also a digraph, was never part of the alphabet, though interestingly, it apparently used to be taught as a letter of the alphabet in Argentina.
- The new name of “y” is ye.
- The only name for “b” is be.
- The only name for “v” is uve.
- The only name for “w” is uve doble.
What about pink and orange? This isn’t an issue of the RAE, really, but rather how people talk. As Spanish teachers, we often learned vocabulary from textbooks that told us the word for pink is rosado and the word for orange is anaranjado. As I collected children’s books for my children, though, I started to notice some of them used rosa and naranja for these colors. Had the word changed? What did users actually use?
As we continue to develop Calico Spanish Stories Level D (“I Like the Farm”), which features a new pig character as well as a mother-daughter Monarch butterfly team, our color focus is pink and orange. So, it was time to investigate exactly which words to use. Wow, has this usage changed. I was so surprised.
Songs and children’s books are all over the map on this, including our own popular “Colores, colores,” which uses anaranjado (but does not include pink). The WordReference forums muddy the waters even more, giving the “old” usage of rosa as the color as a noun, and rosado is the adjective, varying from country to country.
So, I went to my source of all things frequency related: I hit Google.
Here’s what I found on pink:
- vestido de color rosa: 735,000
- vestido rosa: 408,000
- vestido rosado: 350,000
That’s right. The usage we all learned in school, vestido rosado, is actually the least common. In fact, the Spanish online shopping site Zalando offers vestido rosa and vestido de color rosa but not vestido rosado at all.
But this isn’t even consistent across nouns, not even across masculine nouns. See what happened when I changed it to “pig”:
- cerdo rosado: 90,000
- cerdo rosa: 40,000
- cerdo de color rosa: 28,000
Now, what about orange? Here’s what happened with mariposa:
- mariposa naranja: 35,000
- mariposa de color naranja: 32,000
- mariposa anaranjada: >20,000
Again, the phrase I would’ve used based on what I learned in school is least common.
With gorra the phrase gorra de color naranja comes out on top by a significant margin. Here’s how significant that margin is with vestido:
- vestido de color naranja: 600,000
- vestido naranja: 300,000
- vestido anaranjado: 17,000
It seems like rosado has always really meant “pinkish” and anaranjado has always meant “orangeish,” and now usage is really reflecting that.
In case you’re curious about what we decided to do with these colors in Level D:
César es un cerdo rosado.
Ofelia tiene una gorra rosa.
Mía es una mariposa negra y naranja.
César tiene una bufanda de color naranja.
Curious as to how these changes play out in our new version of Classic?
We want to be up-to-date on language usage!
- Before: Each chapter introduced one letter of the traditional alphabet, including ch and ll. Because there were only 15 chapters, this meant only A-M were included in the curriculum chapters. Lessons for N-Z were added in an appendix.
Now: Each chapter includes lessons for 1 or 2 letters of the current, 2010 RAE alphabet, and lessons for all letters appear within the chapters and their scope and sequence plans. Optional lessons for ch and ll are in an appendix.
- Before: flash cards, posters, and lesson plans referred to pink as rosado and orange as anaranjado with outdated language notes for anaranjado.
Now: Flash cards, posters, and lesson plans give preference to rosa, de color rosa, naranja, and de color naranja with language notes on how these uses have changed and the current usage of rosado and anaranjado.
And guess what? We’ve even updated our alphabet song to reflect the 2010 alphabet. (That release will be announced in a separate post.)