These memorable epithets in Homer lead us to consider the variety of terms for expressing color perception in Greek. What we find is unexpected: instead of the three primary colors (red, yellow, blue), the Archaic Greeks had four (black, white, greenish yellow and purply red). And instead of organizing the domain of color perception in term of hue, the Greeks seem equally to have appealed to other properties of colors: their texture, depth, reflectiveness, and so forth. What else explains how the same color term could be applied to honey and blood, or to sheep and the ocean? These puzzles lead some scholars to conclude that the Archaic Greeks had not yet developed the capacity to discern color in the way moderns, with their 64-color crayon boxes, or Benjamin Moore paint wheels, take for granted. Others suggest that the brilliant Mediterranean sun flattened out the chromatic spectrum, making shininess and opacity stand out. And still others note that poets, in particular, sought to convey symbolic meaning in their color terms. But I prefer to think that the Greeks simply found it more interesting to organize the visual perception of the world achromatically and willfully rejected the color spectrum we are more familiar with. In like manner, what if we could reorganize our perception of taste, eschewing the traditional basic tastes of sweet, salty, sour, and bitter and even such newcomers as piquance, and savoriness? In effecting this sensible sea change, wholly new experiences await us. Thus, the Speyburn 10 tastes of the vibrations of a didgeridoo pushing up waves across the surface of a liquid mercury lollipop, cresting onto ricotta cheese foot massages, and crashing over hand-twisted paperclips on a tipped cookie sheet.
The Speyburn 10 is “My socks do match. They’re the same thickness.”–much less random than “The girl I’m seeing now, Rachel, is a very pretty girl. She has emerald eyes and long, flowing plaid hair,” but less plainly witty than “I busted a mirror and got seven years bad luck, but my lawyer thinks he can get me five.”