What the… I hear you say in the U.K. Roy G Biv?? What on earth is that??
But everyone in the U.S. (I bet) knows exactly what this is. Yet we have lived here for 8 years now and I only found out about this phrase YESTERDAY! It came about like this:
Child 3 and I were driving along in the car at about 5.30pm. The wintery sun was setting up ahead and there was a lovely range of colours on show that child 3 said “made the whole sky look like a rainbow”. And then she asked me if I thought the rainbow included indigo and violet or “just purple”.
This was the moment I discovered that when we lived in Canada between 2008 and 2010, so Child 3 was aged between 3 and 5, she was taught that the colours of the rainbow were… wait for it… (and feel free to sing this in your head to the tune of twinkle twinkle little star)
“Red and Orange, Green and Blue, Shiny Yellow, Purple too.”
Well, I was shocked. I mean that’s just wrong. Am I right? I am.
Because as everyone in Britain knows, the colours of the rainbow can be remembered using the mnemonic Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain. In other words red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. In my mind, the Richard of York referred to here was always this guy:
This is Richard III (who I have always liked btw. I named a hamster after him once – Richard III the last Plantagenet King. We called him Plantagenet for short) who was the King of England from 1483 to 1485 when he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field. I love Richard III, I’ll admit. From Shakespeare’s play to Sharon Penman’s fantastic historical novel The Sunne in Splendour and on to Josephine Tey’s crime story The Daughter of Time, Richard III is a very interesting person to know about. When I was pregnant with Child 3 we even used to say if she was a boy we’d call her Richard because she’d be Richard III. But this morning, I’ve just read that he IS NOT the Richard of York in the rainbow mnemonic.
According to The History Girls blog, the Richard of York of rainbow fame was in fact Richard III’s father, also Richard, who was never a King himself, despite being the father of both Edward IV and Richard III. Gosh, those Wars of the Roses were complicated. Many battles were fought and Richard never did come out on top. He died in 1460 and since he certainly battled in vain, I’m drawn to believe he IS the right Richard remembered in the rainbow thingy.
I hope readers will take a look at the History Girls blog post (link above). I enjoyed it very much, especially the comments section where it was suggested that another version of the British rainbow mnemonic was Richard Of York Got Boiled in Vinegar! Probably this is significantly less historically accurate than the way I learned it, but it is definitely fun and memorable which (and, yes, I am finally back on my transatlantic track here) is a lot more than can be said for Roy G Biv.
Back to the car journey last night.
After Child 3 stunned me with her Canada rainbow revelation, I obviously had to check what she had been taught after we imported her to the States at the tender, sponge-like learning age of 5. And that’s when she told me about Roy G Biv as the way she remembers Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.
I feel it is important to note on a language-type bloggy that Roy G Biv is an acronym and not a mnemonic, even though it serves the same purpose. There is nothing wrong with a good acronym, I don’t suppose, and at the very least it does at least include indigo and violet rather than the catch-all purple at play in Canada (at least according to Child 3).
But Roy G Biv? Really? I am generally firm in believing that American English is as good as British English and that all the differences between the two are wonderful and interesting, but Roy G Biv?
No. Give me Richard every time.