Some colors are more subtle than others. In fact some colors are so subtle that they are wholly ancillary to others. Fine artists are attuned to all manner of delicate films, coatings, glazes, and washes which are added to a deeper color in order to produce a sense of depth or the illusion of texture. Subtle color-words—those which describe a texture, a mood, or a translucent quality are deeply appreciated. Today’s color describes a secondary color which was known deep into classical antiquity and earlier. The word glaucous derives from the Latin “glaucus” which in turn derives from the Greek “glaukos” (all of which mean the same thing)–a waxy, shiny gray/green/blue neutral color such as the blush found on fresh grapes. If you have ever eaten fresh grapes or plums you will be familiar with this color as the delicate coating on purple plums and grapes (and if you have not eaten fresh grapes and plums, who are you? Live better!).
Certain plants also have a glaucous coatings—such as cacti and other succulents. Ornithologists, ever in a bind to come up with Latin and Greek words to describe the numerous species of bird have also taken to the word. Birds which have waxy neutral gray-blue feathers often have “glaucus” in their binomial names (just as yellowish birds are often known as fulvous). The glaucous-winged gull (Larus glaucescens) of the Pacific Northwest is a fine example. The birds’ grey wings look as though they were glazed on by a gifted confectioner.
I like the word because I like plums, cacti, and birds (obviously in different ways) but I also appreciate the concept of a pale color which is always delicately brushed across something else. With a poke of the finger or a good washing in the kitchen sink, the color glaucous would vanish.