from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • proper n. A female given name borrowed from Spanish in the nineteenth century.
  • proper n. A male given name, an Anglicization of the Italian Carmine. (Less common than the female name).


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Spanish Carmen, cognate with English Carmel. Made famous outside Spain by the opera Carmen (1875) by Georges Bizet.



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  • "One of the earliest works to specifically link bright clothing and race was Prosper Merimee's 1845 novella Carmen, which later became the basis for Georges Bizet's opera. Carmen's very name is nearly synonymous with the French word for the color that cochineal produces (carmine), and from the start it is clear that she is a Gypsy--which to most Europeans of the time meant that she belonged to a separate, darker, and lesser race. ('Their complexion is very swarthy,' Merimee explained in an afterword to the book. 'Hence the name of cale (blacks) which they so often call themselves. ... One can only compare their expression to that of a wild animal.') Wild, clever, and passionate, Carmen wears red--in scandalous fashion. ... Her mode of dress shocks Don Jose ... The short red skirt also made a tremendous impression on Merimee's readers, including Bizet, who insisted that the Carmen in his opera be clothed exactly as Merimee had described."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 251.

    See also comments on colorless, snazzycolored, and mulatress.

    October 6, 2017