The Split Personality of the Color Yellow – Facts So Romantic

Why does the color we associate with happy, wholesome things like bananas, sunshine, and honeybees also signify the creeping presence of illness and death?

Not death in the abstract: the dark-cloaked, scythe-brandishing spirit of Victorian art, or the symbolic black vestments worn at funerals. No, yellow connotes death in more concrete, physical terms. The signs of decay and putrefaction in the human body: respiratory secretions, jaundice, skin disease, vomit, and bile. All these signals of bodily disintegration can present as sickly, noxious yellow.

Jaundice can indicate a potentially lethal health problem.UK National Health Service

When the respiratory system is under attack—whether from harmless allergies or from serious infection—mucus turns yellow, colored by the pigment from the dead white blood cells unleashed in the immune system’s response. The thick discharge is sometimes known as “lung butter.”

Yellow can permeate the limbs when the body’s natural filtering system, the liver, fails. When that happens, bilirubin—a chemical produced by the disintegration of hemoglobin in dying red blood cells—leaks into the bloodstream, where it slowly turns the skin and the whites of our eyes a sickly yellow. This discoloration, known as jaundice, is often a temporary condition in newborns. In adults it can be a sign…

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