And Then There’s Mauve

Many years ago, I met Mr. Roy G. Biv.  Not to be confused with Roy Bevens, the kid who stole Sara Callahan from me in the sixth grade. That kid was so mean! He knew I liked Sara and he purposely… wait a minute, I’m getting off topic before there even is a topic. So, let’s take a few cleansing breaths and forget that idiot ever existed. Heeeee Hooooo Heeeee Hooooo. Where was I? Yes Roy G. Biv.

For those of you who may have forgotten elementary school, Roy G. Biv is an anagram for the color spectrum. Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet. Don’t feel bad if you have forgotten this, I know people who have forgotten entire decades. Though, admittedly they had help from another friend, Mary Jane. Enough said about that.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is when I grew up there were seven colors. Only seven colors. I don’t know what Black, Brown, Gray, and White are, but they can’t be colors. There were only seven colors, Roy G. Biv said so. Some people may have traded the word purple for violet. I’m not sure why, a colors name is so important, but artists debate it to this day. In fact, this little name issue has caused quite a stir over the years. It’s explained in the historical Novel, The color Purple.  Oprah was so taken this dispute that she had the book made into a movie. I didn’t see it. I know what Purple looks like, and seeing it plastered on the big screen for two hours never seemed that important. But I digress.

The reason I am telling you all this is yesterday I was saw a bleep on The Style Network saying, “As New York starts ramping up for Fashion Week, it appears that Seafoam and Oceanside are out, and Cerise is in.” Now, I didn’t know who Cerise was, but what the heck is wrong with the oceanside? I understand that seafoam may be in or out depending on tides and how close you are to a big city, and stuff like that. Consequently I was intrigued.  I immediately stopped channel surfing and listened to the rest of the report. Just then a pretty lady, who seriously needed a hamburger, walked out from behind a curtain in a skimpy blue dress. On a side note, I think it’s great that the fashion industry hires so many starving girls. Hopefully they make enough to get a few good meals.

Okay back to it. A weird looking guy, with hair sticking straight up, walked up to the girl in blue stating that she was wearing Oceanside. I was confused. The dress was blue. It didn’t look an oceanside at all. However, before I embarrassed myself in front of my kids, by pointing out the lack of sand and trees, the weird guy informed us all that Oceanside is a color. Next, he held up a purple card to the camera and everybody in the audience cheered. He proudly proclaimed for all to hear, Cerise, the color of the card, was the next big color, and we should all look for it.

First of all, I was not sure why we needed to look for it. It was right there in his hand. Secondly, the card was clearly purple, or violet if you listen to Roy. Well, apparently, I was wrong. A cute blond sitting next to the guy fell all over herself saying how beautiful of a color Cerise was, redefining it as a pinker shade of Fuchsia. What the heck is going on? I’m not saying every purple has to be the same. I understand words like lighterdarker, and with less blue. But does every color have to have its own specific name? Can’t we in this whole wide world do anything easy? No, we can’t. And I know who’s to blame, Joseph Binney and Harold Smith.

Binney and Smith incorporated in 1902 to make paint. This wasn’t too tough because back then the only paint color was black. That’s why all the photos of the time are black and white. So now you know. They later introduced red into their line and there was no going back. When crayons came into their own Joe and Harry came out with a box of six. The colors were Black, Black, Black, Red, Gray, and Black. It was the depression. Who needed more colors than that? Then in the prosperity of the 1950’s during some drug induced hallucination, somebody thought of putting 64 crayons in a box. I’m certain one of those executives figured 62 of them would be black. But no, all the colors were different. Now, don’t you see the influence of chemical substances? I’m just saying.

Sadly, they couldn’t leave well enough alone. I mean everyone could easily see the colors they wanted, why did they have to label them? I’m sure names like Fred George and Ralph were eliminated fairly quickly for better ones like, Purple, Light Purple, Even Lighter Purple, and Boy Is This One Light Purple. The issue must have been crayons are only four-inches-long. They just couldn’t fit, The Purply Color Of The Flowers In My Garden Which My Wife Likes So Much on one label. So, they shortened it to just the name of the plant, Fuchsia.

I guess it kind of makes sense, but what makes Fuchsia so special? I mean so many of the others have more specific names like Rose Red, Lemon Yellow, Lime Green, and Sky Blue. Why isn’t it Fuchsia Violet? I wanted to ask Joseph and Harold but they’re both dead. If I would only have known, I would have sent flowers.

The thing is, we as humans can see millions of color variations, but Crayola can’t reproduce that many. Can you imagine the Crayola seven-million box? That had better come with a sharpener. Think of that in your old kindergarten room? Mrs. Anderson would have thrown a fit at clean up time. She used to count the supplies to make sure everything was put away. “Children, there are only 6,999,996 crayons in the box. We are not going to snack until we find the rest of them.” Most likely it would have been Roy Bevens who took them. No, I’m not bitter.

Then again, physicists say all colors are just blends of three primary colors in varying hues of light and dark. Therefore, the five-crayon box, (Red, Yellow, Blue, Black, and White), could be marketed as every creatable color known to man. Mrs. Anderson would’ve loved this. It would be less expensive, require a smaller box and be much easier at clean up. Face it, with twenty-four five-year-old’s in a classroom, the woman needed all the help she could get.

There it is. Colors have obscure names and it’s just another thing I won’t remember. So, here’s to the decorticators, designers, and artists of the world. You folks have to remember seven-million-color-names, when the average vocabulary is only 70,000 words. It’s no wonder so many of you are insane.

By the way, if any of you marketing geeks pick up on the five-crayon box idea, I want a cut.

If you have comments, want to discuss the exact meaning of the word taupe, or have me take a sideways view at your favorite topic. Send me an E-Mail at I’d love to hear from you!


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