Colour Me Psychotic

Even though I’ve mostly recovered from my ill-fated career as an interior designer, I’m still fascinated with colour.  You’ve got to be impressed by the way something that simple can drive people to the brink of psychosis.

This isn’t just my usual hyperbole – studies show that while most people become agitated and anxious when enclosed in a bright red room, individuals with some forms of psychosis actually become calmer when surrounded by such an “angry” colour.  (I’m not going to speculate on the meaning behind the bright orange-red walls in the last interior design office where I worked.  They were probably trying to tell me something.)

But my favourite form of colour psychosis can be observed in paint stores.  I’ve seen couples nearly come to blows over whether their walls should be painted “Prairie Light” or “Paper Lantern” – two off-white swatches that look slightly different when held side by side, but will in fact be indistinguishable once the entire room is painted.

Maybe that’s why I never did well as an interior designer – I could clearly discern the differences between the colours; I just couldn’t discern any reason why it mattered.  If I painted their living room without telling them, that couple would never be able to tell which paint colour I’d used, and within a few months they wouldn’t remember either of the names anyway.

I don’t understand why paint manufacturers give their colours such ambiguous names.  What colour is “Wayside Inn” anyway?  Red?  Brown?  White?  And who’s going to remember it when it’s time to buy more paint?

They need more memorable names, like the one my dad used to describe an unpleasant murky brownish green:  “Shitbrindle”.  (My dad never used vulgar language.  Ever.  This is another example of colour psychosis.)

Or my step-mom’s name for that particularly nasty shade of green that was popular in the 70s:  “Goat-Vomit Green”.  Or my neighbour’s comment when he first laid eyes on the nice bronzy yellow I’d chosen for our entry walls:  “Baby Shit”.  (Da Blog Fodder more tastefully names it “Calf Scour”, which is essentially the same thing but you have to be a farmer to get the joke.)

There’s even an (unintentional) app for generating memorable paint names.  Here are my favourite autocorrect colour translations from DamnYouAutocorrect:

Fuchsia = Fuckweasel

Persian Red = Period Red

European Sunrise = Effervescent Shitstain

Smoky Ridge = Smoker’s Teeth

Periwinkle = Period Tinkle or Pussywrinkled

Any time I’m out with my friends, somebody is sure to point at a fuchsia blouse and whisper “fuckweasel”.  And seriously, who wouldn’t want their walls painted with “Effervescent Shitstain”?

I think the paint manufacturers are missing out on a huge untapped market here.  They should print up their swatches with the colour formula on the back, and skip the naming entirely.  Then they could maintain a database where they record the colour names their customers provide.

‘Cause let’s face it, you’ll probably forget “St. George Island”, but “Atomic Vomit Green” will stay in your brain forever.

Here’s my attempt at naming a few colours. C’mon and play – any other suggestions?

Hooker’s Lips

Hooker’s Lips

Month-Old Bread

Month-Old Bread

Baby’s Bum

Baby’s Bum

Don’t Let Dad Barbeque

Don’t Let Dad Barbeque

Radioactive Algae

Radioactive Algae

Shouldn't Have Eaten That Burrito

Bad Burrito

45 thoughts on “Colour Me Psychotic

  1. Pingback: What’s That Rusty Colour? | Diane Henders

  2. Fun post, Diane. I have a problem with names though… look at the titles to some of my posts. And the names of some of my characters as well leave something to be desired. I do, however, love colours, even psychotic reds!


  3. The names are hilarious, Diane, both yours and the ones in the comments here! Here are mine:

    Red – Anaphylactic Shock
    Blue – Hypoxia
    Pink – Brazilian Wax
    Black – Doom
    Green – Failed Urine Test
    Brown – Cat Vomit

    And who makes up those color names, anyway? I do like Shitbrindle, that’s very descriptive.

    I’m one of those psychotics who looks at paint color swatches and scrutinizes them for hours. It makes me feel like I’m doing my due diligence, even though I know ultimately it won’t really make much difference.


    • “Brazilian Wax” made me wince! Don’t worry, I’m a psychotic paint-scrutinizer, too. It all stems from a traumatic experience with the first paint I ever chose for my first house. I wanted warm white. I agonized over the swatches, finally chose one, and bought enough to do the whole interior. It was pink (in fact, just about the colour of “Brazilian Wax”). I LOATHE PINK! And I lived with it the whole time I owned the house because I was too cheap and lazy to repaint. It still makes me shudder.


  4. This was fun!

    Hooker’s – Please Let That Be Lipstick

    Month-Old – Back ‘O the Fridge

    Baby’s – Twenty Years ‘Til Melanoma

    Don’t Let – Low on Fiber

    Algae – Baby’s First Poo

    Burrito – Doggie’s Leaky

    (I’m pet-sitting 3 un-house-trained dogs right now, hence the train of thought… )


  5. I spend a lot of time with tattoo artists, and there is one pigment maker that gives its colors great names. They have a green dubbed “The Color of Money”, and a red that is “Monthly Red”. Wish I could remember some of the others.


    • LOL! Those are are great! One of my friends had bright coral nail polish named “My Chihuahua Bites”. The manufacturer stopped making it years ago, but the name was so perfect I’ve never forgotten it.


  6. Red-Road Rash
    Grey-Bathtub Ring
    Pink-New Scar?
    Black-Barefoot in the City
    Brown-Crusty, Crusty Crack
    Had a blast with this. What’s next?


    • “Bathtub Ring” – love it! And what kid wouldn’t want walls painted “Booger”? Though perhaps that might encourage the wrong behaviour… oh, well. I don’t have kids. 😉

      Maybe next we should start renaming cars. Back in 80s when Indiana Jones was big and the Ford Tempo was being made, I drove up behind a car where the owner had neatly affixed some extra letters at the end of the car’s logo, making it the “Tempo of Doom”. Always wanted one of those…


      • If it was a Ford back in the ’80s, it should have been a Pinto of Doom. Whole different thing, that. But the whole Ford-Doom thing just totally works. Fords are why my wife drives a Volvo and I drive a Nissan truck. 🙂


      • Okay, cars.

        Mercury Marquis, with leather interior, call it the De Sade Edition
        Ford Taurus, with leather interior, call it the El Toro Edition (nah, too much bull already in their marketing info!)
        Saw a Ram pickup the other day, the Big Horn edition. Someone had found a chrome letter Y somewhere that was almost an exact match for the Big Horn font. Yep, it was now the Big Horny Edition. Hey, it’s Texas. But be advised the truck had Oklahoma plates on it. 🙂
        Ford Exploder (I could keep going, but it’s too easy. Expulsion, Excretion, etc.)

        Looks like I’d probably better stick to colors, right? 🙂


        • I dunno; I think the “De Sade” edition would definitely catch on. We could call it “50 Shades of Leather”…

          P.S. I hope the “Big Horny” edition also came with chrome trucksticles. If you’re gonna do it, do it right.


  7. Okay, this does sound like fun! So, here goes:

    1. Red – Too drunk and too sunburned for too long on Spring Break.
    2. Dull Green – College student’s underwear.
    3. Beige – My neighbor’s lawn
    4. Black – Energy shortage
    5. Bright Green – Three Mile Parakeet
    6. Brown – My other neighbor’s lawn

    Hey, this really is fun! How about these?

    1. Red – Just another change of government in South America
    2. Dull Green – Why we don’t eat at Jack In The Box these days.
    3. Beige – What most people would get by averaging the last 24 color swatches they took home to try.
    4. Black – Second year college student’s underwear
    5. Bright Green – Too much tequila and not enough sleep.
    6. Brown – ‘WAY too much tequila and sleep won’t help much now.


    • Oh, fabulous! I particularly love “Three Mile Parakeet”. I would paint a room that colour just for the sheer joy of telling people the paint name! And “‘WAY Too Much Tequila…” is a perfect colour description. I don’t think I want to know about “College Student’s Underwear”, though… 😉


      • Gee, this IS fun! Same order:
        SERIOUSLY overdrawn!
        Just a little envious.
        That light taupe-ish beigey color that isn’t, quite, ya know?
        Totally eclipsed.
        Envy. On crack and steroids.
        That exactly what it looks like but I’m too polite to mention it in public color.

        Honest, I won’t do this again. Well, probably not… 🙂


          • Okay, here goes with the chocolate. At least half of the restaurant chains in North America seem to have a dessert called Death by Chocolate, so that’s been done to death, so to speak.

            How about:
            Temporary Incapacitation by chocolate
            Nutella on crack and steroids
            Under the chocolate moon
            Gooey brown spewage of Herculean proportions
            Damn the chocolate, full spewed ahead
            I’d better quit here. I’m detecting a pattern…

            And the black.
            If it were a fabric, it could be Chintz of Darkness
            For soil, it could be Loam on the Range
            For drinkware, it could be Duff, the Tragic Flagon
            Noon in the Coal Mine?
            Okay, that’s a stretch…


  8. No way could I beat “Period Red.” So funny yet so gross. But I think you’re onto something with this. You could start a whole new side venture.

    I have a scene in my manuscript where I mention chromotherapy–the practice of using color in healing. Something tells me your colors get a lot more specific…


    • I suspect none of the above colours would be high on the “healing” list. But colour is fascinating, particularly as it pertains to our perception of flavour. I have a lemon cake recipe that I make frequently, and it’s quite distinctly lemon-flavoured. But once I baked it for St. Patrick’s Day and coloured it green. After tasting it, everybody wanted to know what the flavour was, and guesses ranged from pistachio to mint. That’s probably why the green and purple ketchup never caught on…


  9. Okay, I’ll play:
    Flaming Sunburn, Cymbalta Didn’t Help, Baby Piggy, Mold Gone Wild, Eye Scalding Green, Scrape this Shit off my Shoe


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