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Is this page cerulean or ultramarine?
May 4, 2010 7:34 PM   Subscribe

Over 140,000 people participated in the xkcd Color Survey, naming various colors and the results are in. Among other cool things, you can see a nice map of RGB colors to color names and see the most commonly identified 954 color names. The webcomic is not the first institution to survey people about color choices and present pretty results. At the heart of color naming is a deeper debate about language, whether colors are universal, and how words shape perception. One highly influential view suggests that there are 11 universal basic colors, though the number of colors identified in native tongues varies across the world, but even the English origins of color words are complex. Perhaps you should test your own color perception, or just see a huge chart of color names in different languages. [also, prev.]
posted by blahblahblah (42 comments total) 82 users marked this as a favorite

 
I just tested myself on some colors, hit the back button and the color had distinctly changed. It was still green, but much brighter.
posted by aetg at 7:38 PM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


blood (#770001)
poop green (#6f7c00)
puke (#a5a502)
Looking at the colours, I am disturbed for Randall's audience.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:39 PM on May 4, 2010


You mean you don't find penis a valid color, Fiasco?
posted by leviathan3k at 7:43 PM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nobody can spell “fuchsia”

Thank effing god I wasn't the only one.
posted by contessa at 7:48 PM on May 4, 2010


Were the Metafilter t-shirts cerulean or ultramarine, or were they turquoise?
posted by Flashman at 7:50 PM on May 4, 2010


If you know anything about botanical nomenclature, spelling fuschia is a breeze.
posted by Flashman at 7:51 PM on May 4, 2010


Poor old Fuchs. You finally get a genus named after you and what happens? No bugger can spell it right.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:54 PM on May 4, 2010


If you don't like XKCD (like me), don't let your taste in comics dissuade you: this is pretty awesome. The other links are even better. Great post!
posted by Damn That Television at 7:58 PM on May 4, 2010


   Your         Average
  vomit         vomit

posted by little e at 8:03 PM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't believe that I spent as much time as I did naming colors. I can't believe that this actually came to an end. I can't believe that i care about this as much as I do. I can't believe that I favorited this.

I can't believe that particular color was called butter. It's obviously margarine.

The one in the middle is Parkay.
posted by Splunge at 8:06 PM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


The link about Berlin & Kay's 11 basic color terms briefly mentions that not everyone buys it. For an exhaustive rebuttal, see the very excellent Saunders & van Brakel, "Are there non-trivial constraints on colour categorization?" (Behavioral and Brain Sciences 20 (2):167-228).
posted by Monsieur Caution at 8:07 PM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Er, it's a Google cache link, but it's a better article than the other piece by Saunders linked there. ;)
posted by Monsieur Caution at 8:11 PM on May 4, 2010


You mean you don't find penis a valid color, Fiasco?
This sentence is crying out for a rap song.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:14 PM on May 4, 2010


If I wore makeup, I'd know the names of more colors!
posted by Some1 at 8:33 PM on May 4, 2010


Flashman: "If you know anything about botanical nomenclature, spelling fuschia is a breeze."

Is this your confession that you know nothing whatsoever about botanical nomenclature?

It's spelled fuchsia.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:56 PM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is fascinating stuff to me -- I'm about 100 pages into Real World Color Management (more interesting than you'd think) so color theory has been on my mind a lot lately. The XKCD thing is a really fun take on a really deep and complex subject.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:58 PM on May 4, 2010


You mean you don't find penis a valid color, Fiasco?

What's disturbing is that they haven't published what's the average penis color. Now I'll have to obsess about whether my penis is lighter or darker than average.
posted by qvantamon at 9:03 PM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


The gender-specific colors made me laugh about as hard as I've ever laughed. Also, I feel vindicated that a phrase I've used a lot, "baby poop green" is indeed an official color, as decreed by the mighty internet.

But apparently the definition of "puce" has officially changed, if you're a descriptivist.
posted by Xezlec at 9:04 PM on May 4, 2010


Color names most disproportionately popular among women:
1. Dusty Teal
2. Blush Pink
3. Dusty Lavender
4. Butter Yellow
5. Dusky Rose
Color names most disproportionately popular among men:
1. Penis
2. Gay
3. WTF
4. Dunno
5. Baige
Like the author of the piece, I am both made happy and depressed that the only actual color among those disproportionately popular among men is misspelled. Yay, men?
posted by Justinian at 9:05 PM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


what's the average penis color
body.penis  { 
         background-image: url(graphic.jpg);
         color: #8====D; 
}

posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:10 PM on May 4, 2010 [15 favorites]


I can't believe that particular color was called butter. It's obviously margarine.

I can tell the difference between margarine and butter.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 9:12 PM on May 4, 2010


Categorical perception of color is lateralized to the right hemisphere in infants, but to the left hemisphere in adults.

Infants process colour without language, but adults process colour with language. NPR Reader's Digest version here.
posted by carter at 9:34 PM on May 4, 2010


qvantamon: "What's disturbing is that they haven't published what's the average penis color. Now I'll have to obsess about whether my penis is lighter or darker than average."

STOP TOUCHING YOUR PENIS TO THE MONITOR QVANTAMON
posted by graventy at 9:50 PM on May 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


5. Dusky Rose

I thought the term was Dusty Rose.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:12 PM on May 4, 2010


I started taking the colour test linked in the OP, but after a couple of tries just gave up. Being colour-blind there's no way I'm going to bother with anything like "lime green" or "olive" - it all just goes into a bucket marked "green" and even then I don't actually know if I'm right or not.
Same for all the reds, blues, purples, yellows, oranges and browns.
posted by awfurby at 10:22 PM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


body.penis {
background-image: url(graphic.jpg);
color: #8====D;
}


Wait.... you're using a class name on a singular item? IDs have a much higher specificity and have a semantic value equal to what you're trying to convey here.

For shame*


*unless you're being future-proof to account for the possibility of multiple penii within the same instance, but even still........ ohshitnevermindI'moverthinkingajokeherecarryon
posted by revmitcz at 10:46 PM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wait.... you're using a class name on a singular item?

I have flagged it as HTML / Display Code Error.
posted by Artw at 11:06 PM on May 4, 2010


Wow, not even Google can spell 'fuchsia' right. My faith in the system is collapsing.

I feel like we should Google Bomb 'fuchsia' until the universe is right again.
posted by dgaicun at 11:13 PM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


the only actual color among those disproportionately popular among men is misspelled
I assumed that this meant that both sexes used the colour name, but only guys misspelled it.

I probably just woke up my neibours laughing at the gender-specific names.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:24 PM on May 4, 2010


I feel like we should Google Bomb 'fuchsia' until the universe is right again
Or at least we should Google Bomb them back to the #ADA587 age.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 12:13 AM on May 5, 2010


Light urple?
posted by Wolfdog at 3:23 AM on May 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sky blue seems to be universal.
posted by doublehappy at 5:52 AM on May 5, 2010


My spouse suggested that this is clearly indicative the xkcd attracts, simultaneously, immature men and mature women. And rationalization like that is what it takes to get him through the day.
posted by Hildegarde at 6:02 AM on May 5, 2010


Oh let me clarify...YOUNG men and OLDER women, at the same time. Audience for XKCD. Because surely men who are of age wouldn't list "penis" as a colour. Uh huh.
posted by Hildegarde at 6:03 AM on May 5, 2010


I'm thinking that the region "labeled" gold is the result of crayon names. I remember that crayon being way darker and dogshittier than anything named "gold" had the right to be.
posted by invitapriore at 7:22 AM on May 5, 2010


Uh, 'labeled "gold"' is more like it, though I like the implied duplicity introduced by the scare quotes there.
posted by invitapriore at 7:24 AM on May 5, 2010


As a colorblind person, I'm amazed people can apparently consistently name all those vague in-between colors.. I mean.. "orange brown".. what the hell is that? To my eyes, that could be ANYTHING.
posted by Harry at 8:42 AM on May 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


While reading the report yesterday all I could think about was this exchange in Steel Magnolias:
Truvy: What are your colors, Shelby?
Shelby: My colors are "blush" and "bashful".
M'Lynn: Her colors are "pink" and pink".
Shelby: My colors are "blush" and "bashful" Mama!
M'Lynn: How pretentious is this weddin' gonna get, I ask you?
posted by alynnk at 8:47 AM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was curious about how old the English words for those alleged 11 universal basic colors were, so I went looking for them in the Online Etymology Dictionary. (Don't have access to the other OED at the moment, or I would have checked there.) 10 of the 11 names appear to go back at least to the 14th century or farther (although, interestingly, "The usual [Old English] word for 'black' was sweart" (related to the German schwarz, and presumably the root of swarthy), and "In [Middle English] it is often doubtful whether blac, blak, blake, means 'black, dark,' or 'pale, colourless, wan, livid.'" Also interesting is that purple and violet have coexisted as synonymous or near-synonymous color names since the 14th century.

The exception, however, is pink, for which the oldest listed usage as a color is only 1733. Which makes me wonder just how universal it is, or if other colors might come to be regarded as "universal" over time. In 2210, will Mefites be discussing the twelve universal colors (including, perhaps teal or something in that vicinity of the color space)?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:26 PM on May 5, 2010


Wait.... you're using a class name on a singular item?

It's only singular if you have a single web page. If you have lots of them then you can have some pages like this:

<body class="big penis">

And others like this:

<body class="tiny penis">

Maybe controlled by some sort of car size variable.
posted by robertc at 3:36 PM on May 5, 2010


Being a botanist has not helped me with the quiz!
posted by acrasis at 4:54 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I cannot stop laughing at "baige".
posted by kate blank at 10:59 PM on May 8, 2010


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