COLOR ME CHERRY
by Ruth Minshull
A while ago I was looking at an elegant raincoat in a mail order catalog. It was available in Natural and Mallard. Mallard?
This was a new one to me. There was no accompanying picture, no further description, just the name Mallard.
Now, all the mallards I know have several colors. The moms are mottled brown with a small band of blue on the edge of the wing. The dads, of course, are more colorful. They have a deep green head, a white neckband, a rusty breast, brown back and a white tummy and the same band of blue on the wing. So what color is mallard? Pretty sloppy merchandising, I thought.
Some time later I received another catalog from the same company. Again it had the ambiguous mallard-colored coat. This time, however, my curiosity kept me hunting for the answer. Finally I found a dress that came in mallard. According to the picture it was teal green. Some bored copywriter got tired of that color description and decided to switch ducks.
Actually, it’s just as inappropriate, since the teal has only a bit of green on the wings and the rest is brown and white and speckled and such.
But, the thing is, we’ve agreed that a certain color is teal blue or teal green.
We’ve also agreed that lime green is a soft color not quite aqua, but nothing like the rather sharp yellow green of the fruit.
Dove gray is another example of the sheltered lives these writers live. Real doves are kind of brownish, not the pale gray that bears their name.
We’ve all agreed that the color violet is light purple, but the flower comes in dozens of colors.
There’s a certain shade we call wine and yet the drink comes in myriad varieties.
There are dozens of colors, old and new, that have no relationship to their namesakes.
But we’re good sports and go along with it. We buy almond washers, nutmeg dresses, persimmon pillows and mushroom rugs.
Maybe we should feel sorry for those poor writers locked up in their fluorescent-lighted, air-conditioned prisons, probably on the 30th floor office of some NY ad agency.
They may have never seen a dove, or a mallard or a persimmon.
No doubt, they are often hungry, as suggested by the abundance of food names they use: we have nutmeg and cinnamon and sage, pomegranate, apple green, peach, avocado, chocolate brown, pumpkin, watermelon and just plain melon. Then there’s lemon and ginger, champagne and brandy, cherry, blueberry, raspberry and on and on.
Wow! There’s almost enough for a meal here.
© Ruth Minshull 2014
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