Thursday, April 10, 2008

Crayola gives idiotic names to colors

When I first saw this story, I thought it had to be a satire from a website like the Onion. Alas, it's real.

A lot of you grew up with crayons, and you may still use them if you're an artist. And you know Crayola has the lion's share of the crayon market. (I haven't seen Blendwel in a while.) If you knew some swanky soul who had a fresh box of Crayolas or if you only used assortments that were cobbled together from dilapidated sets, you remember the stirring, descriptive names of many of the colors.

Lemon yellow. Raw umber. Periwinkle. Burnt orange. Forest green. A few of those were replaced by different colors in the '90s to much controversy, but life goes on.

Now Crayola is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its 64-crayon box by introducing 8 new "kids' choice" colors. I don't know what the colors look like, but they all have names so incredibly lame-o-rific that you're going to hope there's some '70s sets out there on eBay to give to your kids. (I assume these replace 8 existing colors, much like Casey Kasem reading off the songs that dropped off the top 40.)

These colors were reportedly chosen from an online survey of 20,000 kids. But the survey itself was shaky. It seems to have gone like this: Kids were asked what concepts they thought were hip. Then they chose the color that they thought best fit the concept. Crayola based its new crayons on throwing together 2 variables and hoping it works: concepts and colors. It's too much research, and not enough gut. It reminds me of the woman at the TV station on 'The Simpsons' who comes up with corny catchphrases and marketing ideas.

Here's a list of the names of the new colors. Trust me, you're going to want to stick a nail in each eye when you read this list:

• awesome
• bear hug
• best friends
• famous
• fun in the sun
• giving tree
• happy ever after
• super happy

The message of the new names seems to be: Put a fake smile on your face, kids, and hold your feelings inside. Let everything eat you up until you're 25 and have a nervous breakdown from it. That these names reflect results of the survey are a symptom of this deceptive facade. Using these names will just make it worse by teaching kids not to fight back or to express themselves. What Crayola calls bear hug might as well just be the restraint chair used to stop jail inmates from clogging toilets.

Raw umber wasn't the happiest name for a crayon, but it was creative. It taught children how to express feelings. As a progressive populist, I'm all for saving the planet and making it a better place, but I didn't get to this enlightened stage by pretending everything was cheery. This story is just like the one about 'Sesame Street' trying to phase out Oscar the Grouch.

You're going to want to drive those nails into your corneas even further when you see the reason the Crayola press release gave for one of the new names: Awesome "means kids think school is cool and getting good grades feels awesome." You gotta be kidding me!

As a child, I loved crayons. I had a shoe box of assorted brands, and I refused to throw away even the old ammonia ones that burned your fingers. Here's a parallel list of crayons I'd like to see, based on concepts I recall fondly from my day:

• rotten
• dog piss
• school bus brawl
• has-been
• snow calamity day
• kite-eating power line
• life ruined for good
• booger green

When we give crayons nothing but dull, happy, undescriptive names, we're raising a generation of wimps who won't be able to think for themselves. I'm convinced of it.

Also, somebody please tell me that when Crayola renamed torch red to scarlet, it wasn't because they were afraid kids would become arsonists.


1 comment:

  1. Reminds me of a commercial I saw (maybe 2005/2006) was for a product Crayola put out that had markers that only worked with special paper..

    The voiceover lady in this ad said "peepurr" for "paper". I shit you not. She had a weird voice and she said "PEEPURR"!!

    Crayola still uses this same voiceover lady, if you see one of their ads.