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Declaring war on paint


Declaring war on paint

ane Stephens has discovered that colouring our world in too much political correctness can result in wall-to-wall, lifeless beige.

I am currently part of a team charged with selecting new paint colours for our townhouse complex. While we are progressing, it has been a tricky process, with opinions as broad as a paint firm’s colour chart.

Never mind Fifty Shades of Grey – there are at least a thousand shades of white, beige and cream. And the accent colours can be polarising.

While I dream now in Lexicon (and its step-sibling Lexicon Half), Dune and Monument, I reckon one of the funniest jobs in the world must be to come up with the names for the paint colours.

When I built my first home many years ago, the colours were nearly all food related: Avocado, Clotted Cream, Banana Split, Teacake. The act of paint selection led to lots of salivating and dreaming of dinner. Comedian Jimmy Rees has a hilarious skit where he takes the role of the guy who decides paint colours. He comes out with labels such as Baby’s Poo, Semen, Bile and Butter Chicken. It is funny because of how close it is to the truth.

Now the paint people seem to be tripping over themselves to be politically palatable. Stone Pillar, Blemish-Free, Coastal Sand and Wing Commander must be deemed to be pretty inoffensive.

They don’t evoke much imagery, which must be the intention. But in my view, the effort to avoid raising eyebrows has gone a bit too far.

Dulux has declared that after a period of evaluation, 150 of its 5000 colours were deemed to be inappropriate for all audiences. The colours remain, but the names have had a makeover, lest they cause offence.

African Ambush got the chop, to make way for Spice Powder. Mexican Standoff is out and Apricot Fizz is in. Lusty Lavender is gone, and the more demure Dusty Lavender stands in its place. Voodoo is now Vibrant Lavender.

Male is now Mellow Beige (although few males I know are beige purely because of gender designation). Shy Girl is now Overt – perhaps she came out her shell?

Naked Lady is now Different Pink (but different from what, one wonders? Is it because she is blushing?).

You get the picture. It might be funny, but the paint name game is all a bit of nonsense: once on the wall, it all fades into the background.


Jane Stephens is a USC journalism lecturer, media commentator and writer.

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