Why the funny paint names?

Posted by Adam on 26th Sep 2016 in the blog in the misc. category

My very own 50 shades of grey story....

I have been very busy redesigning my house lately and was very much looking forward to the last stage of the work: painting the walls and ceilings. Little did I know that I was embarking into the hardest challenge yet of the whole project. You would think that choosing a colour was pretty straight forward especially after having faced the flooding of my bathroom, the collapsing of my staircase and the absence of walls in my living room. No, no, no. 

‘I want light grey for my wall and plain white for my ceiling’ I declared with confidence ready to face the almighty world of the paintbrush.

Let me start this blog with a little game: try to guess the colour of the (genuine) names of paints below (answers at the end of this blog):

  • Ancient Artefact 
  • Trench coat
  • Love note
  • Engraved locket 
  • Saint pierre 
  • Wishing well 
  • Bonjour
  • Elephant’s breath

I spent easily a couple of hours on Sunday in a DIY shop trying desperately to find the right grey for my walls and white for my ceilings. Half way through my shopping palaver, I became so overwhelmed that I stopped and started studying the names of the different colour paints available to me. What is WRONG with people?

I suddenly had this vision of a bunch of marketing expert people in their designer office sitting around a designer table on their designer chairs brainstorming names of colours while drinking some Blanc de Blanc and eating tasty Amuse Gueules. 

‘Why don’t we call this one ‘Shhhh’ ?’ says one.

‘Oh yes yes’ exclaimed a guy sitting on the opposite side  ‘what a splendid name, Shhhh it shall be!’ (pointing at a blueish kind of colour).

‘whooha’ says another one ‘that is simply brilliant!’ 

‘Yes, yes, Simply Brilliant shall be this colour!’ shouts another (pointing at a bright yellow card). 

‘What about this colour though? ! It is just …black!’ Says one in a disappointed tone.

‘Don't worry,’ answers the other, ‘this one is easy, we shall call it Saint Pierre because it has the certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ or do we say ‘je ne sais pas’? 


Is there a job title for this? ‘Paint name finder’? ‘I couldn’t find a better job paint name giver’?  ‘I am fooling everybody and I love it paint name designer’ ?

Put it this way, I can only say that my 50 shades of grey searching was not as exciting as the book (unfortunately, wink, wink).

Don’t take me wrong, I know why these colours have quirky names. First of all, it allows the paint companies to charge more for the paint (posh names for posh people). Second of all, there are so many different colour paints that one has to give them a name for reference purposes (just so you do not reorder the wrong shade of grey). Saying this, they could just simply number them: Grey 1, grey 2, etc… 

Thank goodness they are not hiring me as a name giver otherwise it would sound like this: pinkish pink, wishy washy orange, pooey brown, just black, let’s call it red, French restaurant toilet wall purple, Just another green, dirty laundry white, etc.

I have a confession to make. I am actually a paint snob and admit that I fell into the trap of paint names. Don't take me wrong, I am not posh at all, I actually come from a working class background (and proud of it!).  I do feel, however, honoured when people ask me the colour of my walls.  ‘I love this colour, what is it called ?’ ‘Pigeon on the wall and ammonite on the ceiling’ I reply proudly knowing that I paid £10 the litre more than I should have done just because it had a pretty and wacky name.          


So the video you are about to see is an inspiration from all the colours I picked up while DIY shopping.  I was delighted to find out that some colour names were French! Try to spot the ones I mean.

By the way, this is the answer to the game above: 

  • Ancient Artefact : light brown 
  • Trench coat: fady orange 
  • Love note: pinkish 
  • Engraved locket: shady purple
  • Saint pierre: just black 
  • Wishing well: dark grey  
  • Bonjour: yellow (don’t ask me why!) 
  • Elephant’s breath: light grey

I title this video 'The mysterious Shady Lady' or why the funny paint names?

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