Clothing terms

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Mon May 24 21:59:27 UTC 2010

On May 24, 2010, at 1:16 PM, Rick Barr wrote:
> .. Another problem I had noticed with store catalogues was that many of them
> created their own chromonymy (if you will): David's Bridal, for instance,
> uses color names that aren't widely used across the board. I guess it's
> another way to make people turn to the same brand, since communication about
> that brand's products will then be easier.

things are much worse, in a way, than you realize.  the very same company will have different color names for different products, and for the same products at different times.

this is the *very* far end of the spectrum from Basic Color Vocabulary (for a language) and the associated Basic Color Categories (for a culture): the fine-mesh color terms, very highly variable (associated with, among other things, particular communities of practice), and with little common agreement on their usage.

the "colors of commerce" (it's not just clothing, but also home furnishings of all kinds, paints, etc.) are an especially interesting, and vexing, domain.  though colors could in principle be specified by a standardized formula (like the one available for paints, in the U.S. at least), essentially nothing is *sold* that way; instead, manufacturers and sellers invent labels by the seats of their pants, waxing poetic, hoping for something that will attract their intended audience for a particular product, and opting wherever possible for the trendy and fashionable.

somewhere i have, squirreled away, some postings to soc.motss on clothing colors and the like, and i'll eventually try to unearth them, but i'm unlikely to get to that soon.  though i am (blessed day!) now out of the Bad Medical Woods, i'm faced with *years* of crucial undone things that now have to be done, and each one of them takes an astonishing amount of time.  plus, i have a new computer (and a new iPad), with almost all new peripherals, with installations (i call them "nests") in three different locations, so my time is crammed with event.

two notes on colors...

one, the same (intrinsic) color can have very different perceptual effects, even on a single person (putting aside individual variations in perception), because of extrinsic factors like the surface or material the color is on, the lighting, and adjacent colors.

two, colors can show up on your computer screen in hugely different ways, because of differences in the way colors are mapped onto displays.  different systems present the user with intrinsically different colors.  and when that shirt (or whatever) is delivered to you, its color might be very different from what you had in mind when you ordered it.

> ... Thanks to Garson for posting the exact item names. I saw the poster at a
> movie theater, and in that version there was no problem reading the labels.

note the parallel to viewing books, newspapers, manuscripts, etc. yourself and seeing them in scanned versions.


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