The paint name game: What color is sprout?

Verdigris is corrosion, right? Surely not something you'd want on your office walls.

We're painting at my house - painting as I write this, probably painting as you read this. I believe we'll still be painting when this decade is but a memory. I'm considering how I might just make the dropcloths a permanent feature of my decorating scheme.

The trouble with painting any part of your home is that it makes everything else look so shabby. Paint the living room and the dining room is unbearably drab. Paint the dining room and the downstairs hallway looks as though it's straight out of a Dickensian tenement. You can't stop. You have to keep on painting until everything is done, by which time you're due to start all over again.

The office was finished first. This is good because I shut myself in there to escape the chaos of the rest of the house. At least I can get some work done.

The woodwork in the office - including the crown molding, the shutters, and the bookcase - is cream. The walls are a sort of British motorcar green. It's really very attractive, but the name of the paint color is not "British Motorcar Green" or anything like that. It's "Verdigris."

Literally, "verdigris" means "green of Greece." I looked it up. But verdigris is corrosion, right? Oxidation, like rust - only green. It doesn't sound like something you'd want on your office walls, but then, neither does "Spinach," my second choice for the room.

The living room and dining room, formerly painted a weary off-beige, are now "Blazing Star." You haven't a clue as to what color that is, do you? Does it help if I tell you it's similar to "Grace" or "Surprise"? No? Well, "Blazing Star" is a cool, pale blue. So are "Jamie" and "Lazy Tune." The whimsy is almost overwhelming.

"Faded Cloth"? Again, pale blue, as is "Stargaze." That makes some sort of sense, I guess, if "Blazing Star" is a pale blue. "Falling Star," on the other hand, is not blue but gray, about the same shade as "Reflection." Go figure.

"Drumbeat"? Gray. Ditto for "Always" and "Earl Grey." (A little tea humor there.) "Windsor"? It's gray. "Monaco"? That's gray, too, and "Bali" is a really dark gray. I've never been to Bali but I've always pictured it as bright and colorful. A sunny yellow, a vibrant orange perhaps, but not dark gray. Actually, I wouldn't have expected Monaco to be gray either, but I suppose even wealthy Mediterranean principalities have their bad days.

The guest room is almost finished. The walls are "New Sprout," which, although you might think so, is not a bright green. It's not any kind of green. It's just barely yellow. I'm sorry to have to tell the paint people this, but barely yellow is not a new sprout, at least not a healthy one. Barely yellow is a chlorophyll-deficient sprout that's on its way to becoming an ex-sprout.

The color selections for my bedroom are anomalies in the world of paint names. The wall color is "Vanilla," which actually looks just as you'd expect. Obviously, someone slipped up there. The shutters and woodwork are "Rose Marble," which, believe it or not, is actually a rose color. Of course, I probably would have dubbed it "Dusty Rose" or something equally unimaginative. This may explain why I'm not a professional paint namer.

On the other hand, it may not be that I have too little imagination to be a paint namer but that I have too much knowledge. Take as an example "Sacher Torte," a color I've been considering for the front door. Never would I have thought to name this hue "Sacher Torte" because I know that Sacher torte, the dessert, is layers of rich cake filled with apricot or raspberry jam and covered with chocolate glaze.

"Sacher Torte," the paint, is a gorgeous plummy purple, definitely the color I'd want to be if I were a gallon of latex paint. I suppose it could be construed as raspberry, although it's not really red enough, but regardless of the jam employed, what you see when you look at the dessert is chocolate brown. The paint obviously was christened by someone who has never eaten Sacher torte, just as "New Sprout" must have been named by someone who's never had a garden. At least, not a successful one.

I think what we're dealing with here are people with very little real-life experience - people who haven't yet learned that germinating plants are not pale yellow, people who have been misled by black-and-white photos in geography books into thinking that tropical islands are gray, possiblyrather young people since they assume that "Faded Cloth" is the color of washed-out jeans.

At their age, they're probably also naive enough to believe that it's possible to finish painting your house. They'll learn soon enough, poor dears.

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