Outside the Lines
by Mad Dog
In 1962 flesh crayons became
peach because, well, they realized that everyones skin isnt peach colored.
Face it, no ones skin is peach colored. Well, not unless theyre hospitalized
|| Any day now it will be safe to buy crayons again. Stop worrying, theres
no e.coli contamination. And no, they havent been found to cause cancer (except
maybe in laboratory rats that inject them). What has been discoveredhold onto your
coloring books, kidsis that crayons can cause massive breakouts of political
The defining momentor more correctly, the
outlining momentcame when Maryalice Lamorte of Yardley, Pennsylvania reported that
her son said indian red crayons were so named because they should be used to color
Indians. Unfortunately she reported this to the wrong person.
Even though Maryalice says her son was making a joke, or
perhaps just showing off, Binney & Smith, the company thats been making Crayolas
since 1903, decided that was all they needed to hear in order to change the name, which
actually comes from a reddish-brown pigment found near India. And just to prove how
seriously they take this, theyve decided to sponsor a contest to "Name the New
Color". Its nice to see they wont let a little public relations problem
get in the way of a good corporate promotion.
This isnt the first time the company has done this,
though admittedly its not a common occurrence. Okay, so theyve only renamed
colors twice before. The most well known was in 1962 when flesh crayons became peach
because, well, they realized that everyones skin isnt peach colored. Face it,
no ones skin is peach colored. Well, not unless theyre hospitalized with
These people are so dedicated they
wont watch Atlanta Braves games, drive the long way around so they wont have
to set foot in Indiana, and call the local TV station each time the weatherman mentions
|| This name change
was a good move, in spite of the fact that its worrisome that for 59 years kids had
been thinking that someone somewhere actually had peach skin. Interestingly, it took
Pentel, who makes most of the crayons used in Japan, until 1998 to get around to changing
the name of their "skin color" crayon to pale orange. Its a good thing for
them they didnt opt for pale face or they really would have had their hands full.
I suspect that there were a couple of people who really were offended by the name indian
red. Nowadays theres nothing that wont offend someone somewhere. Face it, as a
nation were entirely too sensitive. A number of years ago when I put out a cute,
cuddly, humorous stuffed toy called Earl the Dead Cat, I was bombarded by hate mail. And
orders. Interestingly, most of the people who objected, it turns out, didnt even own
a cat. As if anyone can really own a cat.
Like the Earl the Dead Cat haters, Ill bet those who
object strongest to indian red crayons arent even Indians. Or native Americans. And
theyre probably so dedicated to the subject that they wont watch Atlanta
Braves games, drive the long way around so they wont have to set foot in Indiana,
and call the local TV station each time the weatherman mentions Indian summer. Ill
admit, if Crayola came out with a color called "Pennsylvania Peckerhead Purple"
then people like Maryalice would have a right to be offended. After all, everyone knows
Pennsylvania Peckerheads are red.
They have a 64-crayon box complete with sharpener on exhibit in the Smithsonian
Institution, something normally reserved for space capsules, dinosaurs, and John Glenn,
who is the only exhibit there that encompasses both categories.
in a name, anyway? The only other time Binney & Smith renamed a crayon was in 1958
when prussian blue became midnight blue because people thought Prussia was a misspelling
and had long arguments about who was the illiterate, Binney or Smith. Just kidding.
Actually they changed it because they didnt think kids knew anything about Prussia.
Right, like kids who draw with crayons know what the sky looks like at midnight. (Hint for
the kids reading this: It isnt blue; its pretty damned black if you ask me.)
The meaning of words is a touchy subject. Whose
interpretation is correct, the person who wrote or said it, or the one who reads or hears
it? David Howard, head of the Washington, DC Office of Public Advocacy, was fired (and
ultimately rehired) a while back for correctly using the word niggardly because some
people claimed it sounded like a racial slur. So what happens when someone informs Binney
& Smith that their kid uses burnt sienna to color burn victims? Or the new
"granny smith green" to color Grandmas face, even when its not a
drawing of her being on the receiving end of the Heimlich Maneuver in the buffet line?
Crayons have been around a long time. They
not only have their own postage stampwhich disappointingly is all colored within the
linesbut also have a 64-crayon box complete with sharpener on exhibit in the
Smithsonian Institution, something normally reserved for space capsules, dinosaurs, and
John Glenn, who is the only exhibit there that encompasses both categories. Theyre
an icon. Theyre universal. Theyre crayons, for gods sake.
Maybe what they need is to come out with a new crayon:
colorblind. They can make it out of pure paraffin (leaving out the other half of the
ingredients: pigment) which will save them money. And headaches. Sure it wont look
like much but it also wont piss off anyone either. Well, as long as no one opens
their big mouth and tells the sight-impaired about it.
©1999 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. Use
your crayons to color moustaches on all the photographs.