A little lighter fare this week with puns. You know, those words and phrases we love to hate and can’t resist? According to Reverso (a reverse dictionary), a pun is
“the use of words or phrases to exploit ambiguities and innuendoes in their meaning, usually for humorous effect; a play on words. An example is: “Ben Battle was a soldier bold, And used to war’s alarms: But a cannonball took off his legs, So he laid down his arms.” (Thomas Hood).”
Other sources describe puns as words or phrases expressing a double meaning, also known as double entendre. My home-made definition based on direct observation and interpretation of punny examples themselves is this:
Puns are plays on words that take common words, phrases, and cliche’d or idiomatic expressions and change one or more parts in order to introduce a new meaning or replace the existing one, often in a cheeky, corny, or goofy manner.
Like some commercial paint color names, finger- and toenail color names often don’t read like names or even color identifiers. It seems like a domain of pure fun and silliness, but who knows what dark neuroses lurk in the halls of the corporate cosmetics world?
Now, I’m no nail polish fiend or expert, but after a brief review, I’ve reached what I feel are some reasonably accurate conclusions:
- Product advertisers have way too much (or not enough?) time on their hands.
- Some nail lacquer labels feature some of the worst puns I’ve ever seen or heard. (I shall spare you.)
- Names may be what most attract us to specific colors, but they by no means determine which colors are best on the finger or toe–or other surfaces.
- There are two reasonably priced nail lacquer sellers that favor the pun form of color naming and seem to be the best among their competitors at it. (Feel free to chime in with better ones; it’s not exactly something I wanted to research ad nauseum.)
Those companies are OPI and Essie. Sounds like a 20th-century comic strip, no? Essie takes my cake with the best and worst of punning nail lacquer names. OPI trends toward corny, but there’s a more consistent thread of good taste there than Essie cares to attempt. Essie pulls out all the stops on touchy subjects, trashy sexiness, and the worst of reality TV innuendo. Essie might be what you wear when you’re trying too hard to be bad.
Puns in nail color can take a few different forms. Here are some examples.
A. in phrases, as words that stand in for descriptors for flowers as an expression of feminine beauty:
example: In Full Blue-M
B. as single words warped, sometimes too forcefully, into new forms to express color meanings; often, the vowels are what shift most:
example: On Pines and Needles → you know it’s going to be a piney green color
C. and the use of common homophones (or nearly so) among basic colors that can join with other words to form punning phrases. Some color punning techniques involve equivalents like these:
Back = Black; Move = Mauve; Very = Berry; Think = Pink; Blew = Blue; Read = Red; Till = Teal; Beach = Peach; Haute = Hot; Taupe = Top; Great = Grape
This week’s five phrases are my nominees (of those I’ve found) for best performance by a nail polish color name in the category of pun using a place name.
Again, this involves no judgment of the color itself. The list may not motivate you to perfect your geography, but you may find yourself curious either to know what’s being named (assuming you’re not a geography trivia champion like my husband) or to get the basis for the pun–or see what other damage the English language suffers from color names.
See if you know each basic hue and pun involved. (No quiz from me.)
- Essie Coat Azure
- Essie Sand Tropez
- Essie Turquoise and Caicos
- OPI Vampire State Building
- OPI Bastille My Heart
So do any of these shout “Buy me!”?
I like Sally Hansen colors pretty well, and they do dabble in puns, but I find myself gravitating toward butter LONDON nail polish for the first time. For full disclosure, it’s their names that I like best so far. It must be the English teacher or classics reader in me that falls for all those witty Briticisms. You can check them out through the link above, and maybe I’ll share some of my favorites in another post.
For more place name punning, check out my Five-Phrase Friday (7).
Teal next time. . . .