Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Crayola and Semantic Mysticism

Crayola in 1999 changed the name of their Crayon "Indian Red", because of a misunderstanding in language.   Words have two meanings the literal one in the dictionary, and the connotative meaning found in the culture's use of a word.  

Parents were raving madly in a superior din when Johnny brought them a Crayon with the words, "Indian Red" printed on the red crayon.  

"How dare they print this racist term on my child's crayons." they roared in protest.

Crayola seemed to be residents from a bygone era.

But in fact Indian red was a term for a type of red found in India.

This incident proved that words do in fact have power, a sort of semantic mysticism.

Official Press Release from Crayola:

We've received feedback that some kids incorrectly believe this color name represents the skin color of Native Americans.

The fact is, indian red was never intended to represent anyone's skin color. The name originated from a pigment, used by fine artists in oil paints, commonly found near India. But the fact that some people are confused is reason enough for us to rename the crayon.

This is only the third time in Crayola history that we've changed a crayon color name. In 1958, Prussian Blue was changed to Midnight Blue because teachers said students were no longer familiar with Prussian History. In 1962,Flesh was changed to Peach in recognition that everyone's skin is not the same shade.

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