His And Hers Colors

Men, Women, And Two Thousand Color Names

by Stephen Von Worley on September 1, 2010
Updated on September 18, 2012

Picture a happy couple – let’s call them Dick and Jane – out furniture shopping. They happen upon a comfy couch with pink upholstery, and Jane wants to buy it. Whether that puppy glides out the front door, or lingers on the showroom floor, could depend upon the words she uses to describe it. For maximum male appeal, should Jane call her sofa “light red?” “Husky salmon?” “Dusty nude?” Or would a simple “pink” suffice? The future of the living room hangs in the balance!

Right now, Jane needs a gender-color thesaurus… but in lieu of such exoticness, she might sample the cushy charms of the latest model in our fine line of well-built data visualizations, entitled His And Hers Colors:

His And Hers Colors

His And Hers Colors. Click to explore!

Update, 18 Sep 2012: We’ve replaced the original visualization with a new-and-improved version.

That’s a dot for each of the 2,000 most commonly-used color names as harvested from the 5,000,000-plus-sample results of XKCD’s color survey, sized by relative usage and positioned side-to-side by average hue and vertically by gender preference. Women tend to use color names nearer the top, men towards the bottom, and the dashed line represents the 50-50 split (equal usage by both sexes). Click through to the interactive version, mouse over a few dots, and it should all become clearer.

Near the middle, the huge ovals of the most common colors – green, blue, purple, etc. – cluster slightly below the centerline: 57% male and 43% female, on average. Both sexes tend to generalize, and men slightly more often than women. Of the top 100 most-oft-used names, lone outlier cyan juts farthest into male territory, preferred by guys over gals more than two to one. Why? Are dudes under the old-school influence of CGA palette #1? Suffering the side effects of one too many encounters with the blue-green printer cartridge? Hypnotized by the macho machinations of that dastardly Cyanide? Your guess is as good as mine.

Across the top, witness the nuanced verbal repertoire of feminine color differentiation. While us men are busy grunting, guzzling beer, and shoving our hands down our pants, women get specific by mixing fruits, animals, spices, flowers, and other such familiarities with finely-honed modifiers like neon and dusty. The result? A vast panoply of warm-fuzzy color names that seemingly trounces anything our Y-chromosomes have to offer.

But don’t fret, dudes. Although the Pottery Barn’s color department wouldn’t appreciate them, we do have some “special” talents. Consider these lovely names from our side:

Some Male Color Names

Aye, in the male visual cortex, bodily fluid and excrement terminology is strong.

Now, let’s freshen up with a few favorites of the ladies:

Some Female Color Names

Women prefer the mellifluous tones of dusty teal, pale sage, peacock blue, and, wait… no, that’s not a typo… camel?

Many thanks to XKCD’s Randall Munroe for releasing the raw color survey results that made this article possible! For a different view of the same data, please peruse The Color Strata.

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