Infographic: Men And Women Call The Same Colors Different Names

Where men see “puke green” women see “pea green.”

We can all pretend that gender stereotypes hold no ground in 2012, that our tastes are flexible, that our thoughts are individual…until some jerk does a study and another makes an infographic.


Last year, the brilliant comic/blog XKCD had the Internet examine various colors and name them. They ended up with a sample size of 5,000,000, and designer Stephen Von Worley turned the 2,000 most common responses into a gender-exploring interactive infographic.

Colors appear as bubbles, each respective of their named sample size. So colors like “red” and “green” tend to be the largest. Hover over them, and you can see which gender dominated that particular name. Where things get interesting, of course, is when you highlight colors that are technically the same as “green” but have different names. And it’s in these spots that the gender differences (and stereotypes) really shine.

Women are, as expected, far more specific and poetic with their color names. “Orchid,” “clover,” “seafoam,” and “macaroni and cheese.” These are colors you don’t just see, but that you can smell, taste, and feel. They’re borderline synesthetic.

My fellow men don’t fare as respectably–with the term “greenish” definitely constituting a highlight. (Really, green…ish? WTF does that mean?) But most of our color naming is Neanderthalic combinations of simple colors and adjectives. Dark red. Grunt. Red brown. Grunt. In a rare moment of brilliance, my sex somehow summoned “oxblood,” which, in retrospect, just belabors the knuckle-dragging point.

Amongst all this battle of the sexes, however, the true organizational brilliance of the infographic may go entirely unnoticed. These paint blots aren’t just single colors, you see, but hidden gradients. “The circles have the advantage that they allow a wide range of values to be represented via their area,” Von Worley explains. So it’s often many different colors that we’re all–men and women alike–rounding into generic “red” or “green” pools.

In other words, as complicated or unimpressive as our gender-driven nomenclatures may be, we’re all guilty of oversimplifying things, just a bit.


About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.