Concerned citizens for raw umber

Crayola 64 pack crayonsHaving a 2-year-old means spending a lot of time with crayons. I forget now how I came to this info site about Crayola's version, but it was probably through one of the humor sites Steve's got me hooked on. (Let's blame Steve for everything, shall we?)

I learned so very much. For instance, there used to be a Prussian blue. Sounds fancy. I knew about flesh becoming peach, though I preferred apricot to represent my own dewy skintones. I always did love Indian red, and now it seems I love chestnut. I can live with that.

In 1990, eight colors were permanently retired: raw umber, maize, lemon yellow, blue gray, violet blue, orange red, orange yellow and green blue. Eh, fine, I say. Raw umber kind of sucked, maize was an ugly yellow, and the last four had alternate versions with the names switched around that were so similar it was hard to tell them apart. Now, I'm no big fan of the neon replacements that in 1990 were probably considered appealing, and I did enjoy me some blue gray (for coloring in West Point uniforms, natch), but all in all I can deal.

Not everyone took this change so well, though. These two sentences, offhandedly inserted into the middle of a paragraph, threw me:

"This was the first time Crayola retired colors completely and it drew some protest. In response RUMPS, the Raw Umber and Maize Preservation Society, was formed."

I have to hope that a group that would choose to name itself RUMPS wasn't taking itself too seriously, but I don't know.

Here's a New York Times article from 1991 on the retirement ruckus.

For a limited time, Crayola offered the eight retirees in a special, overpriced commemorative tin. (Those Binney & Smith folks is smart.) But that wasn't good enough for RUMPS.

"It's a limited victory," said Kenneth E. Lang, the founder of Rumps, the Raw Umber and Maize Preservation Society. Mr. Lang, from Locust Valley, L.I., said he felt cheated.

"Raw umber and maize represent a bygone time in America," he said. "You can't draw a picture of Nebraska or Kansas or South Dakota without using these colors."

Sally Thurston, a 43-year-old artist from Arden, Del., who sometimes sketches with crayons, said, "I just wish they would make their decision based on need for certain colors versus what will sell."

The retired colors are among the first colors a painter mixes.

"I think it would be important for kids interested in art to have those colors right away," Ms. Thurston said. "You don't find Day-Glo colors in any of the Old Masters' paintings."

A couple notes:

1. How many third-graders draw pictures of Nebraska?

2. If you're a 43-year-old artist, they have this little thing called art shops, where you can purchase the appropriate tools you need. You probably even have a driver's license to transport yourself there and a credit card with your name on it. No call to rough up a Kindergartener for her green and yellow box with the sharpener on the back.

3. Still, how interesting to think of wax crayons as being for artists. I never used crayons artistically. They were for coloring in or drawing simple outlines and shapes and figures. I didn't know anything about shading or mixing. I remember a c.group meeting where everyone was coloring their binder covers, and one person in the group out of all of us actually did shade and create gradients and art with her crayon choices. I'm curious now how many people use Crayola crayons artistically, and if it's something I should somehow, despite my lack of artistic training or talent, teach Corin.

4. I never used my sharpener. I never wanted to remove even a shred of paper, because then my crayons wouldn't be perfect. I also always put them back in the same spots. I was a little CDO. (That's OCD in proper alphabetical order.)

5. The Old Masters didn't know what they were missing. They also didn't have glow-in-the-dark stuff back then.

6. Cool. I especially like that one's titled Self-Portrait as a Foot Massager.

7. I was moved to the back of the class by an elementary-school teacher who optimistically thought I'd be a good(y-two-shoes) influence on the crowd who frequented those desks. My new wild friends taught me to eat crayons and Elmer's glue. I checked with my mom after the fact to confirm they weren't poisonous. "They're non-toxic," she told me. "They won't hurt you, but they aren't food." Good enough for me. Party in the back of the class, BYOC.


Muphry's Law and graciousness in copy editing

type facesI came across Muphry's Law today, which states, in part:

(a) if you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written;
(b) if an author thanks you in a book for your editing or proofreading, there will be mistakes in the book;
(c) the stronger the sentiment expressed in (a) and (b), the greater the fault.

As a sometime copy editor, I've often fallen prey to, or been anxious about, some version of Muphry's Law. The more I argue a point about grammar or usage or spelling, the more likely it is that I'll have to eat my words. I chuckle along at TV shows or books, generally murder mysteries in which usage of the English language forms a clue, where nitpicky characters go out of their way to point out someone's errors, while making dozens of their own. I cringe at overly zealous real-life correctors, who point out every comma and apostrophe gone wrong. I know that even I, with my English degree and professional history, make plenty of stupid mistakes along the way. Unless the errors are persistent and egregious, I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. And if the errors are truly pervasive, I assume that the writer or speaker in question really doesn't know the English language all that well, and refrain from judging further. The people who irk me most are the pretentious types who would say "pretentious types whom would say" and then make other people feel bad for an isolated misspelling.

I wonder if, back when I would introduce myself as an editor, people guarded their language around me, the same way people get nervous in conversation with officers of the law or tax auditors, or eating around dietitians, or dressing up for a lunch meeting with a fashion consultant. I used to be kind of a jerk about correcting people, when I would actually correct conversational speech to people's faces — but this was back in junior high, when there was some liberty to be juvenile. I've reformed now, and I apologize if anyone reading this has been criticized by me, unasked for. That said, if you want some writing proofread or looked at with a new set of eyes, feel free to send it my way, gratis (within reason).

Here are some facts that copy editors may not want anyone to know:

(1) Just because a particular style guide says to do something a particular way doesn't mean it's "right," or the only way to do it.
(2) No one can memorize a style guide completely and follow it correctly every time (barring some Rain Man-like copy editor).
(3) Just because Mrs. Englishteacher back in third grade told you could never, never write something like that, or that you must always, always do so, doesn't make it so.
(4) There are different standards of correctness for different types of writing and speaking.
(5) Copy editors and grammar gurus don't all agree with one another.
(6) The content is more important than the wrapper.
(7) Everyone makes mistakes.

All right, bonus points for anyone who can find all the mistakes in this blog post.

(Just kidding. Don't be a douche.)

(Just kidding again.)

Photo copyright Rodolfo Clix via stock.xchng

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