From Austin to A&M points us to this amazing survey on gender variation in the naming of colors. In an effort to determine whether men and women identify colors differently, Randall Munroe had users name over five million colors across “222,500 user sessions.” The result? “Basically, women were slightly more liberal with the modifiers, but otherwise they generally agreed.” That is, until the color “penis” came in to play.

“Men and women tended on average to call colors the same names,” Munroe found. Here’s a visual representation of Munroe’s data:

“So I was feeling pretty good about equality,” he concludes. But: “Then I decided to calculate the ‘most masculine’ and ‘most feminine’ colors. I was looking for the color names most disproportionately popular among each group; that is, the names that the most women came up with compared to the fewest men (or vice versa).”

Here’s what he found:

Here are the color names most disproportionately popular among women:

Dusty Teal
Blush Pink
Dusty Lavender
Butter Yellow
Dusky Rose

Okay, pretty flowery, certainly. Kind of an incense-bomb-set-off-in-a-Bed-Bath-&-Beyond vibe. Well, let’s take a look at the other list.

Here are the color names most disproportionately popular among men:


I … that’s not my typo in #5—the only actual color in the list really is a misspelling of “beige”. And keep in mind, this is based on the number of unique people who answered the color, not the number of times they typed it. This isn’t just the effect of a couple spammers. In fact, this is after the spamfilter.

Munroe doesn’t specify which colors were identified as “penis.” Questions of hue aside, Munroe has also kicked off a lengthy discussion on the potentially problematic way he chose to classify responders by sex.

Photo via Team Dalog, Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0