What’s in a Colour

I overheard a piece of a conversation the other day with one person asking another for their favourite food or favourite movie, I can’t remember which. I wasn’t really listening, but the word favourite caught my attention and it got me thinking.

Many conversation starters when getting to know someone circles around the topic of favourite this and that, the preference of one thing over another, and I find myself wondering what is hidden in such likes and dislikes, what messages are contained inside those favourites that tell us and others who we are and how we think. I have very little recall of my favourite things while growing up, as compared to Julie Andrews who referred to a precise list with such things as raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. I’m never quite sure when asked, though I’m quite certain of the fact that boiled cabbage was my least favourite thing to eat and I was quite emphatic about my disdain and even now the thought of it makes me shiver. I spent a fair bit of time sitting at the supper table, long after everyone had gone off to have fun and adventures, or so it seemed, while I sat and stared at my food, but as so often is the case, I digress. I do remember that Mighty Mouse was my favourite super-hero, of course falling in behind Doug and Blair, the real-life super-heroes who lived down the road. I can’t remember having a favourite colour until after I had children, which seems strange to me in hindsight.

We like generalities, we like to compartmentalize habits and skills. We want all children to learn the same. We want all adults to look a certain way, to love a certain way, to work a certain way, so we gather data and hold it up as the standard to which we all should comply, a template under which we all fit. We don’t say that in so many words, but it seems the intention, if you look closely enough.

Surveys are done world-wide to determine patterns, mostly for marketing strategies. According to one survey, 40 per cent of the world prefers the colour blue over any other colour. White is the safest colour for a car. Red is the first colour babies can see, though I’m not sure how they verify such information in regard to sight. My babies weren’t born telling me they wanted to be an astrophysicist and by the way, you’re killing that red t-shirt.


I was a kid who looked at the world through my father’s eyes, which in many ways keeps him very close to me even though he has been gone for 47 years. I see little bits of me in all my daughters, and I confess to looking for bits of him in them, but I spend more time looking for their uniqueness, the parts of them that are personal, the view they hold all rights to. I know their favourite colours, some of which have changed over the years.

Colour has long been a topic of study. We know tomato juice would be brown if left to its own device, but we happily accept the red dye added to make it “acceptable fare”. Psychology Today in April 2011 wrote, “We are ruled by the unconscious and mysterious power of colour.” The question of nurture vs nature has been applied to our colour preferences and I think the jury is still out. Our experiences with certain colours, both good and bad, shape our responses to those same colours as we journey through life. I love lime green. I’d like to know where that preference came from and when. I don’t recall a single thing from my childhood that was lime green, other than one pair of pants when I was ten, purchased from The Tiny Tot. Maybe I love lime green because of those pants and because of the kindness of Mrs. Hallikas whenever I was in her store. Maybe that’s all I need to know.

wendistewart@live.ca