Color transcends history. The wavelengths of light…the chemical compositions of the pigments…these things are part of the physical universe. Yet how we apprehend color is a part of our eyes, and our minds, and our upbringings (and involves some quirks unique to human physiology—as demonstrated by the colors magenta and stygian blue). Most of the colors I write about were first mentioned in the 18th or 19th century. Some colors are vastly older—like Han purple (which I like more all the time, by the way). However today I am writing about a color first mentioned in the distant year of…2009. This color found a name after the rise and fall of Britney Spears. The great recession had already set in by the time this color made the scene. I am talking, of course about “Arctic Lime” which was invented by Crayola’s for its “eXtreme” line of ultra-bright colored pencils.
At first gasp, Arctic lime seems like a sad effort by a marketer who was not at the top of his game. Chartreuse and the Arctic do not initially go together in the popular imagination (nor do tropical limes belong in the frozen tundra). Yet the more one looks at this hue, the more it makes sense. It is not the color of ice, but it is the color of the aurora as it sweeps past inhuman vistas of alien frozen waste. Also, Arctic lime may not have a beautiful name, but it is a beautiful color (in its own unnatural and eXtreme way). Perhaps people of the far future will think of this color the way we think of Han Purple and they will imagine us going about our lives in Arctic Lime leisure clothes and neckties. Come to think of it, the color is pretty similar to the high-visability fluorescent green of my bike helmet. Maybe the imaginary people of the future are imagining us more accurately than we imagine ourselves!