Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
Blue and yellow are complimentary colors.
Complementary colors are opposites on the color wheel, i.e. they are parts that fit together so that each supplies what the other is missing (they add up to black (in pigments) or white (in light).) It happens, for reasons I doubt anyone understands yet but that have to do with our color perception apparatus, that complementary colors look good together – they compliment one another. Hence, complimentary colors.
It’s not clear which way round you think these should be.
Or are you simply saying that this pun works because the complementary colours go well together as if they are each complimenting the other on how good they look?
Perhaps someone should run a paint store where they give away free undercoat for every two cans of topcoat purchased for the same room. So if you buy two complementary colours, the white is complimentary.
Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will buy a ridiculous hat – Scott Adams (author of Dilbert)
Build a man a fire and he will be warm for a day; set a man on fire and he will be warm for the rest of his life – Terry Pratchett
I didn’t get a chance to comment on this one earlier, but I think it works just fine as an eggcorn. There are many people who don’t realize that “complementary” refers to the notion of completion (of the color components that make up white light).
Whereas one’s color-coordination might be a source of compliments, one might rationalize that “complimentary colors” are those colors that inspire a compliment—regardless of the grammar issues involved here. Surely one could go a step further and personify the colors by saying that they compliment one another, but that description isn’t essential to this eggcorn. Though I would not be surprised if some utterers were to think along those lines.
Last edited by jorkel (2007-09-04 15:16:29)
I agree, this is sort of an eggcorn.
Actually, truly complEmentary colors often “vibrate”—they contrast quite strikingly.
And blue and yellow are NOT complEmentary colors. Blue and yellow indeed look nice together, but yellow is a complementary color with purple, and blue is complementary to orange.
From a tutorial on color theory:
“Complementary colors are any two colors which are directly opposite each other, such as red and green and red-purple and yellow-green. In the illustration above, there are several variations of yellow-green in the leaves and several variations of red-purple in the orchid. These opposing colors create maximum contrast and maximum stability.”
I work at Martha Stewart, and we struggle w/ “complimentary color” all the time. It’s a forbidden phrase; for one thing, it isn’t even really correct to say that colors that look nice together are “complimentary”—there is no exchange of compliment going on, and nothing is favorable.