In Defense of Orange

Admiring a baby fruit on one of my squash plants, I dream of the day in autumn when I will have a pumpkin patch filled with big, orange fruits. Magical.


As I muse on these future pumpkins and their jolly colour, a terrible, yet unforgettable, Knock, Knock joke raps on my memory. Skip over the joke, if you’ve already heard it and suffered the agony it induces. Really, it’s been voted the most annoying joke of all time. Beware.

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Banana who?
Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Banana who?
Knock, knock.
Grrr, who’s there? (usually said through clenched teeth)
Orange who?
Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?

Little kids think this joke is hysterical. Adults hear fingernails scraping across the surface of their sanity.

The joy of telling this joke when you’re five years old is to see how many times you can repeat the banana response before you are forced to deliver the punch line. When I was five, I loved the joke. It was perfect. It gave the child a tiny moment of power. Perhaps this is when I fell in love with orange.

Orange is my favourite colour, which puts me in a tiny minority. When I researched the subject of colour preference, I was shocked to discover that orange is one of the least favourite colours for most people, men and women. How can that be? Orange is warm and friendly. Orange is bright and cheerful. It’s unique and special.

The two most popular colours that men and women agree on are blue and green. Blue and green are excellent colours. I like them, too. But they are, dare I say, commonplace. Blue is a vast expanse overhead any time the clouds clear away, and green is everywhere on land we haven’t paved over with asphalt or concrete. Grasslands and forests are green. Even the tundra can be green, briefly, when it isn’t covered with snow.

Why don’t more people love the colour orange? It’s the colour of one of the most popular fruits in Canada – the orange orange. The orange orange may seem redundant, but an orange can also be green of skin. Green orange. Sounds weird, but isn’t. In tropical countries, the skin of an orange doesn’t turn orange. In such places, a green orange can be ripe or a green orange can be green (green as in unripe). Have I confused you yet? Perhaps I should add that, while on the tree in cooler climes, a green orange can become an orange orange and later revert to being a green orange (green as in colour). Truly. Weird.


Apparently, before the 16th century, the colour was called yellow-red. Not a catchy name, but one that would reduce confusion. Still, I’m glad the colour orange got its own name, not a hyphenation of a couple of other colours. It deserves its own name, and orange, as a word, has good mouth feel. You can really get your lips, tongue, and teeth around a word like that. Go ahead, say it aloud. Orange. Feel it in your mouth. Good, right?

Again, I wonder why orange isn’t one of the most popular colours. Orange is the colour of California poppies, for the botanically inclined. Showy, resilient flower, the poppy. If sports is your joy, the BC Lions (Canadian football) and the Netherlands National Football team (European football) get fierce in their orange uniforms. For animal lovers, what creature is more beautiful or more majestic than the tiger? Orange, again. And the list of amazing orange goes on – monarch butterfly and Bullock’s oriole in the air, Garibaldi and clownfish in the sea.


Orange is eye-catching, yet friendly, bold, but unthreatening. You just know that if orange were a person, it would be a caring person, one ready to bound into danger to save you, one ready to listen with sympathy if you needed to talk about your woes. Blue, by comparison, would be too busy navel-gazing to notice you at all, and green has scant time for anything outside the plant kingdom.

It’s been said that no one can ostracize a lone wolf. That may be so, but wolves, like people, do better when they are part of the pack. So, this is my plea on behalf of the scattered lovers of orange around the globe. Take another look at the joy of orange, how beautiful it is, how unique, and how often it is associated with marvels. And next time someone asks you what is your favourite colour, join what will surely become the new majority and proclaim, “Orange!”


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