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Why was the color yellow chosen? Why not the green pages or blue pages?

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put on hold as off-topic by Chenmunka, Drew, medica, Rory Alsop, phenry Nov 17 at 17:32

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In Ireland, they're the Golden Pages. –  TRiG Jun 10 '11 at 15:12
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This question appears to be off-topic because it is not about the English language. –  medica Nov 17 at 6:03

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Because the Yellow Pages were distinct from the white pages (residential listings) and they were, and are, yellow.

Yellow Pages refers to a telephone directory of businesses, categorized according to the product or service provided. As the name suggests, such directories were originally printed on yellow paper, as opposed to white pages for non-commercial listings. The traditional term Yellow Pages is now also applied to online directories of businesses.

This is what they look like:

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In the UK "Yellow Pages" is a trademark, which caused lots of problems for SUN computers whose network code was called "yellowpages". The YellowPages was renamed in all the docs in the UK but all the commands were based on "yp" which was a bit confusing. –  mgb Apr 25 '11 at 17:26

Telephone directories were originally purely alphabetical, and given out free. Many American businessmen thought of printing a directory that would be commercial both in the sense of listing similar businesses together and in the sense of making money, either from charging for the book or (later and more successfully) charging businesses for an entry. The vital thing was to differentiate the new book from the old, and probably the greatest factor in the success of Yellow Pages compared to rivals was a distinct colour that did not interfere with readability. In fact it was so successful that the idea was widely copied, at first nationally and then across the world. (As Martin Beckett says, "Yellow Pages" is a trademark: but having yellow pages isn't copyrightable)

(Verified by a former Thomson Yellow Pages executive)

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The story goes that a printer ran out of white paper and made a phone book using yellow paper. Then a few years later an official version was done. It makes some sense to separate out commercial listings, and if it's going to be in color it needs to be a light color.

Some printed books also use other colors, such as blue for government listings, but yellow is the one that has made it into the language.

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The same reason that the Financial Times was and is printed in pink –  mgb Apr 25 '11 at 17:54

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