Recently my wife bought a piece of toddler swimwear for our little ones. A crisp, flashy neon green cute little piece of garment that had a label on which the color name was written: "KIWI POWER GREEN".

Having worked in the fashion/apparel retail industry for almost a decade, I know color names can often be as colorful as the actual colors they stand for; kiwi power green actually feels quite appropriate for that specific one.

Then I wondered, did they mean to describe "green" as "kiwi power", or was it a "kiwi" color in a "power green" variant? Both make total sense in my French-native ears.

What would be the proper English interpretation? Is there one?

  • Bird or fruit? It might be relevant.
    – user867
    Jan 24 '13 at 3:55
  • I would assume fruit, but I don't think it's relevant. Read it as "Rosebud Power Pink" for a crisp, flashy neon pink if you will... Jan 24 '13 at 4:19

I've mused in a similar way over quite a number of marketing phrases over the years, and I've gradually come to two conclusions:

  1. There isn't a correct interpretation - it's like one of those pictures where, depending on perspective, you see either a vase or two lovers kissing.

  2. The ambiguity is deliberate; whoever came up with the phrase was fiendishly clever (in a small way.) It's designed to stick in your mind, where a phrase with an unambiguous interpretation would not.

  • There are dozens if not hundreds of examples; for some reason I can't think of any at the moment. When I do I'll edit my answer with a few.
    – MT_Head
    Jan 24 '13 at 6:40

Imagine a product that is dark green. Its colour is also bears the shading profile of darker shade of kiwi flesh.

Therefore, we could name that colour Kiwi Dark-Green, or Dark Kiwi-Green. Kiwi Dark-Green sounds more marketable.

OTOH, what if the product is light green. Then, Kiwi Light Green.

OK, what if the product is power green (whatever that means), again with shading profile of a kiwi? Kiwi Power-Green.

But then, naming needs to align with marketing assessments which might say that the hyphen needs to go. Hence, Kiwi Power Green.

  • Nice one. I see "power green" as being a "powerful shade of green" (it almost glows!). I do realize it's all marketing and in reality the color is nothing but a 3-digit code (if NRF-compliant most probably in the low 300's) with some arbitrary description, only I'm wondering if there's any "proper English" way of reading that description and figure out the intended meaning when the middle word could just as well apply to the first noun or to the actual color name. Jan 24 '13 at 4:25
  • @retail As a 'proper English' person, my first thought was, what does that mean? As others have said, I think it is deliberately ambiguous. One marketing technique is combine words from 2 lists, eg list 1 is fruits/highly coloured objects, list 2 is energy. Maybe there are swimsuits called Mango Lightning Yellow or Bilberry Hydro Blue.
    – Mynamite
    Jan 25 '13 at 0:17

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