Sue Burke (mount_oregano) wrote,
Sue Burke
mount_oregano

Olive skin?

When I was a young and already avid reader, I saw someone described as having “olive skin.” This puzzled me. As far as I knew, most olives were green, and people weren’t green. There were also black olives, but no one was that color, either.

So what does “olive skin” mean? Now that I’m older and have the riches of the internet at my beck and call, I did some research.

According to Straight Dope and Wise Geek, it means people with a vaguely greenish, golden, or yellowish undertone to their skin. Or maybe it means the stereotypical skin color of Mediterranean peoples who live in olive-growing areas. Or maybe it means people whose skin tone is neither cool nor warm but neutral. Or maybe it means people who tan easily.

Whatever it means, why use “olive skin” at all? I’m not the only person who has doubts. According to Wikipedia background talk, the expression might come from the color of olive oil. Some of Wikipedia’s volunteers are skeptical, querulous, and even derisive of the idea of “olive skin.” I think they have a point.

If I ever use “olive skin” in my own writing, I promise to be careful, perhaps with a Pantone reference to the precise color to avoid confusion. Pantone’s “golden olive” (similar to those olives in the photo) might be suitable for an alien life form’s skin color, but not for someone from Italy.

— Sue Burke

Subscribe

  • My sister’s last Christmas tree

    A shot of us four Burke kids on Christmas Eve captured from one of our grandfather’s home movies. Beth is the blonde. I’m wearing…

  • Adolescents confront history

    My junior high school had a scandalous “secret” that older students would melodramatically point out to incoming seventh-graders. The hallway floors…

  • Dad’s three rules for success

    Late one Friday when the fish weren’t biting, Dad decided we could spend our time better having a beer at the little tavern in Green Lake Terrace,…

  • Post a new comment

    Error

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.
  • 3 comments