“Sometimes it’s hard to tell”

John Rentoul

dh drab tonal 236 287x300 Sometimes its hard to tellLovely story in yesterday’s Notebook column by Sue Cameron in the Financial Times (registration):

Last week it was revealed that £55,000 was spent in the summer redecorating Downing Street though when I inquired I was told that the state rooms look no different. Yet sometimes it’s hard to tell. When Labour’s Alistair Darling was at Number 11 the hall was due to be painted. The Darlings asked when the work would start and were told it had already been done. They thought it looked the same as ever – decidedly “tired”. They discovered that the shade of paint used was called “Drab”.

There really is a paint colour called “Drab” (Dulux sample, right).

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    Drab was originally the colour of undyed cloth. It’s related to the French word drap (meaning “cloth”). The word was being used as a colour long before Dulux were making paint. The meaning “dull” is a later metaphor.

    The only surprise in this snippet is that Mr Rentoul, who is paid to use words, has so little interest in them or knowledge of them. Apart from his pedantry (The Banned List et al.) about them of course. Pedantry is often a mask for Philistinism.

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