Shoppers Blast Online Vendor for Offensive Yarn Color Names

Seemingly insignificant naming choices can be highly controversial if an understanding of local linguistic norms is lacking.

  • Published 30 December 2019

On Dec. 28, 2019, a Twitter user took to social media to query why online retailing giant Amazon.com was selling a crochet kit from an art supplies vendor (Glokers) that included yarn products with colors bearing such offensive names as “Nigger brown” and “Rape yellow”:

A bevy of Twitter users chipped in to express outrage about the issue. And there seemed to be little doubt about the authenticity of the claim, given that Glokers‘ own website hosted a (since-removed) page displaying various yarn colors and their labels, which seemed, as far as was visible, to document the two questionable color choices:

The “rape yellow” designation likely refers to the bright yellow flowers of the rapeseed plant, while the racial color term appears to be an unfortunate language remnant of previous centuries that still occasionally pops up in unguarded usage.

The Glokers crochet kit product listing that triggered the Twitter complaint looked to have been removed from Amazon by the time of this publishing, and the yarn itself was likely sourced from a vendor external to Glokers.

Nonetheless, the incident highlighted a couple of issues that continue to plague the online retailing business: marketing websites that accept third-party sales listings without submitting the underlying products and ad copy to advance scrutiny; and the sale to U.S. customers of products manufactured and distributed by companies based outside of North America, where understanding of American linguistic and cultural norms may be insufficient.

A request for comment from Glokers had not been answered by publication time.