Sacré bleu! — the synesthesia of Walmart cyan

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This is a follow-up post to "How to say 'We don't have any pickled pigs' feet'" (9/23/22).

If you had been driving along Route 30 in Valparaiso, Indiana on July 4, Independence Day this past summer, you might have caught sight of this itinerant jogger outside the Walmart there:

I used to dislike Walmart because I thought that it had shoddy products and too many Walmart People, but those were pure prejudices, and over the last decade or so I have gradually come to like these giant shopping marts.  For one thing, as everyone knows, their prices are right. Surprisingly, for another thing, they have an amazing variety of merchandise that you can't readily obtain anywhere else; for example, that floppy, false straw hat (I think it cost lest than $15) the itinerant in the above photograph is wearing.  Another example is Toffifee, a unique type of caramel candy with nougat, a hazelnut, and chocolate topping to which I had become addicted when I was lecturing in Germany about five years ago, but couldn't locate anywhere in America, where it is known as Toffifay, until, to my immense joy, I discovered some boxes of it by chance on the shelves of the local Walmart when I was looking for something else.

I have come to realize that Walmart seems to specialize in stocking soul food and ethnic delicacies that I never expect to encounter in all the big supermarkets (Giant, Acme, Safeway, etc.).  So, as I described in the above mentioned post, after searching for pickled pigs' feet in about a dozen shops and stores in the Philadelphia area, I said that the next place I'd try was Walmart.  Lo and behold, when I went there a few days ago, my sixth sense unerringly guided me directly to the canned meats section of the store where I espied a supply of Big John's Pigs Feet, made by Red Smith Foods, Inc. in Davie, Florida.

Three days later, Chau Wu, a loyal Language Log reader and contributor in Chicago, generously and thoughtfully sent me four bottles of Hormel pickled pigs' feet, so I'm fixed for the next half year so far as pickled porkers' trotters go.

Incidentally, on this trip to Walmart, I also noticed that they had three types of sink strainers (bought two of them), a variety of Swiffer and competing dusters (bought a set), and other useful items for the home that I seldom see elsewhere.

Now, with my quest for pickled pigs' feet successfully concluded, thanks to Walmart, I must confess that, beyond the pickled pigs' feet per se, what really endears Sam Walton's mega emporia is the shade of blue his company has selected for its representative hue.

I was transfixed when I beheld the large expanse of that pacific aquamarine on the wall of the Walmart building that bright, sunny day in Valparaiso.  By a thrilling synesthesia, viewing it refreshed me as though I were listening to that perfect sequence of three pure, simple guitar chords that constitutes the signature acoustic progression of UPenn's WXPN.  It was hot out, but looking at the cyan tinge against the white background cooled me.

Turning more directly to the linguistics of this post, I will attempt to determine what we should call this very special color, to define just what type of blue it is, and to discuss other technical aspects of the color under discussion.

I will declare straight out, I think we are justified in naming that hue Walmart Blue.  I've seen it referred to as French blue, Navy blue, and other names, but they're all too generic to match this exceptional color.  Since it's a custom shade of blue, I think it's safe to style it "Walmart Blue".  If we want to describe it according to standard hue values, we may say that in tabular form it is:

Hex code #0071ce
RGB values (0, 113, 206)
CMYK values (100, 45, 0, 0)
Pantone® 285 C


In verbal description:

The hexadecimal color code #0071ce is a shade of cyan-blue. In the RGB color model #0071ce is comprised of 0% red, 44.31% green and 80.78% blue. In the HSL color space #0071ce has a hue of 207° (degrees), 100% saturation and 40% lightness. This color has an approximate wavelength of 475.08 nm.


Fair enough!  No matter how it was created, what matters to me is how my eyes perceive it, how my brain processes it, and the results in produces in my feelings and emotions.  Somehow, it makes every worker who wears a vest of that shade seem smarter and more polite than if they were wearing any old color of clothing.  Whenever I see that color in a Walmart, it energizes me and gives me a positive "vibe", if I may say so.  Whoever invented Walmart blue and selected it as the company color is a sheer genius.  Sam owes them a lot.

Selected readings


  1. Not a naive speaker said,

    October 8, 2022 @ 4:23 pm

    After reading this post I had to look up who is the company behind Toffifee

    It is the Storck company which is also manufacturing the caramel candies Riesen.

    This brings back childhood memories: my granddad used to treat us (the grandchildren) with these sticky candies; an unhealthy but great memory.

    Now for the languagelog angle: these sticky guys are also called (in German) Plombenzieher because they have the ability to pull out dental fillings.

    Are there epithets of these sticky candies in other languages?

  2. Paul Topping said,

    October 8, 2022 @ 4:57 pm

    In my experience, Toffifay is available at many stores, at least here in So. California. Just to check I wasn't dreaming, I googled it and even Staples, the office supply store, has it. By the way, I think you have it backward according to Wikipedia. Toffifay is the US name. I had never heard of Toffifee but I have yet to visit Germany.

    Walmart blue is a nice color. Thanks for pointing it out.

  3. Laura Morland said,

    October 8, 2022 @ 5:01 pm

    I'm tickled for you that you found pickled pig's feet at WalMart, but I 've actively boycotted that chain for over 30 years. Should I happen to glimpse the "Walmart Cyan," my reaction is look away.

    Why? Those prices you mentioned are "right" only for the consumer; they hide dark stories, including (a) suppliers being pushed to sell to Walmart at prices that render their businesses one notch away from failure, not to mention (b) the agony of thousands of laborers in sweatshops across your beloved China!

    Beyond that, WalMart employees are paid so little that collections must be taken up to enable them to celebrate the holidays with their families.

    Before the advent of the Internet, they caused the demise of hundreds of "main streets" across America. (They now share that dishonor with a tech giant whose name you will know.) How? They set up their enormous box stores outside small towns and cities, thereby sucking dry, one by one, all the "mom and pop" stores downtown. What's worse: if one of these stores turns out to be "underperforming," they'll close that store, leaving the residents of the denuded city with nowhere (except online) to purchase the major necessities of life.

    Were you aware that a list of the 20 richest Americans includes THREE WalMart heirs? How can they be so rich, and their employees so poor?

    I forgive those of my acquaintance on a small fixed income who have no choice but to shop at Walmart. But I have never stepped foot inside one of their stores, and I never will.

  4. Victor Mair said,

    October 8, 2022 @ 6:34 pm

    @Paul Topping

    Toffifay is indeed spelled that way in America, as I mentioned in the O.P., in contrast to the German spelling, Toffifee, which is modeled on European spellings / pronunciations of coffee.

    True, Toffifay is showing up in more American stores year by year, but it is still not that easy to get in the northeast, and when I came back from Germany five or six years ago, I couldn't find it anywhere (like pickled pigs' feet).

  5. JB said,

    October 8, 2022 @ 6:43 pm

    Looks like the yellow sun on a blue pattern that marks the “coquille Saint-Jacques” pilgrim road of Santiago de Compostella.

    Similarly, the blue-sign of the “three-legged sun- bird” of the Kumano-kodo road.

  6. David Morris said,

    October 9, 2022 @ 12:35 am

    I was expecting a joke about eating Toffifee as your drink your Coffifee.

  7. RP said,

    October 9, 2022 @ 4:27 am

    I always thought Toffifee was meant to have implications of a 'fairy' toffee.

    Fee is fairy in German and, give or take an accent, also French. The 'fay' in the US also brings up that implication for some, maybe although 'fay' is not that common a word outside Fantasy fiction.

    Thinking about it, they could easily have used 'fairy' pictures on the packaging and didn',t so perhaps it's just a homophonic coincidence.

    You can't be prevented from making whichever associations you like for brand names or parts of brand names, and the companies just have to avoid anything obviously bad and hope for the best.

  8. Charles Antaki said,

    October 9, 2022 @ 4:39 am

    I agree with Laura Morland (see her post above). It does seem odd to laud the company for its low prices without some mention of how it funds it (by, for example, its anti-union stance and low pay).

    I know that all that was a preamble to the main point about the colour of the logo, but such praise is no less jarring.

  9. Cha said,

    October 9, 2022 @ 4:42 am

    I tried to write "en passant praise" but failed.

  10. Kate Bunting said,

    October 9, 2022 @ 9:05 am

    Toffifee is advertised on British TV. I've never bought any and didn't know it was of German origin – I vaguely assumed that the name was a jokey reduplication of 'toffee'.

  11. Rodger C said,

    October 9, 2022 @ 11:44 am

    JB, that's not a sun (though it may be made to suggest one), but a scallop shell.

  12. SS said,

    October 9, 2022 @ 1:57 pm

    The WXPN chords come from the end of "Water Song" by Hot Tuna. It's a great song in and of itself.

  13. Victor Mair said,

    October 9, 2022 @ 2:10 pm


    Thank you so very much for identifying the source of the WXPN chords. I've loved them forever, and now I know where they come from!

  14. KeithB said,

    October 10, 2022 @ 7:53 am

    Wal-Mart is also a good place to find a bathroom on a road trip.
    Here is Albuquerque, they actually do chili roasting in the late summer / early fall.

  15. Greg said,

    October 10, 2022 @ 12:10 pm

    As it happens, Walmart design guidelines (just google that exact phrase) name the blue as Walmart Blue:

  16. JB said,

    October 10, 2022 @ 11:03 pm

    Rodger C
    The pattern on the "coquille St Jacques" (scallop shell) symbolizes the Sun.

  17. Rodger C said,

    October 11, 2022 @ 9:58 am

    Got it.

  18. Batchman said,

    October 11, 2022 @ 12:32 pm

    RP said: "Thinking about it, they could easily have used 'fairy' pictures on the packaging and didn',t so perhaps it's just a homophonic coincidence. "

    Or a homophobic coincidence?

  19. Victor Mair said,

    October 12, 2022 @ 8:55 pm

    From an anonymous contributor in Minnesota:

    I got a huge kick out of your Walmart Blue post!!

    For about twenty years now, I've been a "student of" Walmart-versus-Target since I live within walking distance of both.

    Here's the main difference, as I see it: Target pretends to "have everything" while Walmart actually does "have everything" (within reason, exclusive of, say, music manuscript paper, or Hudson's Green Mansions in its Spanish edition).

    Beyond the question of "having everything" there is also an interesting sociological or cultural aspect to consider. Target clearly promotes a kind of squeaky-clean, You'll-Feel-Comfortable-In-Our-Nice-White-Employees-and-Customers atmosphere while Walmart does not. What then is the atmosphere promoted by Walmart? Well, for one thing, in sharp contrast to Target, my local Walmart employs lots of Hmong, Arabs and Africans — but cynically one could say that's just because workers of those ethnicities are not likely to complain about working conditions. So, in a sense, it "doesn't count"; still, it's a conspicuous difference between Walmart and Target. More to the point, there is a fair amount of soul food to be found at Walmart, as you observed, and — not surprisingly — plenty of African American customers to buy it. Finally, true to the leftist image of Walmart, many of the (white) customers have that big, crude look of "Walmart People" which you also alluded to, and which might put one in mind of Hillary's Deplorables. Some of the white customers look to me as if they drove hundreds of miles from the hinterlands of Minnesota, to do some Big City shopping instead of huntin'-'n'-fishin' in the wilderness (or committing suicide from cabin fever). Whatever they are, they're definitely, "not our kind of people." In short, the clientele one sees in this Walmart are never seen shopping at the nearby Target, even though the prices aren't that different. So I believe there is some kind of cultural/sociological thing going on, a customer self-selection process, perhaps worthy of a Ph.D. dissertation.

    Long story short, I'm a faithful Walmart customer myself, mainly because they "have everything." In contrast, the nearby Target, which is equally big and shiny while putting on only a miserable sham of "having everything," is a place I've visited rarely over the years, mainly just to marvel at the on-going Two Cultures phenomenon.

  20. Smith said,

    November 12, 2022 @ 10:29 am

    "…what really endears Sam Walton's mega emporia is the shade of blue his company has selected for its representative hue… By a thrilling synesthesia, viewing it refreshed me"

    I don't know if you were joking, but what you describe does sound very much like synesthesia. It would be especially likely if you find that any other colors provoke visceral reactions of any kind. ??

  21. Victor Mair said,

    November 12, 2022 @ 11:54 am

    Why would I be joking about synesthesia?

    Other colors that evoke such synesthesia in me? Maybe the delicate red of the tall begonias in the planter outside my front door when the sun shines through the petals from behind and causes them to have a golden glister.

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